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.
Author: Vic James
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
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?