Book Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Book 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?

3.5 Stars!

I received an Advance Reader’s Edition of Gilded Cage in a Goodreads Giveaway. This is an honest review of my thoughts.

Gilded Cage (US Release 2.14.2017) is the first book in the Dark Gifts trilogy by author Vic James. It was a unique and fresh take on magic (Skill), British aristocracy (Equals), and inequality in the masses (Unskilled). This was a story with so much potential. It takes place in an alternate version of the modern world – a world where the aristocracy are born with Skill and the commoners are not. Each country handles their Unskilled populations differently: in England, where our story is set, the Unskilled must give up 10 years of their lives to be slaves for the Skilled. If you’re lucky, you might get to serve your slave days on the Estate of a Skilled family. If not, to the industrial labor camps you go.

Gilded Cage features a wide cast of characters; from rash Luke, to structured Abi, to volatile Gavar, and more, each character is unique and complex. They all have flaws and there are many situations throughout the story where it is unclear who is “good” and who is “evil”. Of all the characters, Luke grows and changes the most as a character. In a short time of only a few months, he transforms from a fairly clueless pre-teen boy to something much more. Yet even with Luke, the question of his motivations is raised and left open. Who is he really and is he hero or villain?

In my discussion with the author, Vic mentioned that the three main characters of the series are Luke, Abi, and Silyen. This is something that I feel could have been better clarified and/or expounded on. Silyen really did not have much time in the forefront of the novel – even his big scenes were not always from his perspective, but were instead from people watching him – and we had many chapters from other side characters’ perspectives, so much so that at the end of the book I wasn’t sure who our main character was. This may be setup for the rest of the series, but in this first book I didn’t really connect with any one specific character.

The plot is wonderfully full of twists and turns and tensions and civil unrest. Though I do wish that it had been more expanded and better delved into without skipping large chunks of time. It felt strange that suddenly Luke has been at Millmoor for several months when only a few pages ago he had just arrived. For me, the time skips combined with my lesser connection to the characters, dulled the impact of  a fantastic, mind blowing plot twist. Lastly, with Silyen listed as one of the main characters, it seemed that the finale really should have been from Silyen’s perspective. It was his moment to shine, but that didn’t come through as strongly when viewed by an outside observer as it could have.

Overall, I enjoyed Gilded Cage and think it will appeal to a wide variety of readers. Yet, I do feel that there was a lot of potential with this story and world that could have been more fully explored. I will likely continue with this series. I’m excited to read Tarnished City and see where the story is going!

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