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I Belong

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded CageTitle: Gilded Cage

Author: Vic James

Genre: YA Fantasy

Series: Dark Gifts (Book #1)

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

FormatHardcover, 368 pages

ISBN-10: 0425284158 (Del Rey/Random House)

ISBN-13: 9780425284155 (Del Rey/Random House)

Reviewed by: Tara


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?

Quick & Dirty: A commoner family is caught up in the magical aristocracy’s game of power.

Opening Sentence: “She heard the motorbike first, then the galloping horse—two distant points of noise in the darkness, converging on her as she ran.”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Gilded Cage is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy by Vic James. This was a very quick read. The story felt somewhat familiar but I enjoyed it. Set in a dystopian world, society is divided between the aristocracy (the Skilled) and the commoners (those who lack magic). In England, the commoners live in a modern world until its time for their slavedays, a ten-year period in which they leave their life behind and work for the Skilled. Most are sent to the factories, industrial labor camps that leave you a shadow of your former self. A lucky few are chosen as servants on the estates of the Skilled families. The juxtaposition between the two worlds is stark and helped me understand the society from the beginning.

Gilded Cage begins with the Hadley family preparing to serve their slavedays. Abi, the very intelligent and organized daughter, has gotten them a cushy job as servants at Kyneston Estate, the familial home of one of the ruling Skilled families. However, her brother Luke is deemed surplus and sent to Millmoor, one of the factory towns, instead. I appreciated having both Abi and Luke’s POV in the story, they enhanced the story by exposing the reader to more of the world. There were some additional POVs that were used for parts of the story, like meetings of the Skilled aristocracy, that neither of these characters could be present for due to their status. I appreciated these because they helped me understand the politics of the world but the shifts were sometimes distracting.

I was never quite able to connect with Abi, although I liked most of the scenes at Kyneston. I didn’t get a good idea of her character and the instalove she experienced was a little off-putting. I was never able to quite understand the attraction between the two of them. I did love the relationship that developed between Daisy, Libby, and Gavar though. I can’t wait to see how those three characters develop in the next book, although I do hope to see more of Libby. Luke’s storyline was the one that I connected to the most. I’m very intrigued by some of the characters he worked with and how they’ll play into future installments in the series. Silyen was my favorite character – he was sneaky, conniving, and power hungry. I got some major Moriarty vibes from him. Although he was technically one of the main characters in this book, he flitted around the edges of the plot, emerging only at key points. I’m very intrigued by Silyen and would continue the series solely for him (luckily there are many other reasons to continue as well).

The characters in this book were well developed, I was surprised at how multi-dimensional even the side characters were. Many of the characters are neither good nor evil but exist in the grey area, which is so much more interesting. Politics do play a large role in this novel so I would recommend it if you enjoy schemes and Game of Throne-esque power plays (the young adult version, nothing quite so graphic as the original). The plot had good pacing, I was constantly engaged and curious about what would happen next. The author did an excellent job of maintaining an air of mystery, even with the multitude of POVs. Each chapter served to answer a previous question but also raised another, slowly peeling back the layers of the intricate game Vic James has created.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting book two from the moment I turned the last page. While Gilded Cage could have been stronger in some areas, this was an overall very enjoyable series debut. There were so many pieces in play at the end of book one, I can’t wait to see where the author takes the story next in book two.

Notable Scene:

“Who do you think you are, Mr. Kessler? You can’t just assault people.”

“How right you are, young lady.” Kessler’s lips drew back across a wide, teeth-filled grin. “But I’m afraid that as of 11 A.M.”—he checked his watch ostentatiously, rotating his wrist outward so they could all see the dial, which showed 11:07—“you all began your slavedays and entered a state of legal non-personhood. You are now chattels of the state. To explain for the little one here,” he said, looking at Daisy, “that means that you are no longer ‘people’ and have no rights at all. At. All.”

Dark Gifts Series:

1. Gilded Cage

2. Tarnished City (September 5, 2017)

3. Bright Ruin


FTC Advisory: Del Rey/Penguin Random House provided me with a copy of Gilded Cage. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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