- Page Count: 528
- Release Date: February 7, 2017
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- My Rating: 5 stars
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.
I AM SO IMPRESSED RIGHT NOW. You can seriously feel the work that went into developing everything here. (And there aren’t any major spoilers in this review, but I did drop some book quotes in… so you have been warned).
First things first: I went into this without many expectations because I loved Red Queen but really wasn’t huge on Glass Sword. So maybe give this one a shot even if you didn’t like the second book. I do get the complaints about Glass Sword! Mare’s personality or way of handling her situation got a bit too unrelatable for me in that book (I just didn’t want to sit through that much of a sulky, withdrawn narrator). Plus, it was hard to get a sense of Maven as a villain since he wasn’t around much. I summed up the second book with: “the majority of this book felt like it happened offstage or danced around any real character growth, plot development, and romance. It was mostly super depressing.”
I was shocked by how much I connected with Mare and the whole story here, though! Everything worked for me. There’s a much stronger sense of unity and solidarity among the characters, too… like there’s HOPE and something to get behind. The plot still felt more like Glass Sword than Red Queen, but the character growth and world were so strong that I loved it.
The story starts with Mare as Maven’s prisoner, but gets wonderfully complicated as it delves into their twisted relationship. It’s all just SO WELL DONE. Maven’s mother literally molded his mind throughout his life to the point where he’s no longer sure which parts are his own. She even turned his love for Mare into an obsession. And there’s still a small part of Mare that cares about Maven (or is at least empathetic) even though she wants to kill him:
He is a monster still, a monster always. And yet I can’t stop myself from listening. Because I could be a monster too. If given the wrong chance. If someone broke me, like he is broken.
Monsters are made. So was Maven. Who knows who he was supposed to be.
The story never excuses Maven’s actions, by the way. Victoria Aveyard is very clear that this is not a relationship that will ever be good (or happen). So even though I don’t ship Mare and Maven, I still LOVE how complicated everything is between them.
He stares up at me. “Those who know what it’s like in the dark will do anything to stay in the light.”
“Don’t act like we’re the same.”
“The same? No.” He shakes his head. “But perhaps… we’re even?”
Stories with black & white characters or shallow villains get old for me really fast because it’s unbelievable. Maven’s character completely worked:
“You think I enjoy seeing you like this? he murmurs. “You think I want to keep you a prisoner?” Something hitches in his breath. “It’s the only way you’ll stay with me.”
Even though I know what he’s doing, even though I can feel his grip on me tightening, I can’t stop it from pulling me under. It would be too easy to let myself drown. Part of me wants to.
So Mare’s dealing with a lot of grief, loneliness, and PTSD, but the way it’s carried out in this book is super realistic. She’s totally broken and starts to feel gratitude to Maven for the most basic acts of humanity. Watching her grapple with everything was actually one of my favorite parts this time around. She somehow finds the strength to fight again and is a totally relatable character you WANT to support. All of her thoughts and actions make sense and she has so much growth over the course of the story:
It would be easy to stay in the dark, to drown. Slowly, I lower my hands and force myself to look at the sunlight.
And Maven’s actually a really smart king and knows he has to win the Reds over to his side. I won’t spoil the main plot, but the politics get awesome as we learn more about the history of Red oppression and see different kings take action on their own plans.
The other main POV is Cameron, who’s still searching for her brother. She’s a great character and her insights balanced the story by sharing what’s happening with the Scarlet Guard and showing another side to people like Cal and Mare. Lines like “no wonder [Mare] has personality issues. No one tells the girl the truth about anything” helped me get past how the two girls acted in Glass Sword. And Cameron’s observations make it even more clear how Cal refuses to actually take a stand or pick a side. He was another character with painfully realistic flaws… aaaand I suppose I thought the romance was sweet, but I’m not really here for any ship.
Ooh I almost forgot — the ongoing theme of how we’re all partially made by someone else came through even more in Evangeline’s POV. (Speaking of how this book surprised me… how is Evangeline my new favorite character?! Did not expect that). Just seeing WHY she did everything and how she handles the heartbreaking situation she’s in definitely made her more sympathetic. I wouldn’t mind an entire book just about her!
OTHER AWESOME STUFF I LOVED:
– The acknowledgements are not messing around
– A major character turns out to be gay and it’s not her defining story
– Mare’s skin is straight up described as “brown” several times instead of dancing around some kind of “tan/sunkissed” vague description. The on-page PoC rep is clear
– the story deals with PTSD well
– EPIC BATTLE SCENES omg so manyyyyy
– there were still funny parts despite depressing circumstances
– less animosity between female characters
Oh, and all of the YA author shoutouts were hilarious! One line is “Caz, Brecker, with us!” and then there’s a part about “Daraeus and Alexandrat are sworn allies to Bracken.”
So yeah, “King’s Cage” turned out to be the most brilliant title ever. Everyone’s trapped in some situation or cage by one king or another (even Maven is in one of his own making). The ending was super intense and I loved it all. This series really is one of my favorites now!!
Side note: you could honestly skim Glass Sword or read a summary and still get this book.