Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dystopia, Science Fiction
-Contains spoilers about the previous books-
I finished King's Cage a couple of hours ago, and I'm already suffering from withdrawal syndrome and more heartbroken than I care to admit.
King's Cage was the most powerful, deep and contradictory installment of Red Queen so far. The first half nearly drove me to give it three stars, it was unbearably slow and made me question my decision to continue this series many times. I felt like I was drowning in a swamp, trying to move yet stuck in the same place for so long I lost the concept of time. But in the end it seemed that the countless pages where nothing happened were necessary to understand the characters and set the foundations for the second half, which was undeniably mindblowing, full of epic fight sequences and moments to elate you only to shatter you minutes later.
“We're not a god's chosen, but a god's cursed.”
Mare spends six months imprisoned, tortured, living at the mercy of a wicked boy-king who keeps her in a cage because that is the only way she'll stay with him, who uses her to serve his own ends and each day steals a piece of her and replaces it with hopelessnes and anger, while the Scarlet Guard makes new allies and strives to end his reign of lies. With threats of civil war, rebelling houses claiming power and newbloods who shift the balance between Reds and Silvers, the kingdom of Norta will either be reformed or engulf in flames. For there is only one throne and two Calore sons, divided by betrayal, ambission, and a stubborn lightning girl.
“I am Mare Barrow. Not Mareena, not the lightning girl. Mare.”
Who is Mare Barrow? A self-centered hypocrite. A murderer. A traitor. That's what I would have told you in the beginning of King's Cage. It is no secret that I am not particularly fond of Mare. In fact, a sadictic and rather cruel part of me enjoyed her tortures and her despair, all those moments when she finally felt the weight of her mistakes and rush decisions. Who are you to judge Cal? I wanted to shout. How can you possibly blame him for not taking a stand after all the horror and injustice he has witnessed when the path you follow is paved with more blood and reverse discriminations in the name of common good? I wanted to peel off my skin every time she claimed she knew Maven so well, Maven of all people, an evil and broken boy who kept up with his atrocities even when his puppeteer was gone, while she never tried to see things from Cal's perspective. I still hate this self-righeous Mare. But thankfully, in King's Cage, she proved that she is more. And she somehow taught me that not a single character in this series is purely evil or purely good, the same way she learned it. I want you to remember this day, folks. The day I admitted that Mare Barrow became a tolerable and relatable heroine. I can't say the same about Maven, though. It is true that he wasn't born a monster, that his madness is the result of his horrible mother, and after his confessions he gained my understandment, but not my sympathy. Some choices were his. The slaughtered babies, the court manipulation, the power games, they were his. What he feels for Mare is not love, just a sick obsession. And I'm looking forward to his downfall.
“Red. Red as blood, red as fire. Red as the anger eating us both alive.”
Tiberias Calore is not the flawless prince I thought he was.
And that revelation was not the result of Victoria Aveyard's efforts to twist his character to make readers love him less, like I believed at first. Don't get me wrong, he's still my favorite character, but I'm afraid I idolised him. The bitter truth is that he is not good at making decisions, like Maven, and Mare and Cameron and everyone else knew from the start. He is noble, and kind, and a great strategist, he loves Mare despite reason in a way that warms you up inside, but he has his weaknesses.
I believe that what Victoria Aveyard tries to say in every sentence and every page is that power is alluring. A siren whose call no one can resist, regardless the colour of their blood, their rank and social status. And once you embrace power, and give in to its seductive touch and whispers of greatness, it taints you. And inevitably you lose something. Your humanity. Your kindness. Your soul. Your ideals. Your loved ones. Some things you can never get back. And I can't help but commend Victoria Aveyard for the way she delivers it. In King's Cage she masterfully delved into her characters' depths, she gave them multiple dimensions and made the reader invested in them, besides the intricate plot with the intrigue, the politics and the battle scenes that were undoubtedly epic. While my loyalties are still the same, I finished it more open-minded. And that's probably the reason the ending hurt me this much. In a way, when I read this series only for the plot was better. My feelings varied from annoyed to angry, and as soon as I finished each book I didn't think about it twice. But this time, it will haunt me. Because it has torn me apart.
“Now I'm in a king's cage. But so is he. My chains are Silent Stone. His is the crown.”
On a brighter note, I cheered for Evangeline (who may or may not have been the biggest and scariest badass), I swooned over shirtless Cal and I experienced a rush of adrenaline each time a fight was described or a new conspiracy was set into motion. If it hadn't been for the first half, King's Cage would deserve all the stars in the sky!