Jun 1, 2015

Review: The Cage by Megan Shepherd

TitleThe Cage
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publishing Date: May 26, 2015
Pages/Format: 400, eARC
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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?

Book in One Word: MESSY

When I first heard about The Cage I was very intrigued. I was a fan of The Madman's Daughter (though I have yet to finish the trilogy), and the concept behind Megan Shepherd's latest series was one I couldn't resist: from what I understood, it's like a zoo, but people are the exhibits. I love zoos--they're one of my things--so The Cage had my name all over it. Unfortunately, what I read was a bunch of zookeepers not doing their jobs, because this was a mess.

This is going to sound rude, but from what I remember of The Madman's Daughter and Shepherd's writing--and I get that it was set in a different time period, but still--I expected better. The writing reminded me of the style I see in some books that are self-published or published by smaller presses. (Which isn't bad, and it's not ALL those books, but I'm just saying it kind of reminded me of a style seen in those books--and bigger ones--and that's not my favorite kind of writing.) Characters were a mashup of flat and dimensional and a Jekyll-Hyde of individuality and meshing into each other. Books can do whatever they want and be completely unrealistic--they're fiction, and there's beauty in fiction in that it can do whatever the hell it wants--but there still needs to be a sense of realism in the unrealisticness. There were a few things that happened in this book that were totally not realistic--like oh, hey, I have no idea where I am or who these people are but let's just be cool with it and make best friend bracelets, yeah? And I get that there was a reason for it but MY GOSH, if I had a dollar for every time someone scratched/rubbed/whatever their head and their head hurt or their fingers twitched or whatever I would be rich. There were a few things in The Cage that were a little too repetitive and repetition and overusage drive me bonkers.

All that said, I would probably give The Cage like three stars. (I did finish it and I didn't dislike it, and also, I'm too nice.) It did have a page-turner quality to it that was nice, and it's the kind of book that you want to know all the answers to, because seriously, what in the hell is going on? (Spoiler alert: there's a stupid and pointless plot twist that can rot in hell and if I could just throw my Kindle things would be a million times easier.) The characters were whatever. We're mostly in Cora's point of view and then occasionally in the heads of her fellow caged humans, and she's okay, I guess. She's really one of the only sane people who won't just sit and take it. Cassian--aka the zookeeper for their exhibit--was interesting, but we could've seen more about him. There's kind of a love triangle, and eventually I think I switched who I wanted Cora to be with, but I did like Lucky until he went all weird. (But seriously that's a DOG'S NAME. Lucky isn't a Golden Retriever. Please rename him.) As far as the other characters go, I could really care less if they bashed each other's heads in, so. (Actually, I somewhat cared when they had some dimension and differentiation to them. Then they went all flat and were like over-exaggerated cartoon characters with the same voice actor, and then I started to want to slap them all.)

The Cage isn't what I thought it was going to be--let's use the term "zoo" lightly here, because I really don't think it's a zoo. Honestly, I still don't know what it is or what's going on with anything and it's like some weird combination of a few things I've read and seen before, but not. It's cagey. I just...don't know what else to say? I mean, there are aliens and menageries, but they're not super duper explored and we're just kind of thrust into this world and there's not enough explanation or background information. And WHY THE PLOT TWIST? If you asked me if The Cage was good I wouldn't be able to say yes, but I wouldn't say it's bad, either. It's a hot mess. Hopefully the sequel will have new zookeepers doing a better job of keeping the cages clean, because this definitely has potential--the execution is just still a little bloody and needs to be wiped down.

Did I like it? Ehh, I didn't dislike it.
Did I love it? Nope.
Would I reread it? Not likely.
Would I purchase it? Not likely, Captain.
Who would I recommend it to? If you like books that are just kind of weird and that are like a giant puzzle you can't solve (and also aliens and some romance and some other stuff but no zoos), then voila.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, and that in no way sways my opinion of the book.


  1. Awww sad that this one was all over the place! I really loved Shepherd’s THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER trilogy and was hoping this one would be as good (or even better) but the reviews I’ve seen so far say otherwise unfortunately :( Hopefully the next book will be better! Great review :D

  2. That's too bad this one wasn't spectacular. I still have to read it (hoping to get to it soon, actually)…but I haven't heard many stellar ravings. Or many reviews at all for that matter, which says a lot I think. I loved her other series too, The Madman's Daughter and the last book was amazing! didn't like the second book though.
    Anyway great review! I am trepidatious about reading it, but that's good because I don't want my expectations to be too high considering it sounds like it's definitely messy and all over the place.

    Diamond @ Dee's Reads

  3. I love your reviews. :) I was really hoping this would be a good one. It had the creepy vibe like The Mist, where everyone is trapped and then there's banding together or falling apart. I will probably still read this one, but I will proceed with caution and not go in head first. Maybe feet first on this one.


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