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Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage (2017)

by Vic James

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Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2017/01/30/review-gilded-cage-by-vic-james/

In an atmosphere somewhat reminiscent of Hunger Games and Red Rising (and many other dystopian novels), the world we encounter has a stark division between the classes. There are the elite Skilled, who though fewer in numbers, control Britain. The Skilled, as you may guess, have magical skills that allow them to do extraordinary things, such as heal themselves, repair broken objects and enforce the Silence (which ultimately means, messing with peoples brains to prevent them from speaking about things that the Skilled person does not want to be discussed).

The general masses of normal people usually have little or no contact with Skilled, who are perceived as untouchable, unknowable things. People are not real sure how much of their fabled powers are truth versus exaggeration. I found in this book neither side sees a humanity in the other group. Through one POV we get an inside look at Millmoor, a slavetown. We also get to see that some slaves are able to find ways to rebel, and I found this to be exciting and fun. These sections were hands down my favorite within the book. We also get perspectives from a family living within a Skilled household, serving their slavedays as personal servants. This gives a closer look at the Skilled people, we get to see a more human side to them than just the gossip and legends that float around.

In general, regular people are free to live their lives, blissfully ignorant of what the Skilled do. That is they are all free to live their lives outside of a mandatory 10 year term for what they call “slavedays”. Every citizen must serve 10 years, during which time they are no longer considered to be citizens. They are dehumanized, stripped of any and all civil rights and treated as slaves (as the name implies). It is an interesting premise, it also emphasizes the us versus them mentality.

Unfortunately, I did have a few issues with this book. First, there is the romance. Now, I’m using that word loosely because to me, this was not romance, but rather instant infatuation (or I guess insta-love). It is the type of thing that just strikes me as baffling and irritating rather than romantic. I found it to be completely unnecessary to the plot or my enjoyment and engagement with the books. And because of the mindless aspect it gives the characters involved, it was actually a deterrent, making the characters feel shallow and superficial. Some people like this type of insta-love relationship, but personally I just don’t get it. I need there to be some personalized relationship building in order to really feel the connection and motivation that two characters develop between themselves.

The other issue I had with the book is that it was terribly predictable. There were certain things that felt like they were supposed to be “twists” or “reveals”, but you could see them coming from so far away, it was very anti-climatic. I found this issue to be much more minor than the insta-love because while it may impact the level of suspense and surprise you get from your reading experience, I can’t say it bothered me either. I was still able to enjoy the ride as the story went along the expected path.

Ultimately, I am left feeling like I was probably not the best target audience for this book. I enjoy the concept of slave days, and really enjoyed the sections inside of Millmoor, but over all I didn’t connect quite as well with this as I had hoped to. I think the book is probably quite good for certain audiences, readers who are not as quick to judge a romance as I am. ( )
  tenaciousreader | Aug 8, 2017 |
The Gilded Cage by Vic James is a 2017 Del Ray publication.

Those who follow my reviews will notice there is a conspicuous absence of anything young adult, or dystopian on my reading list.

Like anything else, book lovers go through trends where certain genres get hot for a time, but soon burn out as readers slowly return to their usual reading fare.

If I were a betting person, I would have bet that young adult dystopian novels hot as fire attraction would be a short- lived trend, especially since the market was flooded by YA novels, cashing in on the current momentum. But, I admit, I would be happy when it was over.

However, the ‘trend’ hasn’t lost much steam, and appears to be stubbornly hanging on for the long haul.

Still, neither of these genres appeals to me all that much, so I’ve pretty much avoided anything that reeks of YA or dystopian themes, despite their extreme popularity.

However, this one came highly recommended to me and the premise sounds unique, so I decided to give it a go, with a very cautiously optimistic approach.

The setup is unique, set in Britain, in an alternate dystopian realm. There are ‘equals’, a small group of people who usually have ‘skills’, who are in charge of the ‘counsel’. However, any of the remaining population born without ‘skills’ are forced to spend a decade of their lives serving ‘slave days’. Those who complete the ‘days’ have better opportunities in life once they have served their time.

Adi’s plan was to have her family, as a complete unit, serve their decade together, so that they could look forward to a better future. But, you know what they say about the best made plans.

Adi’s brother, Luke, is separated from them, and set to work hard labor, while the rest of the family got cushy jobs by comparison.

Adi swears she will find a way to free Luke of his circumstances, but the family gets swept away by ‘palace intrigue’ if you will, while Luke becomes a part of a resistance movement, so to speak.

