Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Dark Gifts #1

Gilded Cage

Rate this book
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. . . .

368 pages, Hardcover

First published December 1, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Vic James

6 books707 followers
Vic lives in London’s Notting Hill, but her life is more action-adventure than rom-com.

She studied History and English at Merton College, Oxford where Tolkien was once professor. Relocating to Rome, she completed her doctorate in the Vatican Secret Archives (they’re nothing like The Da Vinci Code), then spent five years living in Tokyo where she learned Japanese and worked as a journalist. She now alternates writing full time with directing documentaries for the BBC.

Vic has scuba-dived on Easter Island, camped at Everest Base Camp, voyaged on one of the last mailboats to St Helena, hang-glided across Rio de Janeiro, and swum the Hellespont from Europe to Asia. But there’s little she loves more than lying in bed till midday with a good book and a supply of her favourite biscuits.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,093 (22%)
4 stars
3,552 (37%)
3 stars
2,597 (27%)
2 stars
864 (9%)
1 star
327 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,018 reviews
Profile Image for James Tivendale.
317 reviews1,343 followers
March 22, 2017
I received an ARC of Gilded Cage from NetGalley and I would like to thank Vic James and Del Rey Books.

Gilded Cage is set in a dystopian, totalitarian alternative United Kingdom where certain individuals are born with the power of Skill. This created world is a mix of Dickensian Britain (with slave towns) and modern Britain (with computer consoles and C-pop music). The Equals are the ruling aristocrat elite here as they are born with the magic of Skill, they are the celebrities and they run the nation. Everyone lacking Skill is controlled and for ten years of their lives have to work their 'Slave Days'. Essentially, ten years of their lives where they work for the state in terrible conditions, for no money and during these times they have no rights and aren't even seen as real people any longer. James has created a large amount of back history too for the Dark Gift's trilogy that is hauntingly similar to our own. One example being the members amongst the long history of the revered Equals composed family trees. Another being characters discussing revolutions (hauntingly alike the French and American) throughout the world and also talking about countries who are living now after overthrowing their Equal ruling elite.

We view this world whilst following the point of view perspectives of members of two families on different sides of the divide. A normal, average family containing three children and an aristocratic Equal family, also with three children, who are anything but average.

This action happens mainly in two places. The home of the Equal family at Kyneston which is surrounded by an invisible magic gate/wall that encompasses the family grounds and at the slave town called Millmoor where people work six days a week in awful conditions for no money. The destinies of members of the two families intertwine and the story progresses.

The main characters all seem very developed and intriguing. My favourites to read about were Equal "Young Master" Silyen who seems to be brimming with magical prowess, the normal bloke Luke who finds out a lot about himself during these pages and the kind-hearted Dr. Jackson. The majority of the Equals seem to have peculiar motives and are manipulative. The people without the power of the skill are just trying to live quietly and act inconspicuous. Kyneston is as elegant a mansion and estate as you are likely to read about in fiction whilst Millmoor is the opposite. That isn't to say that what happens in Kyneston is all rosy. Millmoor is grotesque and horrendous for individuals spending their slave days there. There is an underground faction there below the sights of the authorities, however; who reminded me a bit of The Reckoners in Sanderson's Steelheart.

I don't wish to say too much about the story, how characters feel about, and interact with others, or discuss the magic as they are most fascinating aspects of this engrossing and highly original debut outing from James. The end I found phenomenal and it was extremely upsetting. That being said, it sets up Tarnished City (Dark Gifts #2) expertly promising to highlight more places in this compelling alternative Britain. Although it is marketed as YA and can be enjoyed by a younger audience, I can say that if that puts you off picking this up then you are missing out on an extraordinarily good story by a gifted new author. 4.5/5 rounded up to 5.

Ps. Vic James said she is going to buy me a drink so we can chill and talk about dragons at Fantasy Con 2017! Awesome!

James. www.youandibooks.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
November 30, 2019
4.5 stars. This is the first book in a very good but hard-hitting YA fantasy trilogy. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:


In the world of Gilded Cage (2017), there are those who are called Equals ― but there’s a deep divide between Equals, who have magical Skills, and the commoners, the Skilless, and they are decisively not equal. In England the Equals are both the aristocrats and the sole parliament, and they hold all the power, with the magical ability to enforce it.

One of the ways the Equals use their power is to require all commoners to spend ten years of their lives as slaves, known as slavedays. There are some interesting rules associated with this 10-year slavery law: there are advantages to doing it early in your life (such as the right to own a home, travel abroad, and hold certain jobs), you are required to begin them no later than age 55, and those under age 18 are to serve in the same place with their parents.

When 18-year-old Abigail Hadley finds out that the Jardine family, perhaps the most powerful Equal family in England, is looking for more house-slaves and will accept her family, her family decides to take their slavedays together, including her 10-year-old sister Daisy and 16-year-old brother Luke. The idea is that they’ll all be together at the Jardine family’s sumptuous Kyneston estate, as opposed to one of the factory towns, where life is harsh and brutal. But the Equals break their own rules about keeping minor children with their parents, when the Jardines decide they don’t need Luke at their estate. He is sent the industrial slavetown of Millmoor to do manual labor, while the rest of the family goes to Kyneston.

Abi promptly falls for Jenner, the middle of the three Jardine brothers, and the one who, seemingly inexplicably, has no magical Skill. Meanwhile, at Millmoor, Luke falls in with a secretive group of rebels who are trying to improve life for the slaves and, ultimately, to bring about a revolution in England, against tremendously long odds. Daisy has her own role to fill, that of caring for the illegitimate baby daughter of Gavar, the oldest Jardine brother; surprisingly, this leads to some real influence for such a young girl. And among the Equals, there are several individuals and factions competing for power.

Gilded Cage is told from multiple characters’ points of view, both Equal and commoner, which may muddle the storyline for some readers, but I found these interweaving viewpoints and plotlines interesting. The story focuses primarily on the political intrigue and the horrors that the Equals impose on the slave population. Slaves are legally “non-persons” and have no legal rights, and there are many Equals, and even commoners who oversee the slaves, who abuse that relationship. The connection to actual slavery in our world is apparent.

The world-building in Gilded Cage is well-done for a young adult book. Vic James slips in some explanations of how Great Britain’s society ended up where it currently is. For example, the slavedays began in 1642, with Charles I, the “Last King,” which matches up with the real-life date of Charles’ failed negotiations that led to the start of the English Civil War. We are also given some information that puts the situation in Britain in a broader perspective, with some intriguing links to actual history:
But many countries are governed by commoners: France, where the people rose up against the Skilled aristocracy and slaughtered them in the streets of Paris. Or China, where our kind retired to mountain monasteries long ago. Or the Union States of America, which deems us enemy aliens and bars us from their ‘Land of the Free,’ though their cousins in the Confederate States live as we do.
I was worried that Luke’s part of the story would be unalloyed misery and angst, but his part of the tale ended up being much more engaging than I expected. On the other hand, Abi’s part of the tale, focusing on her relationship with Jenner, was a let-down. The romance feels under-baked, and there’s the distasteful aspect of it also being a slave-master relationship, despite Jenner’s best intentions. The romance could have been skipped with no real loss to the story. And after their initial appearance, unfortunately, the Hadley parents pretty much become non-entities in this story, other than to futilely express concern at what their teenage children are going through.

