Gilded Cage by Vic James
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Dystopian
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Synopsis: Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England’s grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.
A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.
Abi is a servant to England’s most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family’s secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?
A boy dreams of revolution.
Abi’s brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.
And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.
He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?
This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinion of the book in any way.
It’s taken me nearly three weeks to read Gilded Cage. However, that isn’t because I didn’t enjoy it. On the contrary, I loved it, but life just kept getting in the way! This isn’t a book that’s easy to put down, yet I will say that if you do have to put it down for a few days, it’s not difficult to get back into the story and reorient yourself.
That’s all down to the fact that this book is seamlessly written, with an intriguing, fresh plot, a richly woven world, and complex characters. I’d heard great things about Gilded Cage before I started, so I was eager to begin. I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
Let’s start with the plot. In an alternative universe where some members of the population possess the power of magic, these people with ‘Skill’ have mostly ascended to the higher ranks of society. In some parts of the world, they’re shunned, but in Europe they rule over the Skilless masses as a magical elite. The Skilless must serve the elite, known as ‘Equals’, for ten years as slaves.
The story is written from the third person POV of a number of characters, each chapter focussing on a different one, and this gave a great feel for the world, allowing us to see this society from different perspectives, as well as learning more about the motivations of the main characters.
Mostly, the chapters centre on Abi and Luke Hadley, brother and sister. The Hadley family have all signed up to get their slavedays over and done with together. However, the family find themselves split up, with Luke carted off to the slave town of Millmoor, a large, almost Victorian slum-like industrial complex, and the rest of the family – Abi, little sister Daisy, and Mum and Dad – are sent to work for the most powerful Equal family in the country – the Parva-Jardine’s.
I found the chapters in the two locations of Millmoor and Kyneston (the Jardine estate) equally interesting, although perhaps Kyneston piqued my interest a little more. However, the two settings provide a great contrast and really set two different tones. You have the dirty Millmoor, with rumblings of rebellion, and the picturesque Kyneston, where everything isn’t quite as perfect as it seems.
I liked both Abi and Luke as the two most central characters, but I really did enjoy the entire cast as a whole. It’s quite a large cast of characters, all complex and clearly drawn. There are no characters that feel like stereotypes, or like the author just has a check list of stock characters she’s ticking her way through. Instead, even a character such as Bouda Matravers, engaged to Gavar Jardine (Heir to the Jardine estate), could easily have fallen prey to the ‘bitchy girl’ stock character, but she didn’t. Whilst she certainly was bitchy, she had much more depth to her. She was motivated, headstrong and very intelligent. I really enjoyed the couple of chapters from her perspective as, even though I didn’t particularly like her, I admired her ambition.
My favourite characters as a whole though, I would say, are the three Jardine brothers: Gavar, Jenner and Silyen. I liked the complexities of Gavar’s character; initially, he just seems very brutish, when in reality there’s much more to him and he does have a soft side. Silyen, however, was my favourite. The youngest brother, Silyen possesses the most Skill. He’s dark, mysterious and very cunning. Not always likeable, I’ll admit, but I was hanging on his every word and looked forward to scenes involving him. He was definitely one of the best characters I’ve read about this year.
In terms of the writing, I enjoyed the style. It was fresh and didn’t seem like Vic James was trying to emulate any other author. It was often detailed, yet not boring. However, my one small gripe with this novel, though not big enough to affect the rating, is that some events were kind of glossed over. We’d learn about them in passing rather than get to see them. There were a few times where I was a little disappointed I wasn’t privy to this conversation or that event, and would have liked them to be included. However, it may have been that there was a strict word count that Vic James needed to adhere to; YA books aren’t often allowed to be quite long.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Gilded Cage. This is definitely one of my favourite YA books of the year and I’m really excited to continue with the series, especially because of the climactic ending that, thankfully, didn’t fall flat, and the character of Silyen. Also, as you can see from the blurb, there is a romance, but it didn’t overpower the plot. If, like me, you’re sick of insta-love and cringe-worthy ‘swooning’, you’ll be glad to know that there’s none of that here.
So, if you’re looking for a new YA series to sink your teeth into, especially an interesting, unique dystopian filled with magical realism, then I highly recommend this series. You seriously don’t want to miss out.
Gilded Cage will be released 1st Dec in e-book format, with the paperback out 26th Jan.
Have you read an ARC of Gilded Cage? Are you excited for the release? Let me know in the comments below!