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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book Review: Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts) by Vic James

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts)
by Vic James
February 14, 2017
Del Rey
368 pages
A darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule, and commoners are doomed to serve—for readers of Victoria Aveyard and Susanna Clarke


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 their 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 a great story. Imagine having to give 10 years of your life to a ruling class as part of your civic duty. When would be the most convenient 10 years? Early in adulthood? Later when you have established a career and family? Hmm. Of course this 10 years is spent in slave like conditions, some dangerous, some demeaning but always without retaining your rights as a free person.

The "Equals", or ruling family, all possess Skills; the author's term for magic or powers. They use it to maintain their lifestyles and impose their will on the common constituents. The story reads as if set in feudal times but scenes hint at setting in a more modern era. Either way, my mind kept seeing slaves, lords and caste systems and I had difficulty seeing any present day correlation (maybe futuristic?)

This follows a family of 5 committed to doing their 10 years of service when their youngest child turned 10. With expectations of all 5 serving in one of the ruling houses of "Equals" they are devastated to find that the one and only son is being separated and sent to a workhouse community where physical danger is an everyday occurrence. He is just 16 but finds his way to help in an underground group trying to make life a little more livable in the community. Putting his life on the line daily to assist his fellow resident.

The rest of his family are serving in various capacities at the estate of one of the Equals. Demeaning servitude, although at a safer and more aesthetic setting, still takes a toll on the oldest daughter who falls in love with one of the "non-skilled" sons of the Equals. Taboo in triplicate.

The story follows all the perils of the family and their desire to be reunited. With no rights of their own, they are definitely caught in a "cage" not of their making.

I loved the characters, loved the storyline and thought it a great take on oppression of the masses and rebellions that must be in everyone's mind. I did however find myself skipping forward in some parts and riveted to the page in others. The ending left me a somewhat cold but surely there will be at least a sequel in the future!

Getting 4 "fly me outta here" sheep

Jeanie G

About the Author:
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 writes full time.

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.

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