Title: The Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
Series: The Cage Series
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: May 19th, 2015
Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)
The summary of The Cage from Goodreads:
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?
I loved Shepherd’s Madman’s Daughter series. It was an interesting take on some well-known classical tales. The Cage is a departure from that, but because Shephard wrote it, I decided to give it a chance. I wasn’t sure how the alien aspect would work or if I would be able to completely envision the world like I needed to.
I thought the teen characters were really interesting. They all had somewhat of a similar background, in that none of them felt entirely at home in their lives. There was something holding them back on Earth, but once in the cage, they didn’t really have to hold on to those parts of themselves or the roles they had played. They weren’t completely free, but they could stop pretending so much.
I was worried the relationship between Cora and Cassian would feel uncomfortable. I didn’t really feel like reading a Stockholm Syndrome situation because I don’t think I could really root for that relationship. It would feel too unequal and forced. While I did feel like there was a little bit of a Stockholm Syndrome tint to their relationship at first, I thought it developed in such a way that their relationship had started to become a little more balanced. It’s still very unequal, but Cora isn’t as powerless at the end of the novel as she was in the beginning.
I also found the relationship with Lucky interesting. I couldn’t decide if I liked him or not. He seemed to be incredibly affected by the environment and I could never tell if it was truly him believing things or if it was how the environment influenced him. It was interesting to see how isolation, even with other people around, could affect how people behaved and thought.
The cage itself was intriguing. The idea of a zoo of humans could have gone in a different direction and I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it much. However, it feels less like a zoo and more like a science experiment or study that takes place in a zoo environment. Everything is controlled and used to simulate situations to see how the group of teens behave. I actually enjoyed the premise a lot more than I thought I would.
I thought that the change in the character’s personalities happened just a little too quickly. It felt as though it happened overnight instead of gradually as the environment warped their sense of reality.
Additionally, I thought that the kids accepted their fate with a lot less fight than I would have imagined. Granted, I’ve never been in their situation (obviously), but the majority of the kids seemed to accept their place pretty quickly. There was a little fight to begin with, but it didn’t last very long.
Overall, I thought The Cage was a good start to the series. It got my attention right away and when I finished, I moved the next book up in my reading list immediately. I think it’s a good introduction to science fiction because it still have a great human connection to Earth through the characters. It doesn’t feel overwhelming in terms of the science fiction content.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Balzer + Bray for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.