Gilded Cage by Vic James
Series: Dark Gifts #1
Published by Del Rey Books on February 14th 2017
Also by this author: Tarnished City, Bright Ruin (Dark Gifts, #3)
Also in this series: Tarnished City
In modern-day Britain, magic users control everything: wealth, politics, power—and you. If you’re not one of the ultimate one-percenters—the magical elite—you owe them ten years of service. Do those years when you’re old, and you’ll never get through them. Do them young, and you’ll never get over them.
This is the darkly decadent world of Gilded Cage. In its glittering milieu move the all-powerful Jardines and the everyday Hadleys. The families have only one thing in common: Each has three children. But their destinies entwine when one family enters the service of the other. They will all discover whether any magic is more powerful than the human spirit.
Have a quick ten years. . . .
Have you ever had the feeling you lost your freedom? Either as a teenager when your parents didn’t allow you to go to that one party you really needed to be? Or maybe you’ve done something you shouldn’t have and ended up in jail, for the night or longer? Not all jails, or caged, are made of metal and brick though. My personal jail is my body, with the chronic pain restricting what I can do.
Gilded Cage by Vic James is the second book that I bought at Dutch Comic Con earlier this year to have it signed. Just as with The Path Keeper I went it blind, only knowing that many others had loved it before me. The second book in “The Dark Gifts” series, Tarnished City, has been out for over a month and I’ll be buying it for sure.
Gilded Cage has a dystopian British setting where the Equal, humans with Skills, rule the normal humans. The normal humans have to do mandatory slave days, ten years in full service of the Equal, without pay and without rights. Britain is currently the only country who enforces these laws. Luke’s family is about to start their slave years when he’s taken to a work city, Millmoor, while the rest of his family, his parents, and two sisters, are taken to one of the estates of the Equal. His family will service them, while he has to work in a factory.
While Luke is getting used to his rigid work schedule, his older sister Abi is working together with the second son, Jenner, on running the household. Heir Gavar has to attend political meetings with his father. The youngest son, Silyen, is a weird one who keeps to himself. He is also the most Skilled of the three sons. In the House of Light, the ruling parliament, a motion is presented to abolish the slave days. That’s when trouble starts.
It’s been awhile since I read a book with so many complex characters. Each chapter has its own point of view, and while the switching between perspectives gives us more information, it’s hard to get attached to one. James uses this mechanism to show the different sides of each person, the internal struggle versus how they’re seen by their peers. It’s clever. And instead of making you care about one person, she makes you care about the cause, getting rid of the slave days.
Towards the end, I started thinking about the title and who it described, but it could’ve been anyone. Although Luke’s prison isn’t a gilded cage, he does experience loss of freedom, just like Abi, Jenner, and Gavar. The person with the most freedom is Silyen. He doesn’t have the burden of being an heir, his mother or status.
The one downside to this story is that most of it is predictable. You learn everything you need to know recognize where the seeds will lead. This spoils some surprises while I think the seeds have the potential for a great plot twist if we’re given less information up front. I wish there was still a big twist at the end.
With 4,5 stars, I’d definitely recommend it to anyone, but especially those who’re interested in complex, dynamic characters. The world of Gilded Cage wouldn’t have been as interesting if the characters were simpler. The sequel, Tarnished City, has been released last year as well, so pick it up when you buy this one. You won’t regret it. (The review for Tarnished City is coming soon.)