Book one in the Cage of Lies series, Chained, has pretty much everything you look for in a post-apocalyptic YA novel. Annihilation, oppression, survival, kick-ass heroes and heroines. But the execution will surprise you.
The Wall is the saviour of humanity after the epidemic that decimated the world. Leaving the protection of the Wall means certain death by contamination, and the Guardians serve to protect the population. Or so 16 year old Maya believes. Until the day she is sentenced to the SubWar, the brutal prison system used to keep the population in check, as punishment for an unintentional blunder that put her city at risk. After weeks of survival training, she is forced to make a choice – enter the wasteland, or be hunted down and killed. And she discovers that not everyone outside the wall died. Some live a life of freedom, and some are less than human.
Chained is creative. And unexpected.
The plot is twisty, exciting and inventive. It moves along at a great pace, slowing down about two thirds of the way in, but then rushing right back through to the end. There is no cliffhanger, just the promise of more to come.
The world building is incredibly imaginative; our world turned upside down due to cataclysmic events that play on some of our current fears about science and genetic manipulation. Vast towers of glass and steel, behind a great Wall that soars so high it blocks out the sun, house the population, and retinal scanners and CCTV keep tabs on everyones’ movements and schedules. Life is controlled and regulated for everyones’ protection. Outside the Wall is an endless wasteland, poisoned and useless.
The world that Maya escapes to is less defined, in more ways than one. A collective maybe? While there does seem to be a hierarchy of sorts, there is little explanation of how the society functions. But they do have a mission: free the cities, let the population know it is safe to leave the Wall.
The characters I found to be likeable and relatable. Maya, Laurie, Alicia and Coal are all distinct individuals, with strong personalities. They stood out, as they should. The Creepers are vile and disturbing. Sort of a cross between a wild animal and a zombie.
That said, they are all a bit too gullible for me to completely believe in them. Although we do find out what happened to shape the world into its present condition, the information isn’t detailed quite enough for me to accept that everyone just fell into line, blindly and unquestioningly following protocol and orders.
How was everyone herded into the cities less than 100 years before? How was the city prepared without raising suspicions? Even as Maya catches a glimpse of how the elite live, she does not stop to wonder at the inequality. Further exploration into the control of the population would be great. Was it just fear of the unknown?
The shock and wonder that Maya and Laurie feel as they enter the outside for the first time is believable, although they seem to deprogram a bit more quickly than I would have expected. And Taylor, so important to Maya, did disappear a bit too conveniently for most of the story.
These issues do not take away from what is an excellent story. The second book in the series, Linked, will hopefully answer some of the questions.
Appropriate for any teen.
The Cage of Lies series is published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.