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Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage (2017)

by Vic James

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GILDED CAGE took me a little bit to get into, but once I did, it was easy to keep reading.

There really is a lot going on in GILDED CAGE. Not only with the characters, but the world and events that take place too. The world itself is run by the equals—they have magical gifts. The commoners—no magical gifts—are forced to serve the equals for 10 years of their life. They are slaves for that entire time with no rights and are not treated very well. As with any situation like this, there are those that don't agree with the system and throughout GILDED CAGE a revolution erupts and lines are blurred.

I think my biggest issue with GILDED CAGE was that there were a lot of different POV's. I'm not a big fan of jumping around in different brains and it was a little hard for me to have so many to jump around in. Having said that, I did enjoy the characters of GILDED CAGE. They were all well developed and brought different things to the story. I was really surprised by most of them at one point or another while reading.

I was less than thrilled with the ending of GILDED CAGE, but can't really explain why due to spoilers. I was left with a lot of questions and very little answers, but I am interested in seeing what will happen next and what will become of a certain character that pretty much lost what they were at the end.

I gave it 3/5 stars

* This book was provided free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  STACYatUFI | Feb 23, 2017 |
A good series opener introduces a strange, new world with fascinating characters and an exciting plot. It answers just enough questions to assuage readers while leaving the rest for future novels. It makes you care about the characters and the world so that you want to come back to them and it again and again. Thankfully, Vic James‘ debut novel does just that.

Gilded Cage pretty much has it all. There is magic and a gross difference between the haves and the have-nots. There is a growing awareness of the unfairness of it all and a burgeoning movement to do something about it. There are secrets and power struggles. There is love, although not in the form one expects. There are random acts of kindness, acts of rebellion, acts of stupidity, and acts of heroism. There is a unique backstory that is easy to understand and a current society that is all too familiar. There are plenty of questions and few answers. There is an ending that leaves you wanting more of everything.

One of the unique aspects of the story is that it is set in present-day England. With a few tweaks to history and current geopolitical borders, the England of the Hadleys is essentially the same as anything you will find today. Establishing the story in such a familiar environment eases some of the natural tension that arises when readers do not understand the setting. Yet, like any good fantasy story, not everything is the same. Ms. James does an excellent job explaining the origins of the differences, thereby removing the setting as an obstacle to understanding the story.

That being said, there are enough differences to let you know that the world of the Hadleys is not today’s England. One of the most shocking examples, outside of the Equals’ Skill (a.k.a. magical powers), is the fact that every non-Equal must serve ten years as a slave. When you serve these years is at an individual’s discretion but there are age caps at both ends of the spectrum to force the issue. There have been plenty of stories in which the have-nots have little to no rights and are little more than slaves. Where Gilded Cage differs is the fact that the non-Equals know the difference between the life they have and the life they will as a slave and knowingly have to give up all of the creature comforts as well as their rights upon starting their years. The long-ago law creating the slave years is a subtle form of sadism that makes those Equals who continue to support it that much more despicable.

Gilded Cage has a decent number of answers for an opening novel, but there are plenty of questions that remain. Many of these questions revolve around the Skill the Equals yield. They also swirl around the political backstabbing and power grabbing. The characters’ motivations remain infuriatingly nebulous, so much so that readers finish the story feeling just as used as Luke and Abi Hadley and just as clueless. Moreover, one gets the impression that the growing support for the abolition of Slave Days is not the end goal of the series. It is all too blurry and too unformed a hypothesis to concretely establish, and it may all be a red herring, but there are just one too many unknowns regarding the actions of certain Equals. One thing is for certain though; it promises to be a stellar sequel.
  jmchshannon | Feb 22, 2017 |
"Gilded Cage" is a fascinating and haunting young adult fantasy. Imagine if in the 1600s, individuals were born with Skills (think somewhat along XMen lines). This book answers the question of what the modern world would look like, focusing on England, but with hints of other countries (E.g. US is divided into north and Confederacy, where north is ruined by common people, not those with Skills). In England, the Equals (people with Skills) defeated the monarchy and rule in the House of Light. Common folk must complete 10 years as a slave, no pay, harsh conditions, little food, and long working hours.

Abi and Luke's family decide to start their slave years for everyone once their younger sister, Daisy, turns 10, the official youngest age one can begin their slave years. They think they've found a cushy position with an Equal family, the Jardines, the family descended from the Equal who overthrew the monarchy. However, Luke is separated from the family and sent to a labor camp, Millmore. The book alternates through perspectives to show how all these situations appear.

It's a really intense and dark book. The Equals role with unfettered power and have no qualms about exerting it. The Jardines are mysterious, the three sons are very different- the oldest Gavar, the heir, is prone to violence and killed a slave whom he impregnated and kept her baby. The middle son is without Skills, which is unheard of. The youngest son, Silyen, if the most mysterious and powerful, but his motives are very unclear.

The family finds themselves in danger, as many other slaves do. Luke finds a purpose bigger than himself- as Luke learns, Millmore changes everyone but how is up to the individual. The book ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, making me very sad I'll have to wait for the next.

