Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Gauntlet by Megan Shepherd

The Gauntlet by Megan Shepherd
Release Date - May 23, 2017
Publisher Website - Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 352 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**


Here is the Goodreads synopsis
The Maze Runner meets Scott Westerfeld in the final novel in the gripping and romantic Cage series, about teens abducted from Earth by an otherworldly race.

Cora and her friends have escaped the Kindred station and landed at Armstrong—a supposed safe haven on a small moon—where they plan to regroup and figure out how to win the Gauntlet, the challenging competition to prove humanity’s intelligence and set them free. But Armstrong is no paradise; ruled by a power-hungry sheriff, it’s a violent world where the teens are enslaved and put to work in mines. As Nok’s due date grows closer, and Mali and Leon journey across space to rescue Cassian, the former inhabitants of the cage are up against impossible odds.

With the whole universe at stake, Cora will do whatever it takes, including pushing her body and mind to the breaking point, to escape Armstrong and run the Gauntlet. But it isn’t just a deranged sheriff she has to overcome: the other intelligent species—the Axion, Kindred, Gatherers, and Mosca—all have their own reasons to stop her. Not knowing who to trust, Cora must rely on her own instincts to win the competition, which could change the world—though it might destroy her in the process.
The Cage series started out as a story of an alien species experimenting on humans and has evolved into one of survival and destiny. It has become deeper and more complex that I imagined when I picked up the first novel, and manged to surpass any expectations I had of it going in. The finale offers a thought provoking, satisfying conclusion to a series that always manged to surprise, and shock me.

I always forget how dark these novel are. Megan Shepherd is not afraid to let the darkest parts of humans (and other otherwordly species) be enough to send a chill through you. Everything from the initial premise of caging people for scientific experimentation, to allowing humans to be hunted for sport, to forcing people to be 'wives' is looked at and used to increase the feeling of unease. It is a thought provoking read because it challenges you to examine your own feelings about some complex issues and is used to highlight some of the very real issues that plague humans today (albeit just in very heightened, sci-fi lite way). This is all done using the 'less is more' approach which makes it even more impressive. It never gets too graphic but still manages to be unsettling. Your brain is more than capable of coming up with the worst possible scenarios with what is presented to you which, I find, is more effective.

I was afraid that Lucky would be a footnote in the story since his death in the second novel. I was much more curious about the potential between Cora and Lucky than I was about any possible romance between Cassian and Cora. I was pleasantly surprised to find he was still very much part of Cora's story. It was in a very bittersweet way, but he is on her mind and still gives her strength. I loved how the author managed to include him, even after his death, in such a vital way. Cora's journey this time is all about having a support system to see you through the tough times, and having him still be part of that was the perfect way to close out his story.

The biggest twists and surprises were saved for this finale installment of Cora's story. Plenty of them make you view the events of previous novels in a new light. One of the reveals, however, didn't quite work as it made the characters look less intelligent than they are presented as. Once a piece of information is revealed it takes far too long for the other characters to realize what is going on. Someone should have suspected something much earlier, even if they couldn't put the entire thing together. Funnily, this reveal also provides a twist I didn't see coming so they really end up canceling each other out. There are plenty of surprises left in this story and they show how well plotted this series actually was.

The ending Megan Shepherd offers fans is one that is a perfect mix of hope and sadness. This is an ending that had to be earned with its body count, and sacrifice. There was never going to be some perfect scenario where everyone lived happily ever after. There is so much hope at the end of this story that even just that little sliver is enough compared with the darkness that preceded it.

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