Series: Red Queen #3
Published by HarperTeen on February 7th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl's spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?
Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.
As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.
When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.
In comparison to Glass Sword, the third instalment King’s Cage is an improvement. The atmosphere of this book is darker, more twisted, and far more electrifying than that of the previous two instalments, which sat well with me. Though far from being an amazing read, credit shall be given where credit is due.
The infamous, hitherto insufferable Mare Barrow has somehow re-entered my life, even though I had sworn to myself that I had written this series off for the eternity of time. Well, damn.
After the events at the ending of Glass Sword, Mare finds herself in the clutches of the wicked new king of Norta – Maven. Now, before I move on to the real asset of King’s Cage, let me acknowledge Mare’s existence in this book with a few words. I should send ahead that I loathed her character in the last instalment. She was such an arrogant, self-centred little piece of shit. In King’s Cage, though still portrayed as a key figure with the stamp “special” on her forehead, Mare is a tad more likable. I must say, imprisonment suits her better than leading a rebellion, and it certainly brought forth some modesty on her side. The torture she suffers at the hands of Maven and his lackeys lend the book a very dark touch and might be the reason she has earned a drop of sympathy from me, even though she’s still that little brat underneath all the physical and mental scar tissue.
The real star in this book, however, is Maven. His vicious spark isn’t snuffed out, yet his facade starts to crumble. Beneath the mask of steel hides a damaged, lonely boy whose weaknesses have been turned against him his whole life – by his mother. I was honestly amazed how Aveyard managed to stir sympathy for his character in the reader without excusing his cruelty and the pain he inflicts on others. His relationship with Mare is a double-edged sword, and I enjoyed witnessing their power struggle quite a bit. They play a game in which every word, every facial expression, and every spark of emotion is a gambit. It is also made fairly clear that whatever chemistry they have, their romance has no future. I have to hand it to Mare: Even though Maven occasionally lets his mask slip, revealing his feelings for her, she always sees right through his bullshit, never dismissing the abuse she suffered at his hands. But she is not the only enemy Maven has among those he keeps close at his palace. With Maven’s newly grabbed power far from cemented, King’s Cage also introduces a fair amount of politics. Schemes are served on the silver platter, and though I didn’t care for all of it, Aveyard has definitely poured more substance into this book. I liked the comparisons between Maven and Cal: Maven is a decision maker, Cal a follower. Now, psychopathic traits aside, who does that really make the better king? And stirring in that boiling soup is also the special snowflake. Because Aveyard turned Mare into more than a prisoner. Mare is a pawn. Evangeline uses Mare against Maven, but even Mare uses Mare against Maven. I think this “psychological warfare” was the most impressive aspect of the book for me.
Maven is a talented liar, and I don’t trust a word he speaks. Even if he was telling the truth. Even if he is a product of his mother’s meddling, a thorned flower forced to grow a certain way. That doesn’t change things.
In addition to Mare’s bearable point of view, Evangeline’s was an enrichment whereas I didn’t care for Cameron’s at all. I couldn’t even remember her character from Glass Sword, which should tell you something about how memorable that sequel was. Evangeline, though, is a case similar to Maven’s. A counterplayer to Mare, her introspection is enlightening to the moves she makes on the chessboard. Furthermore, there are other interesting revelations to her character. View Spoiler »Though I do think the revelation of her being a queer character is largely due to the call of the community for more diversity, I thought that aspect was woven into the story in a very clever way. « Hide Spoiler
While my opinion of this book is mostly positive, I still think this series lacks originality and substance overall. As with previous instalments, her writing comes across as somewhat dull and mechanical. The fact remains that apart from Maven and possibly Evangeline (and Mare on one of her modest days), none of the characters have spunk. I mean, Cal? The best bit about Cal in this book was him being shirtless. The inclusion of authors’ names for supporting protagonists (for example, Bracken and Tahir) should’ve given the book its extra touch, but all I could think of was how Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman had already done that with their Illuminae Files series, which implies that this was a cheap copy of their idea.
In conclusion, King’s Cage performs better than Glass Sword, which was a disaster, but there still isn’t much that binds me to this mediocre series. I was mostly here for twisted Maven and the power play at his court. Since I’ve read three out of four instalments, I might as well pick up the last one, just to see whether Cal ends up getting his throne back or if he elopes with his speciuuuul Lightning Girl.
**I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**