ARC Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James


Thank you to Del Rey Books and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All quotes are from the ARC and subject to change. 

30258320.jpgTitle: Gilded Cage
Author: Vic James
Release Date: Feb 14th, 2017
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
Format: eARC
Goodreads Synopsis:

Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

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?


I loved this book so much and I don’t even know where to start because all I want to do is shout my love for it from the rooftops. Gilded Cage is the perfect mixture of fantasy and dystopia. A genre mixture that happens to be one of my all-time favorites. It’s full of complex, flawed, and quite frankly several horrible characters who despite everything you can’t help but be intrigued by. It also has a world that while being set in a modern day alternate Great Britain sometimes has the feel of a Victorian era novel. I didn’t even know until after I finished this that it was Vic James’ debut novel. It didn’t feel like a debut at all but rather something masterfully crafted by a seasoned author. Her writing blew me away and left me wanting more. Seriously, can I have the sequel now? This was one of my highly anticipated releases for 2017 and I think it’s safe to say that it ended up exceeding my expectations.

Gilded Cage follows a familiar fantasy/dystopian storyline which consists of an elitist group of leaders with special abilities who oppress the people to the point where they say enough is enough and begin to rise up against them. However, Vic James wove her own unique qualities into that. In Gilded Cage’s society, the elitist group who govern this alternant Great Britain are called Equals and most of them are not only terrible but wield an extremely powerful magic called Skill. The people who make up the rest of this society, the Skill-less, are required to do slavedays which means giving up ten years of their lives to serve the Equals. They do this by either working in horrific conditions in slavetowns or directly serving an Equal family. Gilded Cage follows the lives of several different characters, Skill-less and Equals, as their society begins experiencing civil unrest and a call for the end of slavedays as well as a power feud amongst the Equals.

“Trust was what made everything possible. Trust lent you someone else’s eyes, someone else’s strong arms or quick brain. Made you bigger than just yourself. Trust was how the club worked. How this crazy dream of abolition could work, if people could just come together and hold their nerve. Not even the Equals – not even their Skill – would be more powerful than that.”

One of my favorite parts of Gilded Cage was the characters. Vic James created so many complex and flawed characters. This book has multiple points of view and going in I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t work but it did. It worked so well and each change from character to character was placed in such a way that it built beautifully onto the story and heightened the intrigue and suspense.

There’s Luke Hadley who I felt had the biggest character development out of everyone. Being that Luke is under eighteen when his parents decide that the whole family is to do their slavedays together because they’re accepted to serve an Equal family he doesn’t have a choice. Due to an unexpected decision that his parents have no control over Luke ends up being hauled off to Millmoor, a slavetown, instead of being sent to Kyneston with his family. While in Millmoor, Luke begins to see firsthand the injustice going on and realizes how much he wants the world to change and that he’s willing to fight for that change.

“With every day that passed, he saw more clearly the injustice of the slavedays and the resilience of those enduring them.”

There’s Abi Hadley who I was on the fence about for a while but ultimately ended up loving by the end of the book. She’s an incredibly smart and resourceful character who cares so much for her family. I mean she gave up going to school to do her slavedays with them. However, the hints of romance with a certain Equal and constant focus on that attraction had me rolling my eyes at times. I just didn’t care for the romance.

There’s Silyen Jardine who is quite the enigma and possibly my favorite character out of them all. He’s powerful, ambitious, and seemingly a few steps ahead of everyone else at all times. His next move is never clear and more often than not I got the feeling that he was the puppet master holding all of their strings. Silyen very much seemed to toe that line between good and evil. I could never figure out which side he was playing for and it made him mysterious and extremely interesting. I found myself looking forward to his appearances and wanting to learn more about him. One thing is for sure, he has the potential to be a great anti-hero or possibly an even greater villain.

“Well, allow me to offer a lesson of my own. I know you like history, Abigail. Remember: those who don’t learn from it are doomed to repeat it. Or should that be those who do learn from it are able to repeat it?”

Beyond those three there are so many other great characters. There’s a group of people from Millmoor that I loved. Especially Renie, I really hope we learn more about her in book two. There are the other Jardines and several Equals who I wasn’t fond of. There were Equals that I actually liked. There was Luke and Abi’s little sister Daisy and their parents. The characters really made this book.

I also loved how Vic James seemed to weave her alternate Great Britain’s history from actual history, Charles I is mentioned a few times. She took and shaped it to fit the events and characters of the world she created. And I know I already said it but her writing blew me away. It was engaging and made for a book that was pretty much unputdownable. I was on the edge of my seat and even had the joy of being completely shocked by a plot twist. It’s rare that I’m caught off guard like that and I spent several chapters of this book with my jaw on the floor. I loved it.

Overall Gilded Cage was not only an impressive debut but an incredible beginning to a new series that I can’t wait to get the sequel for. I’ll be counting down the days because I need to know what happens next.