The Equal characters are a varying group of personalities, ranging from a small group of Equals secretly helping the slaves, to the kind-hearted but largely non-influential Jenner, to the cruel and stony-hearted Bouda, Gavar’s fiancée, who shares Lord Jardine’s contempt and disregard for slaves’ rights. Thanks to Ilona Andrews’ KATE DANIELS series, I’m familiar with the term “bouda” as relating to hyenas; Wikipedia clarifies that bouda (or buda) is the power of the evil eye and the ability to shapeshift into a hyena. It’s an amusingly appropriate name for this scheming young woman, whose view on commoners is exemplified by her support for a “perfectly logical scheme to assist the long-term unemployed by returning them to slavery for twelve months’ respite.” The willful self-deception that permeates that entire sentence is mind-boggling.

There are several repugnant characters in this book, like Bouda, but there are also some who are much more than what they initially appear to be. Even the oldest Jardine brother Gavar, who initially seems an unredeemable brute ― in a bout of anger, he shoots and kills his former girlfriend, a would-be runaway slave, in the first few pages ― has a more complex personality than I first would have guessed. The most fascinating person of all is the youngest Jardine brother, Silyen, a very bright and extraordinarily magically gifted 17 year old who looks to be playing an extreme long game. I’m still trying to figure him out… and for that I’ll have to wait for the sequel.

Overall, Gilded Cage is a rather bleak story of abuse of power by those with superpowers, with some terrible things happening to good characters, but the story is lightened by some glimpses of hope. The second book in this DARK GIFTS trilogy, Tarnished City, will be published in September 2017. I’m dying to find out what happens next.

Initial thoughts: A strong 4 stars for me, maybe 4.5? It's a fairly bleak story, and some terrible things happen, but it has its hopeful moments as well. We'll see how it settles after a day or two. But right now I'm feeling the feelz and I'm dying to know what happens next. *grumbledangcliffhangersgrumble*

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Thank you!
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,535 reviews9,948 followers
March 22, 2017
I don't know how I really feel about this book so I'm going with the three star, I liked it =)


I thought the book started out awesome and then I got a little meh feeling about it and then I got excited again so I'm all over the place.

I didn't much care for the parts with Abi and her parents and Kyneston, although I'm very interested to see where little Daisy, the baby and Gavar is going to go with their story. It was strange but interesting.

The parts I loved the most were with Luke at Millmoor. He was in one of the worst slave camps but there he meet some really cool people. Little Renie and Jackson ~ I loved them the most. They did all kinds of crazy stuff to help out the other slaves and to keep things real.

The thing is that the Equals run things and you have to give up 10 years of your life to these slave camps and then you can be free. Whaaattt? You can decide to go in when your young or at the end of your life, it's your choice, but once your in you don't even exist or matter any more. Luke and Adi's parents decided to go in and Adi took it upon herself to sign Luke and Daisy up to go too. Adi and her parents wanted to keep them all together so Adi got them a spot at the Kyneston where the Jardine's live. They are Equals and it's supposedly really comfy there. And for some reason, when they were getting picked up it showed that Luke was to go to the Millmoor place where it's hell. It all worked out. NOT

Anyhoo, the Equals have the Skills <--- that so doesn't sound right, where they have certain powers. Most of them are jerks as you can imagine. I said most of them!

There are some revelations at the end of the book that I should have seen from a mile away. Duh!

I am going to continue on with the series because I'm excited to see where this is all going with that ending and all of the cray going on.

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
1,093 reviews803 followers
July 4, 2019
Rating 4.5ish

This was everything I did not know I wanted, and I loved it.

This is a story with a theme I think we are all familiar with. But, unlike in some cases, it is done well.

The story takes place in an alternate version of Britain. It is the story of a society in which the powerful, The Equals (hopefully the irony of the name is not lost on anyone), and the wealthy oppress the powerless lower class. A society in which the majority of the population are denied their basic human rights while forced into a decade-long servitude. Based solely on the fact that they lack a single quality that sets them apart from the ruling class, Skills.

But of course, nothing is as it appears to be, as we are swept away into the lives of the Hadleys, the Jardines, and many others, just as tensions and civil unrest begin to rise among the lower class and as the Equals fight amongst themselves for power - fueled by ambition and greed.

Basically, it is my cup of tea. As such, I really liked this book. It was well-paced and well-written, each character’s perspective added something to the story. And while some elements felt familiar, its cast of likable characters and a plot filled with plenty of twists kept the narrative feeling fresh.

I'd definitely recommend it for anyone who is a fan of YA Fantasy.

The Cast
Abi is a smart, responsible, resourceful young woman who gives up her opportunity to go to any medical school of her choosing in order to complete her slave days with her family.

Luke is a hard-working, honorable, brave young man who is ripped from his family and forced to work in a hellish slave town. But it is there that he comes into his own. He starts to believe in something bigger than himself, and he realizes that some things are worth fighting, worth risking your life for.

Silyen is a mysterious, ambitious, powerful young man whose motives throughout the book are not entirely clear. But everything he does is a game changer. He is highly connected, respected and feared. He surely has something on everyone. Whether he is good or bad, does not even seem to be the right question. Whenever Silyen is around, you should ask yourself - what will he do next?

*I received a free ARC copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Julie .
4,077 reviews59k followers
May 18, 2017
The Gilded Cage by Vic James is a 2017 Del Ray publication.

Those who follow my reviews will notice there is a conspicuous absence of anything young adult, or dystopian on my reading list.

Like anything else, readers go through trends where certain genres get hot for a time, but soon burn out as readers slowly return to their usual reading fare.

If I were the gambling type, I would have bet that the young adult dystopian 'trend' would be a short- lived trend, and I admit, I would have been happy to see the back of it.

However, the ‘trend’ hasn’t lost much steam, and appears to be stubbornly hanging on for the long haul.

Still, neither one of these genres appeals to me all that much, so I’ve pretty much avoided anything that reeks of YA or dystopian themes, despite their extreme popularity.

However, this one came highly recommended to me and the premise sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a go, with a very cautiously optimistic mindset.

The novel is set in Britain, in an alternate dystopian realm, where there are ‘equals’, a small group of people who usually have ‘skills’, running the country. Any of the remaining population born without ‘skills’ are forced to spend a decade of their lives serving ‘slave days’. Those who complete the ‘days’ have better opportunities in life once they have served their time.

Abi’s plan was to have her family, as a complete unit, serve their decade together, so that they could look forward to a better future. But, you know what they say about the best made plans.

Abi’s brother, Luke, is separated from the family, and forced to work hard labor, while the rest of the family got cushy jobs by comparison.

Abi swears she will find a way to free Luke of his circumstances, but the family gets swept away by ‘palace intrigue', while Luke becomes a part of a resistance movement.

The story switches back and for the between Abi’s and Luke’s perspective situations, building the suspense against an obvious politically charged atmosphere. The author does an excellent job of creating vivid descriptions and scenery, as well as the taut edginess that surrounds the Hadley family as they adjust to their new surroundings and learn the lay of the land. However, there were many characters, some without much development, but in a way that did mask the true nature of some of them, which kept me from figuring out hidden motives, and from the ability to fully trust any of them.

