Cage of Souls by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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Written review below the video!

Hey guys!

So people who follow my reviews will see this guy’s name pop up quite a bit, we tend to gel as author/reader because we have the same background in ethology and ecology and since he writes in that same wheelhouse I tend to devour his stuff.

I picked up this book specifically because the cover made me think this could be related to ecology, and it was in a way. So, this is set at the very end times, the sun is going through it’s red giant phase and humanity knows it will eventually expand and absorb at least the inner solar system, which clearly would mean the end of everything. So, instead of like, working on this problem, humanity has more or less given up. There are under 100,000 people left on the planet, and they all reside in a single city. People who find themselves on the wrong side of this society need to flee to the Underworld and/or, the people who get arrested and sentenced, like our main character, get sent to the Cage of Souls.

The Cage of Souls is this giant boat the size of an island floating down a river in a jungle full of fucked up mega creatures. The sci-fantasy element of this book is that it takes the explanation of evolution and makes it a deliberate decision by a sentient planet. The planet in this world knows that it’s in danger and it’s rapidly speeding up evolution and guiding it towards sentience to try and create a species that can save it. We get spider people that way.

So, our MC, Stefan, gets sent to the Cage of Souls at the start of the book and when he got there a guy named the Marshall comes out, introduces himself, kills a guy at random, and then tells the rest of the group that was a demonstration of how much their lives matter to him — not at all. Step out of line and die. The wardens that help run the prison ship aren’t treated a whole lot better, and they are rewarded for tattling and backstabbing, so it creates this environment of chaos. To add to the chaos, the river monsters routinely eat prisoners, and even if you’re inside the ship you’re not necessarily safe, giant crabs can pierce the hull and eat people and occasionally you’ll hear screams of people being eaten in their cells. This is a very violent and bloody book. People are eating, torn in half, and killed in a variety of ways.

Okay, so we go from that environment at the start of the book and then we’re taken back in time to before Stefan was in trouble and we get to see the last city on earth and the people/politics of that area. But, here in lies my issue, I had a bit of difficulty investing in this part of the story since I already knew the people I was reading about were going to die. Stefan talks about that before this flash back/timeline skip and so I just didn’t get invested in that part of the story. I did like the underworld though, there was a lot of really neat world building there with all the different guilds, creatures, mushroom tunnels etc. The thing is, though, this world felt a little overpopulated for having under 100,000 people. That’s really not a lot of people and for the Marshall to say things like he has an endless supply of people to murder, I’m not really sure that’s true, lol. Especially considering women for whatever reason aren’t sentenced there all that often and so that takes out half of that 100,000, which wasn’t much to start with. Anyway, my two biggest nitpicks here are some world building questions and pacing issues since I felt a lag in the middle, not being able to invest in the Shadrapar storyline.

You never really know what you’re going to get as far as storytelling style with Tchaikovsky, sometimes it’s single pov, sometimes multi, sometimes its first person narration, sometimes it’s third person, and sometimes it’s even second person like in Ogres. This one was single pov first person narration as the MC is talking to you, the reader. I tend to enjoy this style. It really lets you sink into the character since you spend so much time in their head and with their voice. It creates a reason for exposition and meld it into the story without me feeling like it’s award. I liked this character. He’s a self professed coward kind of like Jalan from Mark Lawrence’s series, The Prince of Fools. He was once told that a coward doesn’t get statutes made of them, and his reply was that they don’t make statues of living people, either. Basically saying, yeah I run from bad situations, but that’s why I’m here to talk about it. He’s smart and he gets himself out of situations where many others find themselves dead.

Overall, this was a really neat book that explored a lot of interesting topics and I really liked the MC and his story.


  • Plot: 11/15
  • Characters: 12/15
  • World Building: 12/15
  • Writing: 13/15
  • Pacing: 11/15
  • Originality: 13/15
  • Enjoyment: 8/10

Final Score: 80/100 or 4/5 stars on goodreads