Series: The Cage #1
Genre: Sci-Fi, YA
Publication date: May 26th 2015
by Balzer & Bray
The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in this gripping new series about teens held captive in a human zoo by an otherworldly race. From Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of The Madman's Daughter trilogy.
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?
-A copy was provided by HarperCollins for review-
Everything considered, this is not a bad book at all – the writing is good and flows well, the world building is excellent, and the characters well developed – but I was kind of meh about a large portion of it.
My biggest complaint is how a big part or the book is spent bickering and pointlessly planning an escape. I mean, how do they expect to get back home? They’re in some alien world for gods sake and Cora’s plan is to make a run for it and hope for the best? It’s like she never even takes this into question until way later when she makes up some half-ass plan that seems to be all about blind luck and a whole lot of guessing. I’m all for not giving up, for fighting despite the odds – and I applaud her take-no-crap attitude, I really do – but this directionless plan made the whole escape plot feel frivolous. She should have focused first on getting a decent understanding of where she even was before she thought of how to get home, and while this actually does happen a time or two spontaneously, she puts all her energy on making flimsy weapons (to beat aliens that have the strength of beasts!) and looking for the cage door that seems to be hidden even beyond human ability, with no idea of what would come next. Like, then what? Long story short, I feel like the book spent too much time wandering instead of progressing its real plot.
Another, more minor complaint is with the romance. We’ve got an alien-human love triangle that just weirded me out. He watched her for years, for one, and I know he’s an alien race so age comparison is weird, but his attraction to her gave me the heebie jeebies. I just could not root for that unless it was to try and manipulate herself into getting information or escaping, which I don’t think it was. She clearly felt attracted to him (it.. whatever).
Aside from those complaints, however, the novel is a good one. Despite the slow-ish pace for the first part, it kept my interest and left me intrigued enough that I didn’t want to put it down. The world building and sci-fi aspects were extremely well done and very interesting. I just wish we’d gotten more answers about earth, and seen more of “space life” (however you want to call it..). The species, the societies, their economy; they’re just as disturbing as they are fascinating, but as trilogies are as of late, much of the world building is saved for the second book. The character building is another aspect to praise, especially considering the 3rd person tense that I often have difficulty with. Though focusing on Cora more than any other, the story is told with alternative point-of-views from the cage’s 6 residents. Through each perspective, we learn who they really are and the lives they left behind, which was a great way to understand how they were coping with what was happening, some with more difficulty than others. Moreover, it showed us how this captivity and the cage’s manipulations were changing them – which was not for the better!
The pacing may be unhurried at first, but the plot and its secrets are unraveled in a way that glues you to its pages – the more you learn, the more engrossed you get. The Cage is not without its flaws, but it’s a decent start to what could be a thrilling series!