Book Review: The Cage
By: Megan Shepherd
Published By: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Page Count: 400
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Science Fiction
Megan Shepherd's Madman's Daughter series is one of my favorites. I was excited to see her venturing away from the gothic classic inspired path to do something completely different. I'm not always attracted to science fiction novels, but I decided if anyone could lure me in, it would be Megan Shepherd. The Cage is an inventive and chilling read. This is one of those beauties that is so engrossing I read the bulk of it in one sitting. The Cage has a Lord of the Flies vibe mixed with a hint of The Stepford Wives and a dash of The Hunger Games.
Cora, the daughter of a powerful politician, wakes up to find herself in the middle of a desert. She has no recollection of how she came to be lost in the sand - especially because her last coherent memory is of being in a Jeep with her older brother. Cora's exploration of her surroundings reveals that the desert is bordered by forest, ocean, and snow covered mountains. These terrains shouldn't be possible in such close proximity. Her anxiety reaches off the chart levels as she tries to find a rational explanation for what she is seeing. Things get even odder when she realizes that she is not alone in this strange place. Four others will inhabit her new home as well - Lucky, Leon, Nok, and Rolf. The characters in this one are diverse in both ethnicity and culture.
Cora and her companions begin to question what is happening around them; they soon learn that things are more dire than they could have ever imagined. An alien race, the Kindred, have kidnapped them from their lives on Earth and are keeping them as part of an experiment. The habitat the teens now call home is akin to a zoo. The Kindred are fascinated with humans and often come to view the teens as they struggle to adapt to life in their new home. If you're a fan of stories that have a "fish out of water" element, this is one you need to cozy up with as soon as it hits the shelves in May.
As I read I found myself creeped out by the Kindred's culture. The lack of emotions and preoccupation with the humans gave me chills. A sinister undercurrent runs throughout this one and there are some delicious twists and turns. The big twist had my mouth dropping open - I totally did not see that coming. The entire novel kept me reading with bated breath. There are so many things about the plot I want to discuss, but at the risk of spoilers, I'll leave them unsaid. I will be urging the other Larks to read this one though so I will have a chance to unburden these thoughts at some point.
Aside from the world building (which is phenomenal), The Cage also has memorable characters. All of the teens are working through baggage that they brought from their Earthly lives. These hangups will influence how their relationships play out in their new existence. The chapters rotate between various characters, but the narration remains third person omniscient. At first, I thought it would be difficult to keep so many characters straight in my mind, but I soon found that the chapter structure allowed me to participate in the story on a deeper level than if I had been restricted to Cora's point of view. Ultimately, Cora is the main character and she has the most chapters, but her story is heavily influenced by the other teens and several prominent Kindred characters. Cora is certainly a character worth knowing. I admired her strength, courage, and tenacity. She never stops seeking a solution to her forced exile from her home.
All in all, I fell in love with The Cage. It's one of those novels that captivated me, but didn't make me want to trade places with any of the characters. It was horrifying on many levels and raises a lot of thought provoking questions. I was intrigued by how emotions are viewed throughout the story. Do emotions always interfere with judgment? Can one reach a more enlightened state if emotions are supressed? It's also always fun to consider what other forms of life could out there in the universe.
I highly recommend this one if you're a science fiction junkie or someone who is looking for a fresh take on aliens. (I fully admit that maybe this seems fresh to me because I'm a SciFi novice.) The Cage has everything to satisfy your reading hungers: adventure, intrigue, romance, friendship, and danger.
One Last Gripe: Even with Shepherd's vivid descriptions, I have trouble picturing the Kindred.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: The intricate relationships
First Sentence: There are certain things the mind cannot comprehend.
Favorite Character: Cora
Least Favorite Character: Nok
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 Daughtertrilogy.
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?