Book Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James
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.
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
Book: Gilded Cage
Series: Dark Gifts #1
Author: Vic James
Publication Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Del Ray
Page Count: 368
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Cover Artist: Faceout Studio, Tim Green
My Rating: ★★★½
Ignorance bred fear, as Father was fond of saying, and fear bred obedience.
My relationship with this read was strange. While I thought the concept was brilliant, I had a tough time actually getting into Gilded Cage until more towards the end.
Reading the synopsis, my eyes quite literally sparkled.
The setting sounded (and was) absolutely amazing. Well, not amazing considering there is apparent oppression of a certain populace. I mean–amazing as in, what a brilliant idea for a dystopian novel!? Getting into the book, however, proved to be difficult throughout the first half. Perhaps it was due to the more explanatory nature in tone in order to set the stage for the remainder of the story? I’m not really sure.
While this book is undoubtedly dystopian, it naturally reads like any historical fiction, which may be a part of my overall confusion and inability to immerse myself into it further. Technically being a science fiction read, this book simply didn’t feel like one, which, by no means is a bad thing! Perhaps because this book crosses some boundaries, it rests at a place higher than my categorical mind can comprehend because I’ve been conditioned to think that “Sci-fi” and/or “dystopia” mostly means futuristic. Gilded Cage certainly breaks the mold that has been determined by most other books in this genre.
The world is set in modern-day Britain, but it doesn’t feel like it. Society is divided into two parts: aristocracy, and commoners. The aristocrats have a major advantage on their side: they can use magic. Because of this, they have assumed positions of power and privilege. Anyone outside of the elite group of magic users must spend ten years in servitude. These unfortunate souls get to pick when they serve, but nothing can get them out of it until after ten grueling years and then their freedom is granted. Nice, huh? Whether it be for a wealthy family, or in the slums, wherever one is placed, he or she must go.
The divide in lifestyles is immediately exemplified by the vast differences between the Hadley family, and the Jardine family. The Hadleys, being of non-noble birth, are commissioned to work for the wealthy and powerful Jardine family. Through a debacle, Luke is placed in one of the factory slums instead and forced to separate for his family.
“There aren’t many that see this place for what it truly is. Even fewer who realize that the slavedays aren’t an inevitable part of normal life, but a brutal violation of freedom and dignity, perpetrated by the Equals.”
Having a vastly different experience from the rest of his family in the factory city, Luke uncovers a populace of people desiring change in the system. The ability to use magic shouldn’t be the sole reason why certain people held high places in society. Seeing the amount of injustice most people must go through for these elite individuals, Luke decides to partake in a diverse and secret group pushing to make a change in the system.
This plot was thick and complex. Even so, the way things took place felt natural and possible with the world created here. In this way, this plot was effortless and functioned well. On the other side, because there was so much happening throughout this story, it was difficult to follow at times. Many characters are cast for variously sized parts, making it difficult to keep track of who’s who and what their purpose is. However, the climax and end of this book does a good job to wrap up the overall plot and clarify the functionality of some people throughout.
I think in general that this book will garner mixed reviews. While the content is original and with depth, the material doesn’t present the “feel-good” atmosphere many readers are looking for. Oppression, slavery, and mistreatment of humans aren’t light topics to discuss, nor should be glanced over lightly. Despite this fact, I appreciated the author’s ingenuity with the subject-matter and creating a world that is dynamic and believable.
“Ignorance bred fear, as Father was fond of saying, and fear bred obedience.”