The story switches back and for the between Abi’s and Luke’s perspective situations, building the suspense against an obvious politically charged atmosphere. The author does an excellent job of creating vivid descriptions and scenery, as well as the taut edginess the Hadley family finds themselves in. However, there were many characters, some without much development, but in a way that did mask the true nature of some of them, which kept me from figuring out hidden motives, and from the ability to fully trust any of them.

Yet, the story did get a little messy in spots, but rebounded quite nicely to conclude with a few stunning developments which commanded my rapt attention.

With a sense of duty and fair play, you should be warned, and probably already know, that this is a trilogy, which means a continuing storyline, aka, cliffhanger. In any other genre, that wouldn’t fly with me, but in these situations, it’s pretty much a given, so I wasn’t surprised or angered by it.

This is a debut novel, and as such, the author made a terrific first impression. I fully intend on completing the series and eagerly await the second installment!!

I think this book is a cut above in its genre, and is an unusual and fresh approach to the dystopian novel. Fans of this genre should gobble this one up enthusiastically, but this novel does have the potential for a wider appeal. So, even if this is not your usual cuppa, I think you might find yourself very intrigued by it.

Overall 3.5 stars ( )
  gpangel | May 17, 2017 |
**This book was reviewed for the San Francisco and Seattle Book Reviews & Netgalley**

Vic James has woven a vision of a dystopic alter-earth where certain people, known as Equals or the Skilled, have magical abilities. In some countries, the Equals rule to the exclusion of others. Great Britain is one such country.

Luke Hadley and his family are preparing to enter their Slavedays a ten year period of enforced servitude all commoners must endure. His elder sister, Abi, has worked hard to get all of her family assigned to serve at Kyneston, the home of the Jardines, the Equal Founding Family. Unfortunately, things don't work out as planned, and Luke alone is sent to the slavetown of Millmoor. Shrouded in a miasma of pollution and thunderous with the noises of industry, Millmoor is a harsh place that ages people before their time.

At first desperate to rejoin his family, Luke ends up finding friends and a purpose at Millmoor. Meanwhile, Abi and the rest of the family get settled at Kyneston, and becoming attached to various Jardines. Abi finds herself falling for Jenner, the sole Skilless Jardine. Daisy, her young sister, has been given the task of caring for Gavar Jardine’s illegitimate daughter, Libby. Over time, Daisy becomes fiercely attached to both Gavar and Libby. And brewing under both Millmoor and Kyneston are plots to shatter the nation, and topple regimes. It’s more than just the commoners who are held fast by chains of custom and fate. The bonds may be fancier, but the Equals as a whole are captives just as much.

I devoured this book. James did a marvelous job of making you both despise and love the Jardines, especially Gavar, and many of the other Skilled as well. They really aren't what they seem at first, at least the brothers. It becomes easy to see how they have been shaped by their father, and by their own relative Skill, or lack thereof. It's equally easy to fall in love with Reni, ‘rhymes with genie’, the young girl who befriends Luke and introduces him to the Doc, and the rest of the 'games’ group. I can't wait til the next in the series comes out!

🎻🎻🎻🎻🎻 Highly recommended, especially if you enjoy dystopic fantasy. ( )
  PardaMustang | Apr 14, 2017 |
This was an excellent alternative history story where royalty was more than a simple matter of birth, but the nobility were also endowed with some superpowers that made them able to keep their privileged existence. Talk about income inequality! In this society each plebian member of society has to serve 10 years of his life as a slave and they can choose which 10 years they serve. Fascinating world and the plot goes beyond the obvious revolution with lots of subplots and intrigue. This is the first of a trilogy and you can definitely sign me up for book 2! ( )
  jmoncton | Mar 17, 2017 |
I had a few doubts starting this book, being that it was a new author and yet another dystopia YA novel. However, by the first chapter the alternative history aspects of this book had intrigued me and I was impressed by the author's world-building. Set in a world separated by Skill - basically those who can wield magic and who live an aristocratic lifestyle - and those who lack Skill - basically everyone else. The unskilled are expected by law to spend 10 years of their life as slaves - a system which supports the relative wealth and power of the skilled aristocracy. This book is told from a variety of perspectives, so the reader receives a picture of society at all its various levels. A good read and definitely something to recommend to fans of YA dystopian novels. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Mar 9, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0425284158, Hardcover)

For readers of Victoria Aveyard and Kiera Cass comes a darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule—and commoners are doomed to serve.
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 their 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?

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 08 Jun 2016 18:54:19 -0400)

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