By Vic James
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 their 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 received this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
In Gilded Cage, Vic James gives us an intriguing alternate world from our own. In this world, there is more than just class division: the aristocrats, called Equals, have magical powers thatthe common born don’t have. The commoners must serve, as slaves, for ten years in some form to better the lives of the Equals. Gilded Cage begins when Luke’s family receives their assignment to begin their slave years. The good news? They will be serving one of the oldest and most powerful families of Equals in the country. The bad news? They will be serving one of the oldest and most powerful families of Equals in the country. Oh, and there isn’t enough room for Luke, so he is packed off to one of the most violent and merciless factory towns possible, to be separated from his family for ten years…if he’s lucky.
James’s book is divided into multiple points-of-view, from Luke and his older sister Abi, to Gavar and Silyen, two of the three sons of the family Luke’s family serves. I have a hard time deciding who I liked the best; they all have their own merits and are all intriguing in their own way. It really comes down to the fact that the book ends with everything in the air and I am dying to see what becomes of everyone.
Gavar, the son who will inherit the fortune and office of his father, is an extremely complex character. Callous, serious, and powerful, his only weakness is his daughter, the result of a dalliance with a former slave. I’m not sure what his intentions are at this point and I’m interested to see whether he becomes a villain or anti-hero.
Silyen, the youngest and most powerful brother, is perplexing and mysterious. He has powers that haven’t been seen in years, if at all, and he extremely unsettling in his interactions with other characters. In fact he borders on creepy, but in a good way. I can’t wait to see the extent of his power and how he plays into the series.
Luke, who gets the short end of the stick from the beginning, tries to make the best of his situation by working with a group of rebels looking to overturn the status quo. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him!
Abi is a tad plain in her characterization, but that is to be expected: she is a lawful-good character. She plays by the rules and by the book. That makes her actions at the end of the book all the more interesting and exciting. Definitely not what I expected.
The narrative of the book was different; in some places it was descriptive and in other it was objective and expository. This is not necessarily a bad thing at all – just different. It pulls well together and kept me reading page after page. I would say the only negative drawback is the somewhat “insta-love” nature of the relationship between two of the characters. I’m not a fan of insta-love, and perhaps many wouldn’t see the relationship as such, but it felt a little unnatural and too easy, though not necessarily contrived. I can see them together, however, just not as rapidly as it happened. I am seriously pulling for them though, so it obviously isn’t a deterrent for me.
I really enjoyed this world that James created. It is an interesting world with an intriguing storyline and when it ends it leaves you craving more. And while I normally can see how the endings will come about, Gilded Cage was constructed in such a way that I didn’t see most of the twists and reveals coming until they were already there (though I should have as the signs were there all along). And the climax scene was such that I had to read it twice just to make sure it actually happened!
I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy or dystopian books. It really melds those two genres together in a tantalizing but not over-done way. Gilded Cage is one of those books that has a great balance of background- and world-building with action and wonderful story-telling. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out next year!