So, if you’re a fan of the fantasy/dystopia mixture then I highly recommend this book. Trust me you won’t regret reading it.

Have you read Gilded Cage? What were your thoughts? If not, do you plan to read it once it’s released? 




50 thoughts on “ARC Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

  1. OMG! I love your review! It’s fantastic! I’m so happy you enjoyed the book so much! I agree with you about Luke and I do like Silyen and his mystery. I do like the suspense in the author’s writing and I do love the multiple POVs. I also like the quote about trust too 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review for this book Melissa, I definitely agree with you when you say this did not feel like a debut release from Vic James but until you mentioned it I didn’t know how to put it into words you know? 🙂
    Going into this book I didn’t really have any expectations for it, but I was still completely blown away. I loved nearly everything about it but the world-building was beyond compare. Everything had clearly been well-research and it was incredibly written to create a unique setting despite the influences from what is likely the industrial-era in the slave towns.
    Luke was definitely my favourite character oh by the end I really felt for him, and while it took me a lot longer to warm up to Abi I am interested to see where her character goes in the second book for sure. It seems like book two has the potential to be even better with a lot more at stake. By the way have you seen the cover for the second book yet, I’m already in love with it! I may have been a little on the fence about Gilded Cage before I started it but I won’t be that way about the second book for sure. 😀 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Beth!! 💕😊
      I get what you mean, it actually took me several times of rewriting to put it into words without it sounding weird. But yeah it really didn’t feel like a debut. That’s not say feeling like a debut is wrong but I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be so well thought out and complex and just incredible in general.
      The world building was definitely one of my favorites parts too. You really could tell how much she researched and how much thought she put into forming it. Especially with a familiar theme and the fact that it didn’t even feel familiar, it was definitely unique.
      Yes, Luke and the ending, I felt for him too. He really got the short end of the stick and he’s such a great character. I can’t wait to see where Abi’s character goes too. I have a feeling she’s going to surprise us in book two.
      Yep I saw it yesterday and it’s so gorgeous! I can’t wait until it gets to the point where ARCs start going out for it. Hopefully it will be back on NetGalley again because I will definitely be requesting it. 😃

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s all right! 😀 ❤
        It doesn't sound weird at all, and now you've mentioned it it's like something in my mind went 'yes, this exactly' because there's a lot going on this book and being able to write the story and pull all the different events and characters together the way Vic James does is kind of masterful. I'd love to be able to write that well myself.
        There were parts of the world that were familiar, like part of me wondered if it was so far out the way for parts of this to happen in England in the near-ish future, but other parts were completely fantasy and new you know?
        Poor Luke, but oh I can't wait to see what happens to his character in the next book. I think it will be hard don't get me wrong but I also think it will prove to be an amazing story.
        I'll be seeing if I can get my hands on an ARC of this book again as well. I just need to find out what happens in the second book as soon as possible! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Right? If I could write as well as Vic James that would be awesome because her writing is incredible.
        I get exactly what you mean. I had the same thoughts about wondering if it was so far fetched and I love that she combined that with something new fantasy wise. One of my favorite qualities of dystopian novels is that in a way they make you questions the real world possibility.
        Definitely, Luke is the one who is going to go on quite the tough journey. It will probably break my heart but it will most likely make for a great story.
        Same. Cliffhanger endings are torture in the best way lol. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • Definitely. I imagine it just took a lot of practice and a lot of hard work, something I don’t know if I could motivate myself into doing. 🙂
        You do kind of hear about things happening in the world and wonder what it means for the future, kind of one of the reasons I enjoyed this book because it didn’t seem that far out of order that this could happen maybe a couple of hundred years down the line.
        I think Luke’s story is going to get much more harsh and heartbreaking before it gets better, and even then it likely won’t be an easy thing to recover from as well.
        It does make you more excited for the next book though. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • It probably did. I love writing but I find the technical aspects of planning and all of that really daunting.
        You do and it’s one of the reason I enjoyed it as well. It’s a scary thought all things aside though.
        Yeah, I think it will definitely get worse before it even get’s a little better and then even then it probably won’t be. There’s always that one character I wish I could stuff into a protective box and Luke is definitely that character in Gilded Cage.
        It really does. 😁

        Liked by 1 person

      • Same here actually, and I kind of stall before even starting in that although I have a few ideas I never actually write anything down.
        It will certainly be interesting to see how much worse it can get before it does get better.I think it will be heartbreaking but very kind of addictive as well. You’re going to want to know right away what happens next. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I always end up writing down a ton of ideas but never fully following through with them or putting them into a plan. And my current idea requires so much research. I also want to actually visit Ireland before writing about it since I’ve never been there, you know?
        I completely agree. This series is definitely going to be addicting and might just smash my hear to pieces. 🙈

