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?
The Cage (The Cage #1)Featured
Cora wakes up in the desert, completely lost and with no personal belongings, and totally alone. She wanders the dunes, trying to find help or a landmark. What she finds are snow-covered hills, a manicured farm, and a miniature town with other teens already there. Cora and the other teens are members of a cohort kidnapped from Earth in order to populate a zoo-like habitat. They were kidnapped by an alien race, known as the Kindred. While Cora tries to find any way out of the habitat, her cage, the others learn to settle in and enjoy their captivity. Meanwhile, romance blooms between members of the cohort, and Cora finds herself undeniably drawn to their alien captor.
What I loved: Shepherd really blows it out of the water with the world-building. While we start out discovering the "cage", the habitat that Cora and her cohort are confined within, due to Cora's curiosity and tenacity we quickly discover more about the alien planet they are on. Discovering these secrets, things about the very world that they exist on, is breathtaking. I can't say anymore, because I don't want to spoil anything for potential readers, but I'll leave it at this: You won't guess where they are, or why. Trust me.
What I wanted more of: I wanted just a little more tension. I felt like there wasn't a point at which the characters' lives were really in danger. With the Caretaker watching their every move and the habitat specifically designed to keep them alive, I felt like the cohort really could have used some actual danger. However, I expect the danger and heart-pounding action will be very intense in the second book!
The verdict: With exquisitely crafted world-building, a tantalizing romance, and thrilling character dynamics, THE CAGE is a page-turning intro to a series that YA readers will fall in love with.
I was anticipating this series the second I heard Megan Shepherd was writing a new one. And even though I didn't enjoy it as much as her Madman's Daughter series, I still really liked it. It was set in a completely different world from her first series but still kept the complex characters, the dark writing, and the 'nothing is black or white/good or evil' theme.
I really liked all of the teenage characters. They were all so different, taken for different reasons from different parts of the world. They all had something to contribute to the group and even if none of them would have given each other a second look on Earth, in The Cage, they were all they had. The book was told mainly through Cora's POV but all the other characters each had a few POV chapters spread throughout the book. It was interesting to read how it was done. Cora was the girl who never gave up hope of escaping, who had something to go back to, who questioned everything. We saw the way the others appeared in her eyes, the way they started slowly bending to the lifestyle the aliens wanted for them. Then we got to know the other characters' pasts and their reasoning for complying.
Cora, the main character, was the daughter of a senator who was hiding some pretty big secrets and had just gotten out of juvie when she was taken. She could be pretty naive and never really thought her plans through, just wanted to escape and go home, but it was hard to take her seriously when her ideas to escape were always going to fail. The other teens in the cage with her were: Lucky, a boy she shared a mysterious connection with that she didn't know about and who was protective of her; Leon, a smuggler with a tough act and a big heart he kept hidden; Nok, a model on Earth who was shy; and Rolf, a boy genius who was always bullied back home. There was also Cassian, their jailer, who seemed sympathetic toward them whenever he appeared to explain their purpose. His race, the Kindred, wanted to save a few select humans from the Earth's doomed fate. All they had to do was follow the rules: eat, sleep, procreate.
The book had a bit of a 'Lord of the Flies' vibe in the way the teens acted. Stick together at first, them against their captors, but slowly turning on each other. The different character POVs really helped to show and to understand how each different teen got to their mindset. Megan Shepherd also did a great job in keeping me questioning the Kindred's motives. Were they truly trying to be helpful and save mankind? Were they evil and lying to the teens?
Overall, it was a great concept, had interesting characters, and so many little twists. It was fun to read and I can't wait to see where the next book takes these characters.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.