Kept From Cages by Phil Williams

Kept From CagesMy Five Word TL:DR Review : Fast Paced, Action Packed Adventure

Kept from Cages is an addictive read that is difficult to put down and at just under 300 pages I almost devoured this ‘monster-style’ : aka in one huge chunk swallowed whole.

Phil Williams is the author of urban fantasy series, Under Ordshaw, in which he creates a world full of strangeness and a City with a dark underbelly containing a warren of underground tunnels fairly teeming with supernatural creatures.  Kept From Cages is set in the same world but expands the boundaries and concepts and gives us something less urban  and more akin to wilderness fantasy (that should definitely be a ‘thing’).

For information Kept from Cages is the first in a duology and can be read without having read the Under Ordshaw series so if you haven’t read that series and feel hopelessly behind you can start here.

As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Reece and his companions.  They’ve clearly taken part in some sort of heist-gone-wrong and are approaching a farmhouse looking for aid.  Unfortunately, this strangely silent farmhouse is the last place likely to provide help or sustenance and in fact is the catalyst for events that see the gang racing across the country, wanted criminals, accused of atrocities they didn’t commit with a small girl in tow.

At the same time we follow a different storyline involving Agent Sean Tasker (who works for a secret agency, think along the lines of Men in Black supernatural style).  Tasker has been sent to a remote village in the Northern hemisphere where everyone has been mysteriously massacred.  The only clue to the killings comes from the lips of a dying man whose final words see Tasker racing across the world to the Congo in search of answers.

So, what did I love about this book. In no particular order.

The pacing – it really is fast and furious.  Strangely enough the author manages to create this crazy atmosphere of chaos with ever spiralling, life threatening events and yet at the same time use some sort of super power to miraculously slow things down at certain points to not only give the reader a breather but also to inject some ‘normality’ and time for character building.  It’s actually very effectively and impressively done.

The world building.  Again, the author doesn’t spend time giving flowery descriptions and yet he manages to capture an excellent sense of place using the minimum words possible.  We travel around quite a bit here, in fact the two alternate storylines take us to different corners of the world before coming together in a really satisfactory way.  I have to say I loved the time we spent in the Deep South – and the whole village on stilts idea was brilliant.

The plot.  It’s a little crazy.  As the story begins I almost felt a little lost.  The two completely different stories, the different agencies, spies and underlying corporate machinations and yet, I found myself gripped by the mystery of the massacred village and in fact the larger mystery at play here and without realising I’d jumped onboard and was held captive – but not against my will.  I became hooked.

The writing is really good.  It’s impressive to take something, that on the face of it feels almost a little ambitious, and yet to achieve a gripping story well told in such a deceptively easy way and in such a relatively short time frame.  There’s no wasted words, which is why this has such a snappy feel and I have to say there’s a good balance between storytelling and dialogue.

The characters.  The author manages to give us a variety of characters. We have the Cutjaw gang.  Reece and his musician companions and Zip – the young girl, with the strange powers, that they ‘rescued’ from the farmhouse.  We also have agent Tasker who teams up with a female assassin and her imaginary friend/conscience.  I can’t deny that the assassin stole the show a little for me.  I love kickass females and Williams excels at creating them (Lettie anyone?).  Anyway, you might expect that in such a short and punchy novel the characters would be a little lacklustre but this isn’t the case.  As I mentioned above the author does manage to capture a few moments where the pace slows down and we get to look a little more closely at the who/what/why of things.  I can’t deny that I would like a little more in terms of the characterisation but, at the same time I know that I’m hooked because by the conclusion I was worried about certain characters – and when you’re worried for the characters because you think they might die – then you know you’ve bought in.

In conclusion, this is a fast paced adventure with a twist in the tale that really surprised me and an ending that leaves me eager for the next instalment.

My rating 4 out of 5

I received a copy from the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

13 Responses to “Kept From Cages by Phil Williams”

  1. sjhigbee

    Great review, Lynn:)). I’ll be reviewing this one during the coming week – and I think you nailed it. While I loved the Ordshaw books, I think the writing in this adventure is more impressive, as the story is so much more ambitious. The two narrative timelines worked really well.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I really enjoyed this one and you really can see how the author has got into his stride with this particular story.
      lynn πŸ˜€

  2. Tammy

    I’m very curious about this book, and sad I haven’t started the first series. I need a bunch more hours in the day to read everything, ugh! Glad you loved it😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      I need a bunch of extra hours too – although I suspect I’d never be satisfied.
      Lynn πŸ˜€

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    I enjoyed this one as well (review is on the way…) and I agree with you on the breakneck pacing and totally crazy plot, but it was fun to see how the various pieces clicked together… πŸ™‚
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was great seeing things come together and I can’t wait for No.2 – no pressure on the author then.
      Lynn πŸ˜€

  4. waytoofantasy

    Sounds like a good one! I definitely want to read more from this author at some point. πŸ™‚ Glad you enjoyed it, Lynn!

    • @lynnsbooks

      This was great – it really way. I highly recommend.
      Lynn πŸ˜€

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’m hoping all of his books will come to audio at some point. Currently working through his Orshaw series, the second book is now on Audible and I want to listen to them all! This one will be next once I’m done…one day, crossing my fingers it’ll be soon!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I’m going to listen to Blue Angel – very soon.
      Lynn πŸ˜€

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