It reminds me of some other dark dystopian fantasies in terms of style, such as Chemical Garden and Lone City. This one is certainly different but has the same feel, if that makes sense. The alternating viewpoints were easy to follow and added a lot to the book, as you can see the situations from many eyes rather than just one. I had a lot of difficulty putting it down and will be anxious for the next installment!

Please note that I received this book from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for my honest review. ( )
  onemused | Feb 16, 2017 |
Gilded Cage is a compulsively readable YA fantasy dystopia. I’ll admit, I was wary of picking it up. I haven’t had the best experiences with the YA dystopian genre, and at this point it feels like there’s a certain sameness to most of the books. But when Imyril over at x + 1 gave it a positive review, I reconsidered. As it turns out, I am glad I did.

Gilded Cage takes place in an alternate version of England where the ruling segment of the population, the Equals, posses immense magical skill. The vast majority of the population are commoners, who are utterly without magic or power. They have to give up ten years of their lives to serve as slaves for the Equals, a modern update on medieval fiefdom. Abi and Luke Hadley are commoners, and they’re about to begin their slave years. But due to Abi’s genius and hard work, she’s gotten their family a place at the Jardine estate instead of the sweatshops of the slave town. But as the day arrives, something goes wrong and Luke instead finds himself being sent to Millmoor, the aforementioned slave town. There he finds something entirely unexpected: revolution. Meanwhile, his sister Abi begins to wonder if she’s made the wrong choice by having the family serve the Jardines, for she soon finds that they can be heinously cruel in their power.

My enjoyment of Gilded Cage comes down to one reason above all else: the pacing. This book practically flew by. I read it in less than twenty four hours on a class day! Seriously, Gilded Cage was amazingly addictive. I did see a plot twist coming from a mile away, but that never impacted my enjoyment. A fast pace has always been the key asset of the YA dystopian genre, and Gilded Cage had it in spades.

Luckily for me, Gilded Cage lacked another staple of the genre: a heavy focus on romance. There was very little romance in the book, with most of the focus being on the Equals and plot shenanigans. Unfortunately, what little romance it contained was pretty icky. When Abi arrives on the Jardine estate, she almost instantly gets a crush on the Jardine middle son. While he’s not as bad as either of his brothers, the whole idea of a slave/master romance is so incredibly gross. Just urgh. How can people like this? It makes me want to take a shower.

Aside from her cringe-worthy romantic plot line, Abi did feel smart and competent. Luke was also a likable protagonist, if a bit bland. However, they weren’t the only POV characters in Gilded Cage. The perspectives of several Equal characters are given, all of whom are varying levels of despicable. The worst of the lot is Gavar, who makes off hand references to raping lower class women. His fiancee Bouda and her willingness to destroy others in her pursuit of power was also up there. The youngest brother, Silyen, came off as sociopathic, not seeming to feel any sort of empathy at all.

Gilded Cage obviously works with the British class system. The Equals are the aristocracy, although there’s not actually a monarch. In a way, the power dynamics actually remind me of Stroud’s Bartimeaus trilogy, although that book series was much better executed. However, it was interesting reading this as an American and bringing my own cultural baggage in with me. While Gilded Cage may have been focused on the British class system, the cultural comparison for me was American slavery and everything that goes along with that. With that in mind, it was especially striking how homologous the cast was. Everyone is straight (or as not been confirmed one way or the other) and everyone except for two characters were white. Both of those two characters were black, and I don’t think either was treated very well by the narrative. Overall, I think the lack of intersectionality really harmed the relevancy of Gilded Cage‘s themes of oppression. I do think the racial dynamics of the book could be unpacked more, but I don’t feel equipped to do so.

On another note, the world building of Gilded Cage felt shaky. The focus is very narrow, and we get little glimpse of the world outside England’s borders. Some of the larger implications of the slave days appear not to have been considered. For instance, why doesn’t everyone put the days off until the very end of their life? Why do people just seem so accepting of the slave days? Why did Abi’s and Luke’s life pre slave days seem hardly materially different from a middle class English family in our world, even with a enormously different social and political system? What effect does the slave days have on the economy? The world building seemed more loosely sketched out than fully filled in.

Essentially, Gilded Cage is a potato chip book. Very little substance, but easy to read. I wouldn’t say it’s light exactly, but it easily qualifies as trashy fun. I don’t regret reading it, although I don’t know if I will ultimately pick up the sequel.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.

I received an ARC of Gilded Cage from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a free and honest review. ( )
  pwaites | Feb 14, 2017 |
My full review, which contains some spoilers, can be found on my blog.

I received an ARC of this through my workplace.

In modern day Britain there are two classes of people: the Equals, and everyone else. The Equals are, much like their predecessors the “Peers” of the realm, the wealthy ruling aristocracy, who used their magical Skill to end the monarchy and establish a new world. Everyone else- the commoners lacking magical ability- lead largely normal lives: they go to school, get jobs, get married, have kids. Mostly. Before a person can be considered a true citizen, with the right to travel and own property, they must first complete their slave days, a ten year stint of labor without pay or rights.

Overall, both the world and the plot are interesting but feel unfinished, and I feel like I read a submission manuscript instead of a polished final piece. It is the first book of a series but unfortunately cannot stand on its own, which is frustrating for me as a reader who may or may not want to bother finishing the story in the next installment(s). ( )
  stormyhearted | Feb 12, 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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