Author: Megan Shepherd
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Source: Balzer + Bray via Edelweiss
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.Review by Nara
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 feel like Megan Shepherd is an author that really divides people. There are always good aspects and bad aspects of her books, and the balance of those is sometimes almost 50/50. I think that's mostly the case in The Cage. The world building and romance are poorly done, but the plot and writing are interesting enough to keep you engaged.
The world building was frankly really bad. I never really got a good idea about the alien captors or the world they lived in. Even their choices seemed silly, with the human captives being chosen as they "embodied the perfect human characteristics"- strength, intelligence, beauty, integrity. To be honest, I really feel that the aliens could have chosen better candidates for these traits, as none of the characters really seemed to embody their traits that well. Plus, you know, on a purely scientific level, why not just abduct babies at birth? Then it would be so much easier to actually have them cooperate, and do all the tests and things needed. I suppose you wouldn't be able to see whether they had those perfect human characteristics then, though.
The romance was pretty bad as well. I honestly never understood it from either side. In terms of Cora feeling an attraction towards Cassian, I mean I guess it's fair enough on a visceral level considering he has "the most beautiful face she's ever seen" or whatever (which she annoyingly said at least twenty times throughout the novel). But considering that he's one of the members of the team of aliens that's taken her from her home and keeps her in a zoo cage where they do all sorts of experiments on her and basically control her entire life...I don't know, I guess I just don't see why you'd love someone who does that to you. To be honest, I would have much preferred it if the book didn't contain this crappy romance, and had the aliens just being the enslaving race. But this is a YA novel, so what the heck did I expect.
Still, despite all these flaws, I do think the book had a couple of positives that meant that I enjoyed it somewhat overall. The first is the writing itself. Shepherd's writing was quite descriptive, in terms of portraying the setting of the "Cage" (although to be honest that didn't really help with the world building overall). It's definitely written in a way that keeps you turning the pages- it's an easy style to get into and there's enough mystery that you want to read faster so you can find out what happens.
Of course, the premise itself is also actually a pretty intriguing idea. I haven't read too many human zoo type scifi novels, and while perhaps the execution of this one wasn't as great, it was a creative idea all the same. Maybe give it a read if you don't mind poor romance and world building.
World Building: 1/5