Yet, the story did get a little messy in spots, but rebounded quite nicely to conclude with a few stunning developments which commanded my rapt attention.

With a sense of duty and fair play, I feel I should warn you, although you probably already know, that this is a trilogy, which means a continuing storyline, aka, cliffhanger. In any other genre, that wouldn’t fly with me, but in these situations, it’s pretty much a given, so I wasn’t surprised or angered by it.

This is a debut novel, and as such, the author made a terrific first impression. I fully intend on completing the series and eagerly await the second installment!!

I think this book is true to the genre, but is also an unusual and fresh approach to the dystopian novel. Fans of this genre should gobble this one up enthusiastically, but this novel does have the potential for a wider appeal, outside its core fan base. So, even if this type of book is not your usual cuppa, I think you might find yourself very intrigued by it.

Overall 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Ben Alderson.
Author 21 books13.5k followers
April 11, 2017

Politics, a modern Britain and MAGIC! A unique story line filled with deep, complicated characters and mysterious situations!
From page 250 the twists and turns just kept coming and WOW.. I need book two..

VIC.. this part is for you.

WOW, What a wonderful person you are. You have been an utter joy getting to know and I look forward to supporting you from now on into the future.
Keep up the incredible writing! YOU ARE FAB!
Profile Image for Trinity Irwin.
64 reviews52 followers
February 10, 2017
Okay, stop what you’re doing and read this review because this book was AMAZING.

 photo 4E3E4392-A60C-42B1-A8E3-E06B09793E96_zpsdjitfrrf.gif

Unlike a lot of books I’ve read recently, this was more of a long read. In a really good way though, might I add. I took my time with it because there is so much detail within its pages that it was like looking in a history book. Vic James created basically an entire family tree dating back to like forever ago and many other generations of ‘equals’ but they’re all fictional. It takes talent and patience in my opinion to be able to do it so skillfully without messing it up. <<< that sentence was a pun btw that you'll understand after reading the book ;)

 photo 05756E18-6AEA-4B87-BD56-D825BA3EF83E_zpsjt4onsj0.gif

To be honest, there are many books that have come out after Hunger Games that people are like “Oh that’s just a copy and is too close to that story line.” But this book had that kind of story line, but didn’t remind me anything of Hunger Games if that makes any sense. It was just its own unique thing and I loved that. (plus it has magic which made it even cooler)

 photo B903BBF7-2F38-4AC5-96D3-EB591546F664_zpsushvssch.gif

I super-duper recommend for you all to get your hands on this book and read it pronto. Take your time and enjoy every page.

 photo 3D45B2DC-A025-44EC-99C1-94181F927429_zpshlfjkqky.gif

The ending seriously had me wanting more so I’m REALLLLLLLYYYYY hoping there’s going to be a second book coming out sometime soon.

 photo 42A29441-8D93-4F4B-8520-8F33A925D718_zpszvjqe0ck.gif

I honestly think that I’m going to have to buy this book in print and the second one as well if one comes out.

 photo EEE24C48-7B46-4A21-A774-F560DF0BC2DD_zpsvn6tj0ly.gif

Oh, and did I mention Jenner? *Gushes*
I’ll just leave that in the dark so you can find out for yourself ;)

I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book Via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Laura.
425 reviews1,253 followers
May 9, 2018
But that was the power of Skill for you. There was nothing natural about this place or the people that lived here.
Time to go.

The concept is beyond awesome. A world where a small percentage are gifted Equals who rule the country, while all commoners are required to endure 10 years of forced slavelife in which you lose all basic human rights and live an extremely degrading, sometimes abusive life. If there were powerful beings who could wield magic while others simply cannot, this doesn’t sound too farfetched. Thus creating an entirely frightening world where your freedom might not entirely be in your control.

I couldn’t get enough of the characters. With so many POVs, each voice is distinct avoiding any confusion. I found myself hooked on each character’s individual narrative, while also dying to see how the whole story turns out.

The Hadley family is all supposed to go to the Kyneston estate to spend their slavedays as a family serving the most powerful family in England. Only Luke is sent to the brutal slavetown filled with factories, Millmoor. He is underage, so his parents and 18 year old sister Abi are furious. But there is nothing they can do about it. At least they still have 10 year old Daisy in their care. All the family can hope now is that the jobs they are given can be done with ease so their slavedays pass quickly.

Honestly, this is hard to review because I don’t want to go any deeper into the plot. From the Hadley family, we see things from both Abi and Luke’s perspectives. We also get several Skilled person’s POVs among others. This makes it possible to see all sides of the story including the going-ons with parliament. There is a lot of political intrigue as this is a story where a revolution is beginning, so it only makes sense to allow us to see the inner-workings of the government.

The blend of the fantasy and dystopian genre is excellent. There is a good amount of action, as well as a small bit of romance. The world depicted is cruel, but completely fascinating. The moment the story begins, it is impossible to stop as you’re drawn into this world that both awes and scares. The ending will have you dying to read the second book. I cannot wait to explore more of this twisted world when the sequel comes out. There is definite crossover appeal. If you enjoy fantasy or dystopian novels, this would be a good one to try out.
Profile Image for Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen).
425 reviews1,640 followers
March 22, 2017
4 Stars


“Always look at the people, not at the mass. A face, not the crowd. Look at the world, not at the ground. Every little detail you see is a victory.”

I think there’s going to be a lot of mixed-opinions on this one. It really feels like a book you either love or hate.

Taking place in an alternate England where those with a magic known as “Skill” rule, and the unskilled serve 10-year stretches in slavery, Vic James’s debut focuses on the intersecting lives of an aristocrats and a family of commoners who work for them. This large cast of characters and heavy emphasis on other-world politics is not for everyone. But I really did enjoy it.

I received an ARC of this through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the publisher and the author for this opportunity!


This plot is smart. It twists and turns with ease, and one ‘twist’ at the end worked so well for me I almost wish I could rate this higher.

But it’s not just smart, it’s complicated. There were literally over a dozen characters to keep track of, all with their own motivations and secondary plots. AND their family trees and political alignments are important in determining their relations to one another. At first it was hard to keep track of and made it a more difficult read. This ended up working well for me (and I found it akin to several classic British novels, like A Tale of Two Cities and Middlemarch) but I can see how others would dislike it.

Despite the large amount of characters, this remained a character-driven story. They have distinct voices, are interesting, and allowed to be multi-faceted. The domineering bully is shown both abusing staff and doting on his infant daughter—without one action excusing the other. His backstory and nature give way to this behavior, but we are left to decide if we consider him a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ character, or if he exists somewhere in-between.

This felt true for most of the characters, but especially my favorite: Silyen Jardine.

I’m very curious as to whether more of his motivation will be revealed in the sequel, or if he’s really as random as he wants everyone to believe. But he was a delight to read.

In fact, there were very few characters I didn't like.


I said this was similar to classic Brit-Lit… but it isn't completely. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just don’t want to give the wrong impression of the story. It's still very much a fantasy.

There are traces of insta-love. Though the romance itself is compelling, I couldn't help but feel like they'd never had a proper conversation before they were pining. There's also imbalanced power dynamics that are never really addressed.

