King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

After having mixed feelings about the first two books of the Red Queen series, I decided to try to see the series through to the end. Unfortunately for me, I found that this was my least favorite entry to Mare Barrow’s story. For some reason, the books in this series keep getting longer, but fewer and fewer events actually happen in each passing book. King’s Cage was overly self important, boring, and worst of all, lost its spark (pun intended) of romance.

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.

It’s almost impressive how little actually happened in a book of this length. Somehow, in 544 pages, less happened than in the first book (which came in at just over 300 pages). Red Queen notoriously didn’t spend enough time building the world and defining the setting, which King’s Cage really paid the price for. A large chunk of the book was spent trying to retroactively build the setting, define the dynamic between the Reds and the Silvers, and build up the large and complex political system. It was overwhelming, and doing all of this retroactively was pretty ineffectual. Plus, so much of it was told in boring monologues and blatant exposition that it slowed down what little plot there was. The storytelling was incredibly sub-par and trying to create depth where the previous books had none.

In Red Queen and Glass Sword, Mare was a tough, gritty, do-anything-to-protect-her-family type of character. She was brash, and didn’t always think things through, but she had her convictions. But in King’s Cage she really lost most of her characterization. In her isolation and captivity in the castle, I would have expected her to be scheming to get out or fighting for the revolution internally or even just have been her snarky self. Instead, she immediately shut down and was dull as rocks during her time there. Without her lightening powers and her snark, she was a shell of a character that was incredibly boring to read and really didn’t contribute much to the book. Once she broke out of the castle she maintained the overall loss of character – and only showed the most superficial (and not really believable) signs of trauma from the whole affair. I wish she had shown a more raw reaction to her imprisonment and new freedom, but she really didn’t seem to evolve much from the experience. Also, the romance between Mare and the ex-prince seemed to have evaporated after this book. Similar to the first two books, the side characters really didn’t contribute to the plot. Even all of the newly found Reds with gifts were never fully defined or ever had interesting subplots.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand the hype around this series – they all feel under-edited and like they were rushed to be written. Clocking in at 544 pages, this book was bloated with too much filler and unsatisfying plot. I don’t think I’ll be finishing this series, I just can’t drag myself through several hundred more pages of mediocre storytelling. If you’re looking for a great dystopian YA series, check out Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. 2/5

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  1. Great review! It definitely helps me set my expectations in case I would want to give this series a shot. It’s a shame it didn’t work out better for you though after sticking with it for so long :-/

  2. I appreciate your honest review. I don’t think that I will be reading this series.

  3. Sorry to hear this wasn’t for you. I’ve had the first two books on my shelf for a while now, maybe I’ll get to them some day 🤷
    Gemma @ Gemma’s Book Nook

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