I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Gilded Cage by Vic James
Release date: February 14th, 2017
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, dystopian
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?
From the first page this book hit the ground running! It was addictive and the pacing was relentless, which I loved! The non-stop action meant that there was never a dull moment and it was most certainly one of the most interesting and unique books that I’ve read in quite some time.
What initially attracted me to this book was its story which takes place in an alternate modern Britain that features hints of the Victorian period and magic. This world is dominated by magic wielding aristocrats who require all commoners (who are sometimes children) to serve ten years as a slave to obtain certain rights within society. The book alternates between the different points of view of a family that have decided to enter their “slavedays”. The family had found some rather comfortable positions at a large aristocratic manor house, but things don’t work out as planned.
While Gilded Cage featured the typical elements of a YA dystopian novel, it’s the way that it was written that made it standout for me. Vic does not shy away from the horrors of slavery. The book can be quite dark – there are scenes of moderate violence and mentions of rape – but it was never too much that I couldn’t continue on. The book isn’t all doom and gloom. A large part of it is about loyalty, friendship, family and above all, hope. Hope that things could change for the better. This helped balance the overall dark theme of the novel. What I took a way from the plot though was that it forces the reader to reflect on our own society with its privilege, abuse of power and corruption. It’s meant to leave a bad taste in your mouth and utterly break your heart.
The author did an amazing job at creating complex characters that had my emotions going up and down like a yo-yo. None of the characters were good or evil, they were more of a murky in-between. Everyone had ulterior motives and due to the changing POV the reader never really knew where the character stood. I loved this! In one chapter the character could be portrayed as downright horrible and in the next their motives are revealed which redeem them a little. This led to constant surprises. I was never sure what would happen next.
My one quip was with the romance. Nope. The whole thing, while not the focus of the novel, really bothered me. How could one of the lead characters, a young woman in her slavedays, fall madly in love with one of the men who basically own her? This man has no redeeming qualities….he’s completely evil. For being an intelligent, strong, independent female character I can’t get the whole he’s handsome so I’ll just ignore his horribleness plot line. Ewww!
Overall, Gilded Cage was a fantastic and exhilarating read. The cliffhanger ending (yes it killed me because ahhhhh I NEED to know what happens next) has made me beyond excited for the sequel. I know I’ll be thinking about this book for quite sometime!
Vic lives in London’s Notting Hill, but her life is more action-adventure than rom-com.
She studied History and English at Merton College, Oxford where Tolkien was once professor. Relocating to Rome, she completed her doctorate in the Vatican Secret Archives (they’re nothing like The Da Vinci Code), then spent five years living in Tokyo where she learned Japanese and worked as a journalist. She now writes full time.
Vic has scuba-dived on Easter Island, camped at Everest Base Camp, voyaged on one of the last mailboats to St Helena, hang-glided across Rio de Janeiro, and swum the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. But there’s little she loves more than lying in bed till midday with a good book and a supply of her favourite biscuits.