So. Many. Rhetorical. Questions. Easily my biggest problem with this book. It was too repetitive, and I dislike being asked questions that only serve to tell me things I already know.

In the scheme of things, the prologue was unnecessary and just added another POV we really didn't need.

Was the man-dog really the best way to go with that storyline? Couldn’t it have been easier to show how ruthless the Skilled leaders are in a way that wasn’t so bizarre?? And maybe didn’t involve naked men on leashes?? I haven't seen anyone else having problems with it, so maybe it's just me. But it was so odd it pulled me out of the story at times.

Though I did ultimately enjoy the large cast and complex political system—it was confusing at times. Bouda’s first chapter in particular felt like one large info-dump as she gave continual history lessons and told us how parliament currently works.

In Conclusion

A fantastical political drama with a large diverse cast of characters that some are going to really enjoy, and others are not.
Profile Image for Lonna | FLYLēF.
173 reviews185 followers
February 10, 2017
FLYLēF Reviews

Original Post: Gilded Cage at FLYLēF (www.flylef.com)

Actual rating 4.5.

AS AN AVID reader, I have read more books than I can recall. Yet, it remains a pleasure to read something that proves I can still be swept off my feet. Gilded Cage, Vic James’ debut novel, is just that kind of book. Thought provoking and highly original, the first installment in the Dark Gifts series is a scintillating blend of urban fantasy and political intrigue.

The world-building is gorgeous and magnificently detailed. It is a world ruled by an insular Parliament who call themselves Equals—magically Skilled aristocrats. Those who are misfortunate as to be born a commoner must serve them for ten years.

Do your slavedays too old, you’ll never get through them. Do your slavedays too young, you’ll never get over them.

The Slaveday Compact, as they call them, is a brutal violation of freedom and dignity, perpetrated by the Equals. The settings of these two worlds and their conflicts will take readers from the opulence of England’s grandest Kyneston Estate to the squalor of Millmoor’s slaveday, everything is exquisitely detailed to cinematic effect.

With perhaps one of the most interesting cast of characters I've read in awhile, Ms. James offers a good balance that promises engagement without being overwhelming. Silyen is a Skilled, but he neither plays nor follows the same rules as the Equals. He’s powerful and enigmatic, with a twisted sense of principle that is both fascinating and horrific. Siblings Abi and Luke are commoners, unskilled, but are pivotal characters. Strangely, I felt that they were underdeveloped and often seemed lost amongst the grandeur of the political game. I was a bit disappointed that they seemed like marionettes on strings being tugged by mysterious hands, whom you'll enjoy discovering. Nevertheless, as the curtains of their innocence fall, I glimpsed the first sparks of victims turned victors—bringing the story to a climax that is emotionally intense and exhilarating as well.

Gilded Cage, by Vic James, is as beautiful and nuanced, as it is dangerous and cunning. It is a treasure that I stumbled upon by chance. But, it proves some chances are still very much worth taking.

{Thank you Vic James and Del Rey Books for kindly giving me this book free of charge, through NetGalley, which does not influence my review.}
Profile Image for Taran Matharu.
Author 21 books4,004 followers
December 7, 2016
Devious and deliciously dark with lashings of magic, mystery and mayhem, this juggernaut of a book will keep you hanging on by your fingernails until the very last page!!
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,064 reviews1,472 followers
November 29, 2016
An unique magic-system, a compelling narrative structure, enthralling writing and an unguessable plot.

From the very first page I was enchanted by the intriguing and complex storyline. Each character’s perspective added something to the story and I was equally as invested in their personal struggles. The converging of these separate narratives provided an unguessable ending and a multitude of plot twists to appear along the way.

However, it was the evocative and compelling power of the writing that truly grasped my attention. Each facet of the world, the magic system, and the society was relayed with a captivating lyrical beauty.

This has incorporated the subtlety and elegance of the British Classic novel with the adventure and awe of the fantasy tome. And I already can't wait to see what direction the next installment will take us in!
September 21, 2016

I have a bit of a thing for dark and despicable books.

You only have to look at my favourites shelf to know that much. From the pseudo Roman, genetically-augmented Golds of Pierce Brown’s ‘Red Rising’; the sin and smoke devoured pages of Dan Vyleta’s ‘Smoke’; to the wicked and wasteful young Aristocrat of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, there is a bit of a trend. So the moment I opened the first pages of ‘Gilded Cage’ and met a moonlit night and a young woman fleeing across a dark country estate, I knew I was onto something good.

If someone forced me to put my feelings for this book into two words I’d probably go with ‘contemporary Dickens’. Despite its modern setting you really do get the sense of smog and chimney sweeps. Indeed, we have children as young as ten put to work and a smug parliament filled with extortionately wealthy families all jostling for power.

The factory towns put me in mind of LS Lowry’s landscapes, the great belching chimneys and faceless, stick figure workers. Juxtaposed with the joyless lives of the indentured worker are the cold, elegant, horrible, and yet strangely fascinating overclass of aristocrats who wield the ‘Skill’. Chapters alternate between workers surviving day by day on the factory line and the gleaming, manicured world of the ‘Equals’, toxic with nepotism, narcissism and family secrets.

‘Gilded Cage’ has broad swathes of that wild British darkness that I’ve come to love so much. Think of the iron sharp, back stabbing society of Bronte and Thackeray, but left to grow obese and wasteful on its own power. An upperclass that has begun to take its place in society for granted, a once strong muscle that has not had to work and has grown atrophied, leaving space for dissension and discontent.

Then add onto that the glittering, scintillating imagery of the skill, the strange ‘post Revolutionary’ glass buildings that seem to show shadows of another world.

It is utterly breathtaking, I can’t really say more than that. I adored it. It has taken me a good few weeks to mull and decide what exactly I want to write because, for a while, my thoughts were meandering all over the shop. How to decide whether to focus on character, world building, environment, the political wrangling, eugh…almost impossible. I loved it all.

So my one piece of advice would be to pick up a copy as quick as you possible can. The UK Paperback edition comes out on the 26th of January 2017, but the Kindle version comes out on the 1st of December this year…I will allow you to mull over that one.

(I received an ARC from the Author and Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review)

Review with Pretty Pictures

Initial Ramblings (31/08/16):

I'd been putting off finishing this book because I knew the ending would hurt...a lot. That was a good guess.

Current Status: lying face down on my bed, making small groans of misery.
Profile Image for Steven.
1,089 reviews393 followers
July 27, 2018
Just as good on round 2. :)
I am thoroughly impressed. This book gets all the stars from me. I'd give it more if I could.

You've got an interesting concept - two kinds of humans, Equals and the normal people. Equals have superhuman powers. Normal people are, well, normal. Every normal person is required at some point in their life to serve ten years of "slavedays," service to the Equals in some form or fashion.

You've got superpowers - instant hook for me - and they're not used on every page or constantly thrown about. We get glimpses of the power throughout, and it feels like a taste of what's to come...

You've got some great characters - a family divided, an infant with mysterious seeming lack of powers, some Equals very full of themselves, a creepy Equal with stranger powers than most, power hungry politicians and rebellious normals.

I don't want to give away too much -- but I will say this. I wasn't surprised at all by one of the biggest twists of the book. I had actually come to expect it a while before the reveal. But what happened AFTERWARDS did kind of throw me for a loop, and set up the next book extremely well.

