Review of The Cage by Megan Shepherd

TheCageCoverThe Cage
By: Megan Shepherd
Release Date: May 26th 2015
Publisher: Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher

A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

Summary:
When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage.

The Story:
I really didn’t know what to expect with The Cage. I read 2 of Megan Shepherd’s last series and really love hear writing style but wasn’t a fan overall of the books. I was excited to see her going in such a different direction and knew I’d want to see what she’d do with a science fiction edge. I will say, The Cage was highly readable. I started it expecting to read a chapter and read about a third of the book before I knew what I’d done.

There was no hesitation to jump into the story. Shepherd plops us right into the alien habitat and we are immediately introduced to the surroundings and characters. I felt that this was a great way to start the novel and felt pretty strongly about what I was reading. I was as curious as the characters to find out where they were and why.

As the story progresses the pacing slowed down for me and I felt that a good chunk in the middle dragged. It was still easy to read but I could have done without some of the details. I did love that we got to venture out of their zoo enclosure a view times though the world outside of their ‘cage’ was very vague. Such a small amount was described I look forward to learning more.

Now, I think I’ll be one of the only people to think this book mimicked another book, The Bone Season. I saw some similarities that I couldn’t ignore. We have a Warden, alien-type characters that wear gloves and the people be treated as less (okay this is a really common theme but still). The summary suggests that the characters are part of a human zoo (ala Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five) but for me it really didn’t come across as a zoo. It felt more like experiments on humans and a way to control rather than a way for an alien species to view humans in their habitat (which is how I think of a zoo).

The Characters:
Now, I could take all the above about the story pretty easily. It did feel like a rework of other books and nothing felt overly original to me but with every chapter I began to loathe the characters more and more. By the end of the book I downright hated every single character in the book. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. Not a single character stood out to me as someone I cared for or wanted to succeed. They could really all blow up and I’d be A-Okay with it. That’s awful, right?

The main character, Cora,  was determined…I give her that. But determined to the point of stupidity. She was dead set on a course of action through a large part of the book-she wanted to escape. But really, if you are not even on your own planet and floating out in the universe even if you get out of the enclosure how will you get far? She didn’t seem to really care about anything other than getting out. It was somewhat frustrating for this reader though I could see why she wanted to leave. Things sorted out towards the middle and end but it was a bit too late in the game. I’d already spent a good amount of time wondering what she was thinking.

The secondary characters were so bad to me. Not even in the start did I care for them. They each were fairly shallow though there was an attempt to give them depth. I never cared about their backstories. I imagine it was given to show the reasoning for their actions in the enclosure but it didn’t work for me. As the story progresses the characters all get more and more unhinged. Things did improve for me the more awful and crazy they each became. It got a bit creepy in a few places and I highly enjoyed those bits.

For those curious about a love triangle–there was one…sort of? The main character’s feelings are pretty easy to decipher and I never felt that she truly was drawn to one of the love interests. There are two men that had feelings for Cora and I did prefer one over the other. I’ll not go into spoilers but I felt it was obvious who she was attracted to. So I’m not sure it’s a traditional triangle but it might bother some of the more triangle sensitive readers out there.

Final Thoughts:
As many problems as I had with The Cage I will say that Megan Shepherd is a gifted writer and this book was able to gain my interest and keep me glued to the pages. I was never surprised of the outcome or twists but it was a fun ride. Will I read the sequel? I really don’t know. I do think that other readers will really enjoy this book especially if they are able to enjoy the characters (or at least a few of them).

 

Giveaway- The Cage and Lying Out Loud

I wanted to share a giveaway with you all today- the winner will receive both The Cage by Megan Shepherd and Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger. This will be US only (so sorry my INT friends). Be aware that the LOL cover is just the place-holder cover and not the one on Goodreads.

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Review of Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd

Her Dark CuriosityHer Dark Curiosity (The Madman’s Daughter #2)
By: Megan Shepherd
Release Date: January 28th 2014
Publisher: Balzer+Bray

A copy was given to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:
star

This review will contain spoilers from the first book, The Madman’s Daughter, and a minor spoiler for this book.

