4 out of 5 stars
First, the most exciting thing about this book: the story isn’t over! I assumed (based on nothing) that King’s Cage would be the last book in the Red Queen trilogy. But it’s not the last, and not a trilogy, and I am a-zoom with happiness!
On to the book: Mare Barrow, the “Lightning Girl,” and her growing force of “newbloods” – base-born commoners with red blood who defy caste and the realm by wielding powers thought to be exclusive to silver-blooded nobility – work alongside the rebel Scarlet Guard to take down King Maven and the crushing rule he upholds.
But Maven isn’t the typical villain – or is he? He is obsessed with Mare. OBSESSED. Are you guys too young to know the movie “Swimfan”? Like that. Most villains are obsessed with killing their nemesis, but Maven is obsessed with keeping Mare. At the end of the last book, Mare killed Maven’s mother, the mind-controlling Queen Elara. Instead of freeing Maven from that control, Mare now finds him as deranged and damaged as ever. But his obsession with Mare keeps saving her life. This makes her borderline sympathetic toward Maven, a boy she once loved, and those feelings are deftly woven.
The strongest aspect of Aveyard’s third installment remains the world of the Red Queen series: brilliantly imagined and brutally alive. But in Kings Cage, the story turns away from the usual “true love” trajectory of YA novels, and instead let’s Mare’s scarred conscience battle the shredded remains of Maven’s mind. (Mare and the dreamy, frustrating, rightful heir Cal are still in love. It’s satisfying, but less interesting than Mare and Maven. Sometimes Cal needs a smack.) The Maven plot is fresh, it can still surprise the reader. It might even inspire a little sympathy with the devil.
Mare, Cal and the Scarlet Guard find them selves with new, unlikely allies against Maven, who recruits some help of his own. The action ratchets up quickly. Aveyard has a lot going on in these books, and she never leaves one thread hanging too long.
The only thing I don’t love about this book is Cameron, a newblood with a unique and powerful ability. She becomes a main character and frankly, she’s boring. Her guilt is boring. She’s one of those characters who insists on thinking a certain way, though every single thing happening around her screams the opposite. Cameron is willfully dense and it grates when you’re forced to read the story through her narrow mind.
That aside, King’s Cage is an excellent installment in a series that I’m thrilled to see continue. The world of the story story just got a lot bigger, and the stakes a lot higher. The next chapter is going to be a wow.