Thankfully, the next book comes out later this year, and hopefully the wait for the third won't be too long, because as of right now, *GRABBY HANDS*

Special thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Silvia .
642 reviews1,427 followers
January 13, 2017
I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

DNF @ 37%

I wasn't enjoying this and life is too short.

Honestly I feel a little bit bad about DNF'ing this one, and seeing that many people have enjoyed it, I feel like I might just have commitment issues, but I promised myself that I wasn't going to do anything that I don't fully enjoy, and that includes reading.

What I read up to 37% wasn't bad, but I found myself skim reading through a lot of the inner monologues of the characters, and that's where I know it's bad for me. Listen, I am okay skim reading or entirely skipping action scenes or descriptions, but you have to have me hooked on the characters and what's going through their heads. If you don't do that,

Furthermore, I had issues with the world building.
Here is a list of things within this book that I would not expect from a society in which if you have no Skill (~Magic) you have to serve 10 years as a slave:
• you can choose whenever to serve your 10 years. Like, literally you could postpone it until you're old and about to die and screw the system into taking you to serve your years when you're useless and can't do shit.
• until you do your 10 years you're a class B citizen, but other than that you can work, have a family, can lead a pretty normal life. Sign me the fuck up for postponing my slavery until I'm almost on my deathbed please??
• the society doesn't seem to be all that different than our in terms of mentality.
• people don't seem to be completely brainwashed into the whole I'll have to give 10 years of my life to slavery because of reasons. The characters seemed to jump from "We all know we have to serve and that's okay" to "Oh no this sucks I don't want this" with no internal struggle whatsoever, and they only seemed to go from one mood to the other to serve the plot.
• probably something else I'm forgetting because I started this book one week ago and read like 3 other things in the meantime

The only reason I didn't DNF'd this sooner is that one of the characters seemed really interesting and I was hoping to see more of him (I thought he might be a bit of a Laurent-from-CP character?), but sadly his PoV was only shown once so far and the idea of suffering through the rest of the book just to see where this character would go seemed like a bad life choice, and frankly,
Profile Image for Jasmine from How Useful It Is.
1,338 reviews352 followers
March 9, 2017
About: Gilded Cage is a fiction novel written by Vic James. It will be published on 2/14/2017 by Del Rey Books, 368 pages. This is book 1 in the Dark Gifts series. The genres are young adult and fantasy. The author obtained her doctorate in the Vatican Secret Archives. As always, my reviews are spoil-free.

My Experience: I started reading Gilded Cage on 11/8/16 and finished it on 11/14/16. This book is an excellent read. It’s full of actions and happenings from beginning to ending. It draws in my attention and keeps me there. There are hints of romance and there are some heart-stopping moments. After chapter 3, I was intrigued and my heart started beating faster.

Trust was what made everything possible. Trust lent you someone else’s eyes, someone else’s strong arms or quick brain. Made you bigger than just yourself. 50% of book.

Multiple POVs: I like that this book has multiple POVs. There are views from the commoners and views from the Equals. It’s not confusing despite many characters introduced in this book. I like the suspense and actions in this book. The story flow nicely. Vic James wrote a compelling story with brave characters and unique world building. The characters are smart and independent for their age. I like them all, the good guys and the bad. It’s an eye opener to follow these characters’ train of thoughts. There are enough backgrounds to each characters to understand them in this book.

Summary: The people who are able to perform magic are called Skilled or an Equal. The people who can’t do magic are called commoners and are condemned to serve 10 years of their life as a slave to an Equal. The commoner can choose to serve anytime in their life and there are pros and cons to serve at a young age or an old age. Someone will take action and change the course of life between the commoners and the Equals, but who? and will he/she/they succeed?

Pro: multiple POVs, action-packed, page-turner, couldn’t put down, magic, adrenaline rush

Con: none

I rate it 5 stars!

***Disclaimer: I received this ebook for free via NetGalley in an exchanged for an honest review. Many thanks to the author Vic James, publisher Del Rey Books, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review. Thank you!

Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,823 reviews427 followers
December 2, 2022
Gilded Cage is a thrilling new start to a series by Vic James. The read is thrown into a somewhat fantastical dystopian world. Although different situations are going on around the world, the story's focus is on Britain. Those with "skill" or magical abilities are the rulers of Britain. At the same time, there is a mandatory ten years of slavery due by everyone else by their 65th birthday.

The focus is on one of the families of equals and a family that has decided to enter into their ten years as a family of 5. When the family is to be picked up, the middle child, Luke, is not going to the aristocratic estate as originally bargained and will instead be going to one of the industrial slave towns alone at 17. Supposed laws indicate that a child cannot serve without their parents until 18.

While Luke tries to fend for himself, his older sister Abi finds her fantasies about the equals are far from her trashy romance novels, and 10-year-old Daisy finds herself caring for an illegitimate child.

There is a lot of political intrigues and many fissures built into the fine cracks of families, both equals and non as many are starting to play their hands "all-in" for the ultimate win, but which side will come out on top? 4.5 stars for me, and I can't wait to continue along the journey. Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for the opportunity to experience this book.
Profile Image for Katerina  Kondrenko.
498 reviews842 followers
February 2, 2019
7.3 out of 10

Ревью в моем блоге/This review on my blog
Living A Thousand Lives
(please use Chrome/Yandex browser or Android/IOS to see the page; otherwise, spoiler-tags I use to make my post compact may not work)

Massive Attack – Silent Spring
Eliza Lumley – Creep
Matthew Perryman Jones – Keep It On the Inside

Genre: fantasy, dystopia, YA
Stuff: superpowers, slavery, politics
Fail: the main concept
WOW: writing, characters
POV: 3rd person, multi
Love-Geometry: none

“Always look at the people, not at the mass. A face, not the crowd. Look at the world, not at the ground. Every little detail you see is a victory.”

Gilded Cage is an interesting discovery: questionable concept, accurate writing, very subtle romance, complex heroes, grey moral, and many secrets.

Let's start with the concept. We have blue-blooded people with different abilities (not like in Red Queen , local system of powers is better thought-out), and they're called Equals. A few centuries ago one of these X-men-ish guys took over and bring Great Britain on its knees, then decided that people without any Skill must serve to the Skilled for 10 years of their pitiful lives, and, of course, without any payment. They are free to choose those years they give up to Equals, but no one can escape this duty. Okay, I can see people from the past centuries accepting suchlike shit, 'cause, c'mon, slavery was everywhere and had no color: feudality, bonded peasants are other shining examples. But mind that this book's setting is here and now, thus I can't comprehend following things:

1) What use got Equals from slavery? I mean, these people are Skilled and their Skills are marvelous (they build houses with their minds, they heal people and themselves, they can do anything, they don't need anyone to wash their panties!) Slavery makes them lazy. They almost stopped using they gifts.

2) What good does slavery to the country's economy? For whom UnSkilled make products? There are too many of them and too little of Equals, and those who are done with their days or yet to start them aren't that rich to buy and buy and buy. For export? I doubt it, since slavery is all over the world (with a few expectations). Plus people lose their qualifications while they work at factories in slave towns and can't find a good job after that. They also lose their health and... I can go on and on. I think you already see my point.

