Author: Megan Shepherd
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Length: 400 pages
The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in this gripping new series about teens held captive in a human zoo by an otherworldly race. From Megan Shepherd, the acclaimed author of The Madman's Daughtertrilogy.
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?
Characters: So this book is told from the third person POV of multiple characters trapped in this alien zoo-like cage. The closest thing we get to a main protagonist is Cora, a young senator's daughter with a dark past, and for the most part I liked her, though she had her aggravating moments that would really piss me off. The other characters I initially liked, I thought they were a great diverse cast of characters and a grew to care about them, until their personalities seemed to change in unnatural ways. It's all explained away, but it really felt like the author adjusted their actions to fit her story.
Romance: From the description I was expecting, and hoping, for a singular romance, but of course there is a love triangle in this series. I wouldn't have minded it if it didn't appear as though the author was building up the romance, which I really enjoyed, between Cora and her "secondary love interest" Lucky, only for that to be completely ruined in favor of the borderline stalker romance between Cora and her captor Cassian. The other characters also experience some romance, and even when these characters got extremely aggravating I did like their own respective romances.
World-Building: The world-building was the best part about this book. There was so much potential, and the eco-system in which the rag tag group of characters wakes up sounds kind of awesome, though more for a vacation or a voluntary movement, not being kidnapped and forced into. It was interesting to learn about why the kid were taken and the other sci-fi aspects that surround this world. I'm interested to see how this world will develop going forward, especially given the things we find out toward the end.
Predictability: So I have to say that I didn't really predict much in this book. In fact I there were a few times when I thought I had predicted something, only for it to turn out and be a lie further down the road. It's weird what this book does, it almost mirrors the environment the characters are in, where it seems safe and healthy and predictable, but then it screws with your mind.
Ending: So the ending is the thing that really screws with your mind. Things that you thought were true change, and oddly enough the characters change as well, not in a "they developed now they're different" kind of way but a more stunted and abrupt kind of way. The end really helps set up how the next book may go, enough that I think I may have deciphered the title of the next installment already.
For the first quarter of this novel I really enjoyed it, then things got crazy and aggravating, and while I'm pretty sure I'll continue with the series, this will probably be far from my favorite of the trilogy.