Reviews of IN THE CAGE


“This is a masterful mashup between genres, matching the masculine violence of the cage match with country-tinged, Mamet-esque dialogue that elevates these characters into rich portraits of desperate people living for sheer survival.

“A crime novel with the pulse of a sports drama and the bitter toxicity of the best country noir.” – Kirkus Reviews


“Hardcastle’s sentences are clean and hard, but the combinations are complex and deliberately crafted. Imagine the slow wrapping of a fist, knuckle by knuckle, and you get a sense of how Hardcastle tightens his narrative with a precision physics that’s grim, hypnotic, sometimes heartbreaking, always humane…

“Whether you like a fight or not, chances are, something in this novel will move you. In the Cage is a fierce, beautiful book.” – The Globe and Mail


“Hardcastle tells this saga of lowered expectations in short, action-based (and often dialogue-heavy) scenes that forgo the internalized monologues, commentary and descriptive passages so prevalent in contemporary CanLit. The effect is to firmly anchor the action in a culture and an economy that negates the inner life and the ability to reflect upon and change the course of one’s actions. It also bestows upon the novel’s many fights, staged and spontaneous, and scenes of violence a thrilling immediacy.

“This is not to say that Hardcastle’s style is invisible. When the action demands, he successfully relocates the rolling, Biblical sentences pioneered by Hemingway, Faulkner and McCarthy to his small-town Ontario milieu, and the dialogue is as punchy as Elmore Leonard’s, though deliberately less comic.” – The Toronto Star


“Through Hardcastle’s style – sentences plain and broken, glinting with moments of beauty even in the depths of violence and pain – we become part of Daniel’s world, part of the very structure he fights against, inside the cage and out.” – National Post


“With his first novel, In the Cage, Kevin Hardcastle more than lives up to the promise powerfully demonstrated in Debris, his impressive debut collection of short stories. The novel is a soaring, aching meditation on the physical limits of the human body, including the violence we do to ourselves and how the lives of the underclass are ignored in the larger world… Hardcastle shows a mastery of form and storytelling worthy of the attention he has received.” – The Winnipeg Free Press


“Hardcastle’s sentences land like bricks. His language approaches the poetic when Daniel fights, whether in training or in a publicized fight… Hardcastle uses language both specific and plain, calling on syntax to echo the body’s rhythms in the ring. The language makes real the force of engagement while withholding any glory beyond that of a fight well-fought.

“(He) writes of a rural existence that other writers caricature or wash over with humour or sentimentality. Daniel and Sarah face a hard grind as they struggle to move out from under their debts while keeping it honest. Forces from without (the gangs striving to manipulate Daniel back into their fold) and from within (the scars of a life underpinned by violence and few options) make the moments of love between the couple and shared with their daughter all the more tender.  The dance Daniel and Sarah perform as they shape their daily existence is every bit as intricate and caringly described as the fighters’ encounters in the cage.” – Hamilton Review of Books


“In addition to refining his prose to whip-sharp precision, the almost obsessive attention to craft on a line-by-line basis resembles the instinctual ability a fighter develops through months and years of rigorous drills and practice routines…

“Hardcastle’s signature style – a kind of rural poetry that includes stylistic flourishes, neologisms, and evocative use of compound words – is closer in spirit to McCarthy than Hemingway.” – Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire fall preview, featured title


“There is focus and energy in Daniel’s quiet rage… rather than employ a commonplace, Tarantinoesque approach juxtaposing the violence with humour or camp, Hardcastle provides no adornments. His economical writing resembles dispatches from a war zone…” – Stephen Knight, Quill & Quire


“Hardcastle’s descriptions of crimes and brawls spare no gore, but they also possess an elegant choreography that is vivid, energetic, and well paced… In The Cage — like its protagonist, Daniel — is well structured, engaging, and hard to dislike.” – Shawn Syms, Foreword Reviews