3) How the fuck the system has been tolerated for so long without a great deal of rebellions and revolutions? Especially, knowing that in other countries it happened and happened successfully. I can't believe that people after being slaves for so a while could go to their normal lives without giving a second thought to what has been done to them. You either keep your slaves under your finger 24/7 or never; otherwise, one gulp of freedom will aflame their hearts with anger and determination. You can't see the better life and be okay with the worse, you can't let your children to do the same! I don't see any reasons why people didn't try to rebel before the events of this book.

Oh, and you know what? Gilded Cage  tried to answer my first question:
“The whole purpose of the slave-days is to free us to govern. And you want to dismantle this system?”

I'm sorry, what? To free you to govern? I have no idea how modern governments find time to do their jobs without slaves. Isn't it magic??? No, really. That makes NO sense. Like At All.

Another thing I didn't like in this book was names in da style of Sosigenes Parva, Bodina, Bouda, Cadmus and Co. Now we know that Equals have a lot of time not only to govern but to make up something like Sosigenes too.

Now to the pros...

Writing. It's variative for different POVs: sometimes dramatic, sometimes snarky, while sometimes touching or dark. I like how Vic James combines her words, what undertone she chooses, and her intuition (she knows when to show when to tell). The only thing I'd suggest to improve is the structure of scenes, so historical notes won't interfere romantic or action-packed scenes, ruining the climax.

Heroes. The characters are the strongest side of the book. I can't say that I liked them all, but they all are well-done and fleshed-out (not fully, alas, but there are a few books to come to get us under the heroes' skin, so I'll wait). I was interested in following Leah and her almost horror prologue-part, Abi and ruination of her I-know-it-all way of life, Luke and his desire to belong with further realization that not everything is what it seems, Gavar and his angry, but snarky (I found his POV to be the funniest), and even tender (when it comes to Libby) chapters, Bouda and her determination to gain the power even though a not pleasant marriage, Euterpe with her creepy abilities and their consequences, and Silyen (my favorite character in here) with his dark, calculating and clever mind. Yes, there are that many different POVs, but I wasn't annoying with frequent change of perspectives since each of them was showing not only the characters inner selves, but the main picture and others persons from different angles as well.

Romance. Gilded Cage is full of ships and various kinds of bonds, but none of them are too bright or too big to become a leading plot-line. We have impossible loves, undying loves, forbidden loves, tragic loves, hatred, passions, tenderness and more, but you have too look closer and not to blink or you'll miss it like a shooting star in the sky. Usually, I'm not a fan of such subtle ways, but here everything's been enough. By the by, I think Sileyn and Luke might be a thing. Just saying...

Moral. All the characters try to achieve their goals by any means and no matter what. Can you imagine how far each of them would go? And how twisted or wrong or stupid or crazy their methods would be? You won't find here devils or saints. Only mix of these two incarnations.

Secrets and twists. Funny thing is, predictable twists always turn out to have unpredictable parts within. You say, "I knew it!", and in a minute you ask, "What the fuck did just happen?". This is a nice way to surprise your readers. You keep their attention on one thing and give them no time to consider others. It works.

Overall, if you look for a character-driven story with action elements, you've just found it. I still don't like the illogical part of the concept, but I ADORE the way Vic James develops her characters and show us their interactions, so I already DO wait for the second installment and suggest you read this one.

Dark Gifts (Темные дары):
Gilded Cage (Позолоченная клетка) #1/3
Tarnished City (Загрязненный город) #2/3
Bright Ruin (Красочные руины) #3/3
Profile Image for Char.
1,680 reviews1,553 followers
January 31, 2018
In Gilded Cage , Vic James has created a world where slavery still exists- 10 years of it for every single person. It doesn't matter if you serve your ten in a glass mansion or a dingy factory-slavery is still slavery.

I enjoyed the world-building and almost in spite myself I became attached to the Hadley family. Even though their rather naive daughter, Abi got on my nerves a little bit, I did care about her brother, Luke, her sister and parents. I found the concept of the "Equals" a fascinating one, they being the people catered to by everyone else. Capable of chilling powers and yet the true depth of their power was not fully evident until near the end of the story.

Another thing I very much enjoyed was the complexity of the villains. At some points, it was difficult to distinguish who they even were and I liked trying to figure that out. Lastly, I relished the fact that not everything is all laid out and explained in great detail like at the end of a TV show. I still have a couple of questions-so even though I'm not even a fan of YA AND I've sworn that I'm not starting any more series', I do plan to read the next book.

The reason I'm giving 4 stars and not 5 is because I felt things got bogged down a bit, (a la the Song of Ice & Fire series), when introducing all the political machinations of the different families. I don't feel like there was too much, exactly, just perhaps too much all at once .

It's always nice to be surprised by a book on which you take a chance. I requested this one based on the appeal of the description alone-I really didn't think the book would live up to my expectations, but I'm happy that it did!

Recommended to fans of YA, magicians, (of a sort), and fantasy!

You can get your copy here:Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts)

*Thanks to NetGalley and Del Rey Books for the free ARC in exchange for my honest review. This is it.*
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,230 reviews1,563 followers
February 12, 2017
In Gilded Cage the world is ruled by Equals who are aristocrats with magical gifts. Everyone else are known as commoners and at some point during their lifetimes they have to serve the Equals for a period of ten years as their slaves. Commoners can choose to serve at any point in their lives from 10 to 80 years old.

After Luke's younger sister turns ten his family breaks the news to him that they have signed up the entire family to serve their slave days. Luke's older sister Abi has arranged for the family to do work together at a plantation owned by England’s most powerful family of Equals. But upon arrival the paperwork has been messed up and Luke is shipped off to a slave town separate from the rest of his family.

I was a bit back and forth reading Gilded Cage by Vic James the entire time. Some of this book I really enjoyed and would get caught up in what was going on but other parts just felt really slow to me. The idea behind the serving ten years of your life kept me engaged as wanting to know what would happen though and in the end I decided to give this read 3.5 stars.

I think for me following Abi, Luke and the rest of their family and the others around those characters were the more interesting parts of the story. For whatever reason I kept feeling a disconnect when the chapters would switch to the point of view of the Equals. Giving up ten years of your life and deciding when to do that just had my mind spinning so perhaps that was why I was more interested in that side.

Overall, not a bad start to the series at 3.5 stars, some slower parts for me but still an interesting story.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.wordpress....
Profile Image for Brittanie.
Author 1 book31 followers
February 10, 2017
This book is one of the most exciting dystopian fantasies I've ever read. It is set in an alternate present-day England, where a magical aristocracy requires each citizen is to work for 10 years as a slave. Although the book is set in a similar world to ours, Ms. James has done an excellent job imbuing the story with a rich, well thought-out history. It is told from multiple POV's, but James handles them brilliantly. Rather than that sinking feeling one often gets when reading a novel with multiple POV characters, I couldn't wait to catch up with each one. The characters are strong and unique, and the stakes are high for both aristocrats and the commoners they enslave. While on the surface, this is a page-turning thrill ride of a book, beneath it all, Ms. James makes us think about our own class society and what it means to be free. It was one of those books I never wanted to end. Luckily there will be two more installments. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Wren (fablesandwren).
675 reviews1,506 followers
September 17, 2020
Published Date: February 14th 2017

Thanks to the publisher, I am honored to be one to get a free, digital copy in order for an honest review. Anything said is my opinion and my opinion only.

