Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)
By Vic James
Expected to arrive 2/14/17
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Genre: YA 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?
I attempted to hold off on this one. I wanted to review it closer to the release date, but the dystopian fan dwelling inside of my bookish heart refused to wait any longer. I approached with excitement and caution. Being “let down” by two of my favorite genres would be a hard pill to swallow. There is a lot of hype starting to circulate, so as much as my anticipation was present, it was being countered with the fear of disappointment. Did I set the bar too high? Was I dooming Gilded Cage to an ill fate from the very beginning by expecting so much?
Gilded Cage was making large promises with a stunning cover and enticing blurb of magic and a dystopian society. If you are going to come at me with two of my very favorite elements, you better be prepared to delivered. So did it deliver? In one simple word, yes.
So I am going to dissect this one today. I want to look at the plot, characters, world building, and writing on a more individual level without revealing too much behind what I feel will be a very successful book for 2017. So this is a bit winded, but here we go!
As is the case with most dystopian reads, the plot is one that may feel almost too familiar in the beginning. After all, these stories are all centered around a similar formula of totalitarian and unpleasant environments. The concept of a world divided by those gifted with magic and those without is not completely foreign. So any preliminary hesitation is completely understandable, unless you are a fan of the subgenre, then you eagerly just jump in!
But Vic James has taken the idea and risen it to new heights. She has taken the familiar and comfortable and made it work for her in her own specific way, creating an experience that is as rewarding as it is distinct.
We have a have our separated races, the Equals and the commoners. The Equals have magical abilities “Skills”, and are the elitist of society. They govern and oversee the commoners. Commoners as you have already derived, are without any magical inheritance. Each commoner is forced to put in 10 years of “slavedays” during their lifetime, where they are shipped off to harsh work camps under the scrutinizing eye and thumb of the Equals. This is not optional. Tensions are high, and thoughts of revolution are rising.
So we immediately have several favorable and necessary components for a great dystopian novel:
- Aristocracy Control
- Potential for Rebellion
The story is solid and easily delivers all that one can expect from a good dystopian story.
We are introduced to several major and minor characters, all of which play equally important roles within the story. As the events unfold we learn that some characters are more important than we originally believed and vice versa. This is where it becomes a little harder to prevent spoilers. So I am going to keep this brief.
While part of me longed for more depth and background with particular individuals within the story, it quickly became apparent that the author was maintaining a certain amount of “mystery” that would be revealed later on, for reasons I was able to appreciate. The characters were skillfully developed over time.
Luke, who I am choosing to focus on as the main for this first book, almost annoyed me in the beginning. However, he quickly redeemed my faith and was convincing and engaging. I found empathy for him with little to no difficulty. His actions and train of thought made sense, creating a viable and strong character.
I found the level of emotions each character solicited to be fitting. My only true complaint would be that there was a particular character I was disappointed to learn so little of. I craved more back story and it just didn’t happen. I am hopeful this will occur in future books though.
Gilded Cage occurs in what can best be described as an alternate version of present day England. The majority of this story unfolds within the confines of two specific locations, Millmoor (a very harsh work camp) and Kyneston Estates (one of England’s largest). We are presented with a substantial image of this depressing and twisted environment through effective, alternating point of views and narration that quickly provide a firm understanding of the varying lifestyles. The harsh reality of camps are effortlessly compared and contrasted to life of Equals on the estates. The author creates the perfect background and conditions for the story, while leaving plenty of opportunity to expand in the future.
Looking back at Gilded Cage, I now realize that it was the author’s ability to tell a very complex story in an elegant and effortless manner that made me appreciate this book in such a great way. She beautifully merged a cast of intricate characters and events without falling into the tedious and unnecessary details that can often occur and destroy a story. The alternating point of views were timed perfectly, creating a seamless narration that was fluid and delivered a fulfilling and well paced read, with an intriguing conclusion that has left me wanting more.
While reviewing Gilded Cage was not easy for me, recommending it is. If you are a fan of YA Fantasy or Dystopian reads, this should be on your TBR. Although I want to be fair and mention that I found this to have more of a dystopian vibe than fantasy. The magic is present, but perhaps not a heavily as some might expect. The end result is still a fantastic read that I am certain many will find great value in!
*I received a copy of Gilded Cage courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher. My review is unbiased and of my own opinion.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