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 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?
I was given an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
My Rating: 4.75 Stars
As those of you who follow my blog know, I generally start my reviews with some sort of anecdote or comparison that explains how the book made me feel. I’ll be honest, this book has stunned me speechless. I have no anecdote to share because only one word is racing through my mind. Wow. Just wow. Eloquent, I know.
I will start by saying this, the blurb for The Gilded Cage does not do it justice. James did a phenomenal job creating a world much like our own, with only one major difference. Imagine how different our world would be if a select few were gifted with what James calls Skill. While it can be easily described as magic, Skill is so much more – the Skilled have the ability to manipulate matter, minds, and control life and death. Now imagine that the Skilled chose to take over, enslaving the unfortunately unskilled populace for a minimum of ten years of their life. For ten years, those who were not fortunate enough to be born with Skill must serve as slaves, suffering through harsh, often deadly, conditions, while receiving no pay. This is the world that James has created. However, she did so much more than come up with a unique premise -she introduced intrigue, deception, rebellion, and romance into a book already brimming with potential.
Although I can’t decide if it is something I’m proud or ashamed of, my favorite character in The Gilded Cage was Silyen, the aristocrat mentioned in the blurb. He had his hands in literally everything – there seemed to be nothing going on that he was unaware of. In fact, he masterminded almost every major event in the book. While he was pegged as a bad guy from the get go, he performed good deeds on multiple occasions (although not without seeking payment). I have yet to figure out what ultimate role he is set to play in the series as a whole, but thus far, I am certainly impressed by him. I hope to see more of this mysterious anti-hero in the books to come.
Luke, the true male lead of The Gilded Cage was a fairly typical hero. Not to say I didn’t like him as a character – I did – he was simply less developed than some of the others in my opinion. That being said, Luke did have the most action packed chapters in the book. While taking part in the rebellion in a factory town, he proves himself to be an admirable and altruistic character. His ending in The Gilded Cage absolutely floored me, I have no idea what to expect for him.
Abi, the female lead, didn’t play an overly large role in the plot of the novel. She was actually my least favorite character (which is like saying that milk chocolate is my least favorite type of chocolate – its all delicious, really). The chapters from her perspective were more informative than anything else. Through her narration, the reader is able to get glimpses of the Jardine’s (Silyen’s family, the most powerful Skilled family in England) lives. Her ending, however, gave me hope for her in the sequel.
For my romance lovers, the small amount of romance in The Gilded Cage is played out through Abi and one of the Jardine brothers, Jenner. Because there was so much going on with the other characters, the reader didn’t get to see much of their courtship, however, I expect for that to change in upcoming books.
If I had to choose one thing about the book that I didn’t absolutely love, it would be the sheer number of perspectives from which the story is told. I understand why the author wrote it the way she did, and I believe that the novel is better for having been written the way it was; however, it can be a bit difficult to keep up with if you aren’t paying attention. There isn’t a single chapter during which the reader can lose focus without losing the plot.
My Takeaway: While I could honestly go on and on, I’ll try to cut to the chase. In her debut novel, Vic James took my breath away. The Gilded Cage is not only well written, it is full of the unexpected. Although not action packed, it is a quick read, one that I look forward to reading again in anticipation of its sequel. James has absolutely become an author to watch in my eyes.