Summary:
To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father’s island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

My Thoughts:
I had some issues with the first in this series, The Madman’s Daughter. You can see my review here, but the quick of it was that I did not care for the love triangle or the animal violence though I enjoyed the writing style. I was optimistic to read this follow-up since it was based on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Overall, I was disappointed in Her Dark Curiosity. I think that the story was very interesting and I enjoyed the pacing for the most part after the slow beginning. Shepherd is wonderful at gripping her readers and also creating a gothic aura. Her take on the classic was also interesting though I felt that it could have gone deeper and been more in the forefront of the story.

Spoilers ahead…

 

Instead, we were treated with a lot of ‘romantic’ scenes. Each scene felt awkward to me and not at all swoon-worthy. Somehow, beyond all logic, the love triangle continued and so much time was spent focused on Juliet pondering whom she loved. Everything surrounding the romance felt very convienant (especially the arrival of a character from the first book midway). I was so disappointed in the direction this aspect of the story went. Honestly, thinking back I don’t know how much real time was spent on the love triangle but it felt like entirely too much because I think I can safely say, we all hoped there would be none. The last book pretty well took care of that, right? Nope, it’s back.

One love scene in particular was so not romantic I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes. One of the characters was drenched in blood and somehow this was supposed to be intriguing to us as readers. I felt sick more than anything. It felt like a way to make the story darker but really it just made me say ick.

 

End Spoiler

This book was accurately titled. Throughout the story Juliet struggles with her internal darkness and the truths she learned on the island. She can not make amends with herself and feels that the darkness is eating away at her. This internal battle isolates her. I found her character more interesting in this book than the first until she is paired with a man. Again, the romance did not work for me in any way.

There is no question to me that Shepherd is a talented writer and I love her ability to weave classic gothic into young adult books. I only wish the love aspect wasn’t present and more time and energy was focused on the action, suspense and mystery, all aspects both books exceled in.

 

The Madman’s Daughter Review

The Madman's Daughter by Megan ShepherdThe Madman’s Daughter
By: Megan Shepherd
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

My Rating:
star

Summary (via jacket copy):
Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London-working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward–both of whom she is deeply drawn to–Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius–and madness- in her own blood.

The Story:
The Madman’s Daughter is based on The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells so I should have known that there would be some disturbing aspects to the story. Dr. Moreau conducted gruesome experiments using vivisection on live animals to make them human-like. As imagined, this is a pretty disturbing subject and Shepherd doesn’t shy away from delving into it. The animal cruelty got to be too much for me so I stopped reading half way through the book. But after a week I just couldn’t resist picking it up and finishing it. I felt compelled to find out how Shepherd was going to end her story with Juliet. About a hundred pages from the end I was so immersed in the story I couldn’t put the book down. It was raw and gruesome but entrancing in its twists and turns. Once Juliet became aware of some of the island’s secrets things just really picked up for me, as the story shifted gears from mystery to a horrific adventure tale.

The Characters:
Juliet is a woman that has nothing on her side, from her father’s abandonment to her mother’s death she is left with nothing but her wits to survive. I liked her for the most part but I was disappointed in her wavering between men. I could understand to some degree her attraction to both but the love triangle aspect took away from the story to me more than adding to it. Also, with the horror of her surroundings, I found it hard to understand her capability to focus so much on two men and their attractions. At first I was not fond of Montgomery but as the story progressed I became drawn to him the most of all the characters and able to overlook his flaws. I would love to read more on Montgomery’s experiences as a child though I can’t imagine it would be anything but disturbing. Dr. Moreau is horrific yet I was interested in knowing more about him and his madness, how did he digress so far into his insanity?

Final Thoughts:
The Madman’s Daughter was a horrific read that verged on too gruesome to me on many occasions but overall was an intriguing story and wonderful retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau. With the ending that Shepherd pulled I will be reading the sequel, especially since it will be based on Jekyll and Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. The third in the series will be based on Frankenstein. I love that Megan Shepherd is taking classic Gothic horror and revitalizing it and excited (yet terrified) that there will be a movie.

The Madman’s Daughter book trailer:

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