Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1) by Vic James (2017)
Fiction | Urban Fantasy | Dystopia
“For readers of Victoria Aveyard and George RR Martin comes a darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule and commoners are doomed to serve.
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?”
Expected Publication Date: February 14, 2017
pooled ink Review:
Thank you to the publisher, Del Rey Books, for sending me a copy to review!
Incredible. Captivating. Immensely dark. Terrifying.
James spins a story of an alternate world to the one we know. While they have cars, similar geography, and even wear jeans, in this world the elite few, called Equals, possess magic or, as it’s called in this book, Skill. Britain is sill run by a parliament however the parliament is comprised only of those born with Skill. Everyone else are commoners and all commoners are required to serve ten years as slaves. While most people serve their years in a slum-like slave town, in Luke’s case Millmoor, Abi manages to secure positions in Kyneston, the private estate to the most powerful Skilled family in Britain. It’s a relief, a dream come true next to the reality of the slave towns. At least it was supposed to be… No one really knows quite what the Skilled can do, but they will be quick to learn, and with front row seats to boot.
The story is told via different POVs, which worked excellently for this book. It kept everything moving, changing, flowing, complex, and incredibly interesting. We watch the year’s events unfold through the eyes of both enemy and ally. Bouncing back and forth between Kyneston and Millmoor the realities and delusions of such places are unveiled before us.
There are so many lies, charades, and ulterior motives that it’s almost dizzying if it were not so addicting to witness. Lord Jardine, Bouda, Jackson, Gavar, …everyone seems to have a private agenda. But the one who interests me the most is the one who seems to have been the most busy and the most quiet: Silyen Jardine. Oh he’s up to some masterminded plot but we’re given very few clues and even less time with him in the story. He simply seems to pop up when it’s advantageous to him and then quickly dissipates into the shadows. I can’t wait for the next book if only to find out more about what it is Silyen has discovered and what it is he really wants.
Two other characters that I loved were Abi and Jenner, of course. Both overlooked, Abi because she’s a slave and Jenner because he is unSkilled, but both have incredible amounts of potential, if they set their minds to it, to change to world. The eldest brother, Gavar Jardine, has only love for his daughter Libby. Silyen Jardine, the youngest brother, has seemingly no heart at all except for when it suits him. But Jenner Jardine, the middle brother, has enough compassion in his heart to make up for his lack of Skill, if only the Equals cared about the heart. Abi and Jenner give this story the only touch of innocence, love, and goodness to be found. The other Equals and the commoners/slaves show only contempt, power, cowardice, cruelty, obedience, or deception. Well, I can’t overlook Meilyr. He showed immense bravery and compassion and I only hope it hasn’t broken him.
With Abi and Jenner as a team, Luke as a changed man, Meilyr as an unexpected ally, Gavar’s devotion to his daughter, and Silyen’s obscure plans, there is enough for me to feel hope but I admit it is not much. This book succeeded in feeding you just enough to keep you going determined to see a revolution but also remained so adamantly defiant to grow that hope into anything more than smoke and fantasies that it was difficult to put the book down. It dangles you at the end of the book on the cusp of so much change, so many possibilities…and yet in some ways the book simply went full circle. It is this frustrating brick wall against victory that makes me hungrier to read more. They’ll win in the end, I know it, I just need to find out how.
Overall I really enjoyed this dark fantasy. It was alluring and quick. I’m incredibly upset, however, that I will have to wait almost two years to find out what happens next as this book won’t even be released until 2017! I’ve no idea how I’ll manage, but manage I suppose I shall.
Gilded Cage is a startlingly harsh but addictive version of this world. A book that is equally enchanting as it is terrifying, the story that unfolds is both quite serious and quite fantastical. Beautiful, dramatic, bleak, and exciting, Gilded Cage is a recommended read for any fantasy reader.
Purchase here: Gilded Cage
Check out the rest of the series: Tarnished City (book 1), Bright Ruin (book 3)
Meet Vic James!
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.