Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Review: The Hunt by Megan Shepherd

Title: The Hunt (The Cage #2)
Author: Megan Shepherd
Publication Date: May 24, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 368
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Reviews for book 1 & book 3

They’ve left the cage—but they’re not free yet.

After their failed escape attempt, Cora, Lucky, and Mali have been demoted to the lowest level of human captives and placed in a safari-themed environment called the Hunt, along with wild animals and other human outcasts. They must serve new Kindred masters—Cora as a lounge singer, Lucky as an animal wrangler, and Mali as a safari guide—and follow new rules or face dangerous consequences. Meanwhile, Nok and Rolf have been moved into an enormous dollhouse, observed around the clock by Kindred scientists interested in Nok’s pregnancy. And Leon, the only one who successfully escaped, has teamed up with villainous Mosca black-market traders.

The former inhabitants of the Cage are threatened on all fronts—and maybe worst of all, one of the Hunt’s Kindred safari guests begins to play a twisted game of cat and mouse with Cora. Separated and constantly under watch, she and the others must struggle to stay alive, never mind find a way back to each other. When Cassian secretly offers to train Cora to develop her psychic abilities—to prove the worthiness of humanity in a series of tests called the Gauntlet—she’ll have to decide fast if she dares to trust the Kindred who betrayed her, or if she can forge her own way to freedom. 

Last year I listened to the audiobook of The Cage, the first book in this series, and was disappointed that it didn't live up to my high expectations. I didn't plan to continue this story, but when The Hunt was released, I was in the mood for some dystopian fiction and I went for it. I have come out on the other side believing that one of the reasons I didn't like The Cage was the audio. I think the voice actors irritated me to the point that the book was even less enjoyable than it might have been, which is unfortunate. I went into The Hunt with no expectations and decided to read a physical copy for comparison.

This book picks up immediately after the first left off, with Cora and company having been trapped by the Kindred after their (ridiculous) failed escape. Cora, Lucky, Nok, Rolf, Mali, and Leon have now failed out of their enclosure and are being placed in the menageries as a result. Obviously, none of them can abide their new settings and have to come up with a new plan to get away from the Kindred. I hoped that this time the plan would be a little less, well, stupid.

Thankfully, each of the characters were somewhat less irritating in book two of this series, which I am attributing to not listening to the same actors reading the parts this time. Still, I didn't find myself loving any of them... Leon wasn't such a jerk this time, so I really appreciated that. Mali was still weird and I never felt truly connected to her. Lucky was just kind of there and I didn't feel anything for him, really. I didn't hate Nok and Rolf and felt kind of sympathetic for them. Cassian wasn't terrible to read about and I did feel like I understood his motivations a bit more. Overall though, I just didn't care about any of them. Even when something terrible happened near the end, I just kind of said, "Oh, okay," and kept going.

And then there's Cora. Cora who sent me on a rant in my last review. Cora still made lots of decisions that made little sense and was still really wishy washy about which guy she was actually in love with. And then Cora made the most idiotic move ever in the history of idiotic moves, which is saying something considering her decision making skills in The Cage. Cora has no regard for other people and basically just does what she wants, consequences be damned.

Like in The Cage, the strong point of this book is its world. I loved the descriptions given for the different menageries and actually wish there had been more of them. The way Megan Shepherd has written this Kindred world is extremely unique and she has a way of making me feel like I could step into the book and see exactly what she was describing.

The plot itself, unfortunately, is almost as problematic as that of the first book. The Gauntlet was not explained very well, in my opinion, and Cora's "abilities" manifested way too sporadically and conveniently to be believable. She always managed to suddenly learn something new just in the nick of time in order to get herself out of a sticky situation. Once, maybe, but when it started happening repeatedly it just got ridiculous. In fact, almost everything in this book just kind of happened conveniently at precisely the right time. (Deus ex machina, anyone?)

Overall, I disliked The Hunt slightly less than the first book, but I still can't say I enjoyed it. The characters are severely lacking and most of the plot is just a little too convenient for me to get into. The world is really gorgeous and the ending did leave me wanting to know what happens next, so I'll probably read the next book just because I'm 2/3 of the way in at this point, but I'm really not sure I would recommend this series to anyone else.