Book Review – King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Unlike the wait I went through between reading Red Queen and Glass Sword, there was less than a week between when I finished Glass Sword and when I started King’s Cage. One of the aspects of the series I’ve been enjoying most so far has been the way each novel ends with a complete change in circumstances from the previous story. The characters are the same in many ways but their relationships with one another and their senses of self shift dramatically. Even when the plot misses, falls into predictability, or struggles against the limitations of first-person narrative perspective, the character studies at the heart of the series carry it forward with tremendous purpose.

Glass Sword ended with Mare agreeing to go with Maven in exchange for him letting Cal and the rest of their team go free. Picking up where the previous novel left off, King’s Cage sees Mare as a veritable slave in Maven’s palace. With constant guards and silent stone suppressing her powers, she struggles to make it through each day. But Maven’s mind and emotions have lingering scars from his mother’s manipulations and he can’t keep away from Mare as he wrestles with his feelings for her. She does what she can to manipulate him right back, hoping for the day he lets something slip and praying for the day the Red Guard and her friends will break her free if she can’t contrive to escape sooner.

I’ve written before about how, even though I thoroughly enjoy many young adult series I dislike the convention of first-person narration that so many of them employ. It can bring an immediacy to the narrative and sometimes the limitations of perspective help to build tension in the story and keep the reader oblivious or at least superficially in the dark regarding key revelations. However, in this series—as I’ve seen with others—those same limitations prove unsupportable as the writer pushes to expand the world they’ve created.

In King’s Cage, since Mare is so trapped and limited in her interactions for so much of the first part of the book, Aveyard chose to add Cameron’s perspective, providing insight into the Red Guard and its efforts continuing the fight to undermine Maven’s reign and to possibly rescue Mare. Later, another perspective—Evangeline Samos—is added as well, providing key information about her character that forces readers to reevaluate scenes with her from the prior two novels. Expanding the pool of available perspectives is a tactic I’ve seen other series attempt to combat the self-imposed restrictions of first-person narration in establishing novels but I believe Aveyard in King’s Cage has managed the transition more successfully than most others. The characters’ personalities are invariably distinct (though they initially felt over-exaggerated, perhaps to help establish the uniqueness of their voices).

When it comes to plot, the first half of King’s Cage, could feel a little slow. It was lighter on physical action than the second half and relied heavily on politicking and character psychology to carry the plot forward, but once it reached the second half and Mare dealing with her trauma as she struggles to reintegrate and reconcile her sense of self with what she finds of those she’d left behind and the cause she never truly abandoned, the pace picks up considerably and doesn’t drop it again through the epilogue. I very much look forward to seeing the consequences of the novel’s final act ripple out into Aveyard’s expanding universe but will have to wait until sometime next year to see it.

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