I downloaded Gilded Cage by Vic James on the recommendation of Chelley Toy from Tales of Yesterday Book Blog, it is one of the Debut of the Month books for January for the British Book Challenge 2017. And I am so glad that I did! From start to finish I didn’t put the book down once, even for my scrumptious tea cooked by my long-suffering husband.
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? (Goodreads)
When I read the Goodreads summary for Gilded Cage I wasn’t particularly excited, but within 5 minutes of reading this book I knew that I was hooked and would greedily devour the trilogy without a second thought. The story is based in a sort of alternative reality for the world today, same countries, regions, traditions but with one big difference – the presence and influence of Skill in the world. Skill is magic for want of a better word and the aristocrats of England have it they are the Equals, the commoners are those without skill and those who must give up a decade of their lives in slave labour (think national service). This difference has led to a gaping difference in how society has grown and developed.
It is in this new society that we meet our main characters, you are first introduced to this world through Luke, a commoner, who is about to be dragged from his comfy family life and into the slavetown of Millmoor. His family has made the decision to complete their slavedays now, all together, but of course something goes wrong. So whilst Luke’s parents, sisters Abi and Daisy head off to the grand estate of the Parva-Jardines Luke heads to what is essentially a work camp. There he meets a ragtag group of revolutionaries and his story unfolds. I liked Luke, he is a believable character and you do warm to him easily. You feel his pain as he takes the beatings from the guards, his worry and concern for his family, his determination to make a difference no matter how small.
As for the rest of the family, their plan for all of them to serve their slavedays at Kyneston estate didn’t quite turn out. Instead Abi, Daisy and their parents are delivered to this grand family as a broken unit, Abi feels she is to blame as she sought out this assignment for the whole family in the first place and now they are split and Luke is alone. Curious about the world of those with Skill, Abi, a clever but naive girl has spent too long reading romance novels which seems to steer her in the wrong direction. Despite being accepted to medical school and having more than enough brains, it is this schoolgirl fantasy of forbidden love which gets her into trouble. I found Abi harder to warm to than other characters, flitting from determined and level-headed to girlish and just downright silly.
However, the characters that most fascinated me were those with Skill; the Equals. You are supposed to be fascinated by them, they are different, secret, holed away in their estates with the power to delete the memories and knowledge of any commoner who finds out something they shouldn’t. The development of these characters was what I found the most addictive part of the book, you start with impressions and ideas and some of them are wholly flipped on their head and some characters you just keep learning more and more about them.
The book is told from multiple first person narratives, switching between protagonists at a brisk pace keeping you interested and eager to find out what happens next. There are plenty of twists and turns, some of which you see coming and some that you don’t and leave you sat with your gob open like a right sexy minx. Overall, there is a dark and gritty feeling that you aren’t quite expecting from the opening few pages and it draws you into their world in such a way that its impossible to escape, it becomes your reality whilst you read. This is undoubtedly why I picked up and finished this book in under 6 hours, I cant honestly say another book has gripped me like this for quite a while.
Whilst I’m not a hardcore fantasy reader, I do like to get stuck into the big stories and as a fan of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner and more this is a trilogy I am really looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into!