I just don't know how I feel about this book.

It has a great concept and had a lot of potential with how this world works.

There are those who are "The Skilled" who have unhuman-like powers, and then there are normal people like you and me (sad day). These normal people have to be slaves to The Skilled for ten years out of their lives where they are treated as not-humans.

Literally once they sign the papers, they lose their human-identity and are legitimately "things" or "slaves".

It's horribly a good start to a story, don't you think?

Well, I for one was super excited about it. But I kind of feel disappointed with what I read.

The characters were just thrown around. I couldn't keep up with all the characters I was suppose to have remembered from 100 pages back that was mentioned that one time during that one chapter. And I just didn't really care for the main characters either towards the middle.

When it first started, I was like whoa whoa buddy this is going to be good, and it was! It truly was going great! But then I got kind of.. bored. Characters didn't really grow and conflict was kind of eh.

Luke and Abi were the only one's I cared a little for. And the ending would have been legitimately mind-blowing if my heart ached for the characters involved.

I was just a little sad.
Maybe I built it up so much that not even Sarah J Maas could have reached my goals.
Profile Image for Minni Mouse.
686 reviews965 followers
March 7, 2017
2.5 stars and DNF around 80%. This isn't your teeny bopper dystopian like The Hunger Games or Divergent. It's smarter, more complex, more patient, and more urban realistic. It's also a lot more boring.

The potential is there. Gilded Cage is a multi-layered story where every character has his or her own spinoff that, I'm sure, ultimately ties together.

1) Bland. Each character lacks an internal motivation that drives them and gives them depth. It's not enough that Luke is separated from his family at Kyneston while he's stuck unexpectedly at Millmoor. That's an external factor. Where's the internal? What deeper fulfillment drives him? A need to prove himself as capable and independent as Abi? A need to nurture Renie in a way he couldn't with Daisy? Et cetera.

2) Too many points of view and too much going on. Every character has a potentially interesting story...but we'll never know because we only have time for meager and shallow development of each tangent. As a result, or overall book is a messy glob all over the place.

Ready for role call? Everyone with a chapter, stand up!
• Luke at Millmoor with the young Renie, Doc Jackson, Oz, and rest of the secret Rebellion against the Overbitch and cruel Kessler.
• Abi and the man-dog and the thing with Jenner
• Gavar with Libby-of-the-semi-Skill and the infatuated young Daisy
• Bouda with her arranged engagement to Gavar, political father and...creepy father-in-law
• Silyen with the strange Skill and Abolition Proposal and trance with Aunt Euterpe
• Aunt Euterpe with the trippy dream
• Leah with the completely unnecessary prologue

Too much! Prison breaks and protests and legislative hearings and Skills and factories and slavery and politics and bastard children and TOO MUCH.

My advice to Vic James? Pick one or two plots (I'd pick Luke's Millmoor storyline) and develop them well. Build that steam punk factory settings, build the unease with the Overbitch and Kessler versus the gang, build the Les Misérables type protests and unrest. Less is more. More of everything here was...messy.

I couldn't. It's not a terrible book and it's just short of being a dry read...but I couldn't get personally invested in the characters or the plot (all seven of them.) Part of the annoying thing is we'd end a chapter/point of view with an interesting development only to switch points of view. By the time we come back to that original character's chapter, whatever cliffhanger we were on is gone without explanation...along with our momentum.

I began skimming in the end only to give up. Because who are we kidding? I couldn't care less what happened to Renie-rhymes-with-Genie or what the deal is with the Jardine boys.

Appreciate the ARC and free book giveaway!
Profile Image for Cora Tea Party Princess.
1,323 reviews806 followers
June 21, 2019
5 Words: Family, slavery, magic, rebellion, separation.

This book was horrifying in the best of ways.

I'm not sure what I was expecting when I started reading Gilded Cage. Perhaps something fun and a little vapid, and totally unbelievable.

What I actually read couldn't have been more different.

Gilded Cage is a challenging read. It is challenging in content and the way it explores the current definitions of words. Being set in an alternate universe the world is startlingly familiar, yet chillingly different. I loved how the word "equal" was redefined, and its use in this context was perhaps the most striking thing in the book. It made what happened all the more powerful.

This is a world of magic and power, slavery and abuse. Each of the characters seemed to be trapped in their own little cage in so many different ways.

Starting off, my own cover-judging (what are blurbs, anyway?) meant that I was expecting sunshine and a HEA. I didn't expect the hard-hitting subject. I wasn't ready for it, I was surprised.

There is one scene at the end of chapter three which chilled me to the bone. It was heart-stoppingly repellent. I couldn't believe what I had just read, and all of a sudden the book changed and was so much darker than I could have possibly imagined.

Read this book. But be prepared. Be prepared for horror and heartbreak, be prepared for your heart to race and to be broken. Because this book is one hell of a ride.

I received a copy of this for free via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,071 reviews2,633 followers
February 23, 2017
2.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/02/23/...

Rarely have I read a story where my thoughts at the end are such a complete turnaround from my thoughts at the beginning. When I first started Gilded Cage, I was beyond pumped–the excellent writing, solid world-building, and strong portrayals of the main characters all made me think this book was going to have everything I wanted. Yet by the time I finished, I could barely even put my feelings into words. I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it. The whole thing just left me cold.

In the alternate world of this young adult dystopian, Great Britain is nation starkly divided along class lines. The Equals are the ruling elites who run the government, live on sprawling estates, and enjoy the power granted to them by their magical gifts. Then there are the commoners, who may be the majority, but they have no representation and are expected to submit themselves to a mandatory ten-year term of service to the Equals. This period is called their “slavedays”, in which they will have all their rights stripped away and no longer be considered citizens.

When the story begins, we are introduced to a family about to begin their slavedays. Siblings Abi, Luke, and Daisy Hadley have been arranged to accompany their parents assigned to the Jardine estate, home of one of the most prominent nobles in Equal society. However, on the day the Hadleys are scheduled to depart, a misunderstanding occurs and 16-year-old Luke is instead separated from his family and shipped off to the slavetown of Millmoor. Feeling desperate and alone, he befriends a group of fellow slaves who teach him how to survive, which in turn makes Luke realize there are more ways to fight back than he’d previously believed.

Meanwhile at the Jardine estate, the rest of the Hadley family are exposed to all the political intrigues and scheming of the Lord and Lady Whittam, along with their three sons Gavar, Jenner, and Silyen. Nevertheless, Abi ends up falling for one of the noble-born young men against her better judgment, putting her in the terrible place of questioning her loyalties and having to decide between freedom and love.

Despite its hackneyed dystopian premise and the overly simplistic concepts, I really did enjoy the first part of this book. From Animal Farm to The Hunger Games, you see a lot of the same themes get used over and over for these types of stories, and yet I never seem to get enough. While the core ideas behind Gilded Cage might not be anything we haven’t seen before, I did enjoy seeing Vic James’ take on them and her attempt to inject a few twists. The prologue was a perfect ten what it came to capturing my attention, and what I read in first few chapters made me want to know more. The writing was also delectable.

