Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)
By: Vic James
Publisher: Del Rey Books
Publication Date: February 14th, 2017
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 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?
The holy hell did I just read.
In the best way.
Upon starting Gilded Cage, I, for some reason, was convinced that this was historical fiction. Don’t ask why, because I can’t even figure that one after going back and reading the synopsis. And the book isn’t ambiguous about it either. Gilded Cage is obviously set in a time similar to ours, but with a drastically different turn of events when Charles the First became Charles the Last and the dividing line between the Skilled and the Skilless was set in stone. Or, rather, glass walls.
Gilded Cage is an amazing and beautifully done book of brilliant political maneuverings, magic, and morality. The most obvious overarching plot is Luke’s involvement with a resistance movement whose goal is to abolish the slave days, a period of ten years of required government slavery by Skilless under harsh conditions in one of the established slave towns, but we also see the life of his sister, Adi, and her interactions as a slave with the members of the most powerful Skilled, or Equal, family, and interspersed are perspectives from Equals as well. Vic manages to juggle a handful of distinctive points of view, but still gives Luke and Adi enough page time each for the reader to connect with them. You connect with Luke and his horror at the conditions of Millmoor and his growing sense of belonging with Renie, Doc, and the rest of the Millmoor Games and Social Club. Adi has her own issues, from her growing feelings for one Skilless Parva-Jardine son, the increasing unease she feels around the insanely powerful younger one, and her worries over her sister’s growing devotion to the heir. The Parva-Jardine brothers: the human, the bully, and the unnerving one, are some of the best drawn characters, beyond Adi and Luke. Silyen’s motives, and how much he knows and controls, is unclear, Gavar is at once despicable and abusive but made human through his love for his child, and Jenner is a sweetheart who I just wanted to hug.
The world of Gilded Cage is as stunning as its characters. The politics and revolutionary moves are woven together, each influencing the other, rendering no subplot irrelevant. Everyone is playing a game, and every move counts. The intricacies of the plot are promising, and if Vic keeps up the talent she showed off in this novel, the subsequent additions to the series will be just as wonderful and captivating. The world building is divine, the history and wider world well established and detailed, and the magic is at once boundless and horrible. Its uses healing and horrifyingly destructive. I can’t wait to understand this world on a wider scale and see more of it, and I want to learn more about Skill, how it works, and how it itself can be manipulated.
Gilded Cage comes to an explosive ending with no rest as one impressive twist is layered over another. The ending is dramatic, our hero and heroine’s fates both devastating and hopeful and balanced on a knife’s edge. The reader is left holding their breath, waiting for answers and a hint that everything will turn out alright. The only certainty is that the worm has turned and there is no going back.
Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. An advanced copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.