Synopsis (From GoodReads):
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?
What if slavery in America had never been defeated and it now extended into England? What if the reason for this was that the ruling class had been able to do terrible magic which kept them in power? This is the premise for Gilded Cage by Vic James. I loved the imaginative premise and the characters. Although clearly meant to be a book series, this first installment was very entertaining and had an action-packed story.
What I Liked:Setting and Premise:
Lately, I have read many books about an alternate universe set in England (hmm, I wonder if there is a sociological explanation for this?). These books include V.E. Schwab's A Darker Shade Of Magic, and Timekeeper, by Tara Sim. Gilded Cage combines elements of fantasy with a dystopian society. This really worked.
I loved the premise that non-magical people had to commit ten years of their life to serve the "Equals". They could do their service at any point in their lives, with pros and cons to each choice. Get your service over with quickly, and you got a better shot at a comfortable middle class life. Wait until you were older, and risk being worked to death as a slave.
The labor camps were realistic and reminded me of places during WWII. The people's lives there were filled with back-breaking work, unsafe conditions and inadequate nutrition. Most people outside of these camps wouldn't realize just how bad the conditions were.
Contrast that with the slaves who worked at the homes of the Equals. At first glance, it would seem as though they lucked out. No dirty manual labor. But then the reality of not having any rights, and being someone else's property sets in and we can see (for women in particular) the kinds of problems that will arise.
Each of the Equals has their own type of magic that they can perform. Most have the ability to heal, but some can also do things such as create buildings, blow things up, alter minds, and force people do anything. This gives the Equals the notion that they, alone, are better than others. They don't see non-magical people as even human. But not all Equals feel this way.
I also loved the brewing revolt that many of the characters were engaged in. From the people in the labor camp causing trouble, to the servants trying to glean information, and the idealistic rich kids thinking they can help, everyone is trying to change the system. But without a leader, this seems impossible.
I enjoyed all the political maneuvering in the government in this book. There are people with different motivations (personal power, love, revenge) who each can effect the other politicians in this "game". This is in stark contrast to the common people just trying to live out their lives without dying as slaves, and you see the vast divide between the two groups of people.
What I Didn't Like:Ending:
While I know this is going to be a series, I think there should be at least some resolution to what is happening in the story. At the end of this book, nothing is resolved, and a few teaser mysteries are thrown in to boot! Perhaps I am took used to the instant gratification of the internet, but I am a little miffed that now we will probably wait a year or more to see what happens! This was sufficiently annoying to me as to bring my rating down from five stars to four stars.
Release Date: February 14th, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Format: ARC E-Book
Recommendation: This was an imaginative, entertaining book with plenty of action but not much resolution.