So I was shocked when it hit me; somewhere around the quarter to midway point, all my previous enthusiasm had somehow drained away, and I hadn’t even realized it was happening. It just occurred to me suddenly that I was bored, I didn’t really care about the characters, and I was zoning out more and more. The feeling was ambivalence, also known as the death knell of a book under review.

Here’s what I think happened: 1) over time, the strength of the story began eroding due to too many POVs. I couldn’t help but feel the author was trying to emulating the structure and style of an epic fantasy, except, of course, Gilded Cage is not an epic fantasy. 2) The story got hung up on too many unnecessary details. Don’t get me wrong, though. Details are nice. Details are important. But when I find I can zone out or forget everything that was said for several pages at a time, and then have it make absolutely no difference at all in the end, that’s a problem. 3) The split storytelling between the Jardine estate and Millmoor was an interesting decision, but I’m not sure that it was carried out too well. While it was nice seeing a picture of both sides of the world, the ultimate effect was neither here nor there. I couldn’t form a connection to either storyline, and ended up shrugging off both.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I’m disappointed. What started off so promising ended up making me feel so…blah. Still, that’s not to say the book didn’t have it strengths. I recommend giving it a try if the description interests you. It has also been received very positively by a lot of other readers, and I encourage everyone to check out their reviews for another perspective because they do a fantastic job covering all of the story’s charms and high points. Simply put though, the strengths were not enough to overcome the ennui I felt for most of the book, which stumbled after a great beginning and unfortunately never recovered its momentum.
Profile Image for Nancy.
421 reviews
December 30, 2016
This was an outstanding dystopian novel set in an alternative Britain. It kept me riveted and I stayed up past midnight to finish it in one sitting.

It is a story about the Haves and Have Nots. The Haves are called Equals (which is actually kind of ironic) and they are the nobility who have material wealth and power due to their psychic talents. Skills, psychic talents, are the criteria that separates the Haves from the the Have Nots - if you do not have Skills, you are not an Equal (unless you are born into a very powerful family). The Have Nots are the commoners who by law do ten years of slave days in order to become citizens with rights. These slave days are done working in manufacturing towns or on the estates of the Equals. They basically are working for the benefit of the Equals and as slaves, brutality is something to be endured.

The Hadley family had a plan to do their slave days together on an Equal's estate but their son, Luke, ends up being sent away from them to a manufacturing town because the estate did not have a need for him. He finds himself in Millmoor and becomes drawn into the underground there. His acts of rebellion generally are done to alleviate the suffering of others or provide someone with the something that they need to survive.

The main group of the Hadley family goes to work for the Jardine family on their estate. The Jardines are the most powerful family in the nation, the most Equal of the Equals. The eldest Hadley daughter, Abi, devised the plan for working on the estate so that they would not end up in the harsh environment of a manufacturing town and safely survive their slave days with a modicum of comfort. The estate has its own dangers hidden beneath its seemingly idyllic surface and the estate may not be the safe option that it seemed.

This is a very well written book. It was well paced and it flowed easily between the different points of view. The characters are complex but believable and the reader can easily become invested in them.

One reason this book excited me was that it forced me to think about the class structure of modern society. Although this is a fantasy, the politics are very relevant to modern life.

I will definitely read any sequels to this book.

I was gifted with ARC copy of this book by Net Galley in return for an honest review. I was very grateful to be afforded the opportunity to read this and I thank them for it.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,695 reviews595 followers
December 8, 2016
This novel is cleverly set in an alternate version of the modern world, where everyone in the United Kingdom is forced to give up a decade of their life in slavery. Ruled by Equals; skilled aristocrats with special, magical powers, who use their power to enslave the population and force them to work for them.

Luke Hadley lives a normal life with his parents, eighteen year old sister Abigail and ten year old Daisy. However, Abigail and his parents have conspired for the family to do their slavedays together as a family. Not in the grim, industrial Millmoor, which looms over Manchester where they live, but working for the First Family of the country, the Jardine’s, as house slaves in their family estate, Kyneston. It should be easier than toiling in Millmoor, and keep the family together, but, as always, the best laid plans go wrong…

Fantasy novels are not something I normally read, but, sometimes it is good to try something outside your comfort zone and I really enjoyed this. Abigail has spent her life reading about, and romanticising, the Equals; but will she be prepared for what she finds, when she discovers the true extent of their powers? Meanwhile, the Jardine’s turn out to be a family with issues of their own, including three sons who include the belligerent, unstable heir Gavar and the sinister, powerful Silyen. As Daisy falls under the family’s spell and Luke begins to fight against the system, the family have to struggle in a world where they have joined a state of legal ‘non-personhood.’

This is obviously the first book in a planned trilogy and the ending will certainly leave you wanting to know what happens next. A very well realised alternate world, with characters you will certainly come to care about. I am glad I took the chance on reading something a little different and look forward to reading on.

Profile Image for Yodamom.
2,003 reviews195 followers
February 10, 2017
Powerful super humans The Equals, controlling lesser humans through slavery and special abilities.
There were several things I enjoyed. The plot was really interesting, trying to figure out who was behind what was a complete mystery. The ending left no clues about who was on what side, a cliffhanger left me nothing to go on. The mystery weaving was wonderfully done. I loved the Equals, they were much more interesting than the commoners. Silyen, was the Equal to watch, off centered, quirky, wicked ? and unknown. if I continue the series it will be to find out more about him.
I really wanted to love this, but it didn't hold my attention. I wasn't ever involved in the story, it felt fragmented. There were many POVs and so many characters all being introduced. I just didn't get enough time with any of them to feel any connection. Political drama, urgh, there was too much for me, I just wanted to put the book down several times. I just didn't care. It could be the first book in a series, slow start world building that has me not connecting too. I really don't know if I'l continue the series
Profile Image for Erin Dunn.
Author 3 books88 followers
February 7, 2017

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a free ebook copy of Gilded Cage By: Vic James in exchange for an honest review.

At first I had a hard time getting into Gilded Cage because there are so many POVs. I also struggled a little in the beginning trying to figure out the world. Once I understood the world and got into it, I really enjoyed it. It's a pretty unique book and there is just something different about it that intrigued me.

I am surprised at how dark this book got a couple times. I expected it to be kind of fluffy and more about the romance based off the blurb. To be honest, the summary doesn't do the book justice. However, it's actually a pretty thought provoking story. The idea of the slave days is very fascinating and the whole concept is just spot on! Even though the book is unique, I do like how there are a few tropes I love as well. Such as rebellion and a little bit of forbidden romance.

I also really liked some of the characters, especially Abi and Luke. The Jardines (aristocrat family with powers) are also very fascinating to me. I'm excited to see in the next book how the character development goes with Abi, Luke, and The Jardines. In this book I feel like I didn't get enough of that because there are too many POVs.

Overall I loved Gilded Cage! The ending is terrific and I am extremely curious to see what happens next. I can't wait for more of the political intrigue too! By the end of the book I wanted to rate it 5 stars based on enjoyment, but I had to take one star off because of the POV issue and the smaller issue of world building early on. I just think the book needed to be smoother in the beginning. Other than that, it was pretty perfect.

I recommend Gilded Cage for anyone who likes a good mix of fantasy, political intrigue, and dystopian.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,018 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.