        Liked by 1 person

      • I just keep them in my head, and never seem to even get to the “writing them down” stage. It’s why I’ve said this year I want to start writing again. See if I can motivate myself to actually do something about it.
        Oh Ireland is one of the places I want to visit as well, it always looks so beautiful in pictures.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I so want to do the same. So far I haven’t had the time to but I’m hoping within the next few months that I can motivate myself to begin the research I want to do and even some planning. We’ll see! 😊
        It really does! I see pictures and always get bad wanderlust. It just seems to peaceful.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That sounds great, and I guess it’s something to aim for over the next few months isn’t it. Even if you just set a small goal at first in terms of research you can aim to get more and more done each day/week.
        Any photos of faraway countries inspire wanderlust in me! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This actually wasn’t even on my radar until a couple of days ago, but I’ve seen such incredible reviews for it; I literally can’t wait to read it once it comes out! It sound so interesting! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read this last month too and really enjoyed it. I agree with your thoughts about Luke being the most well-developed and I loved Renie too! Apparently Vic James has stated that there’ll be a lot more about her backstory in book two! And the plot twists at the end had me shocked too – the last 50 pages where just a whirlwind. Great review Melissa!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Really? That’s awesome! Now I’m even more excited for the second book! The last fifty or so pages were definitely a whirlwind. I ended up not getting anything done the day I finished it because I couldn’t stop reading 😂. I’m glad you ended up enjoying it too. Thank you!! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. What a stunning review for this book, Melissa. Thank you so much for writing this! I am glad that despite the dystopian feeling to this book, it still manages to stand out among the masses. I have been a bit wary about reading these kind of books lately, because in the end they all felt the same to me. I’m glad you enjoyed this so much, and I love how the characters already seem so flawed and unique. I will definitely add this to my TBR 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Marie!! 💕
      I’ve been the same way toward dystopian novels lately. Most usually feel so much alike each other now but this one definitely stood out. It took a familiar theme and made it so unique. Plus, I think the characters really helped and the fact that it was more than two character multiple POV. She did fantastic with characters. I hope you end up enjoying it as much as I did when you do read it. 😁♥

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes yes & YES!!! To everything Melissa! 😆😆😆 I also was left blown away when I found out this is Vic James debut novel. The writing is that of a seasoned author & is probably why I really enjoyed it cuz dystopia has long been dead for me lol. I’m very intrigued by Silyan (think I spelled it right lol) & think he’s probably going to become one of my faves in this series. I’m excited for the sequel & the cover reveal left me with arms extended 🤗🤗🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Lilly!! 😁💕
      It’s been the same way for me with dystopia, which was my favorite genre once upon a time. Although, I do still enjoy ones that are mixed with fantasy. Her writing combined with the fantasy elements just made it so good!
      He’s such an interesting characters. I actually wish there would have been another POV chapter for him.
      I am too! I’m going to be keeping my eyes on NetGalley hoping there will be an ARC of the sequel on there in the future. And the cover is definitely gorgeous. 😍😍

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great review! I wasn’t sure this would be my type of book but you’ve convinced me. I’m in love with Silyen already. I’m a sucker for the bad yet maybe? good boy who toes the line. Silyen kind of reminds me of Warner from the Shatter Me series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much!! It really was a great book. And Silyen! He does kind of remind me of Warner. At least pre-Ignite Me Warner. Except slightly darker. While reading he honestly reminded me of a mixture of Kaz from Six of Crows, Rhysand in ACOTAR, and even the Darkling. He just had that air of mystery lol. He’s definitely an interesting character. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did if you do end up reading it. 😁


  8. I’m so glad this was a 5 star review for you because I also have an ARC I was planning to read right after I finish Crooked Kingdom, and I was hoping this book lived up to all the hype. Sounds like it does. 🙂 Awesome review, Melissa!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re back to Crooked Kingdom? Is it going better for you than it did before so far? 😊
      But yes Gilded Cage was so good! It’s been a long time since I’ve read a new book with dystopian elements that completely stood out like this. And the character was great. I hope you end up enjoying it when you do get around to it. I look forward to your thoughts! 😁
      Thanks so much, Jill!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I started reading CK again. It’s much better this time around. I honestly think I was so burned out from all the bad ARCs I had read in a row that I couldn’t enjoy it last time. I’m still reading slow though. Not much time lately. I plan to read Gilded Cage soon. Sounds like a cool book. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m glad you loved it! I’m really looking forward to read this book but all these mixed reviews is making me a bit hesitant to pick this up. Your review has convinced me enough to give this a try. Thanks for the wonderful review! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent review! (I am so behind in my email!) I am so eager to read this but have so many books in front of it and it’s driving me insane! I really hope to get a chance this month. I love a good dystopian book as you know!

    Liked by 1 person

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