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?
Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book, to be published February 14th, 2016, via the publisher in exchange for a honest review. These opinions are my own.
All around, Gilded Cage is worth a look at. Richly imagined and well thought-through, it’s an experience to walk through the book’s brutal world. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, from the mysterious Silyen to the quiet force that is Abby, and the differing POVs made the plot come together in pleasantly surprising ways.
In the beginning, I was confused by the storyline and the world that they were living in. I wasn’t sure if it was fantasy or a dystopia or realistic fiction. When I read the blurb over again, it wasn’t much help, and I actually thought the writing was shaky because of the author’s insistence on using “sis” instead of sister on way too many occasions. But once I got past my initial impressions, I found myself really getting drawn into the story.
Gilded Cage sets itself up quickly and realistically, and a few things happened in the beginning that made me excited to see what would happen next with every page. The first had to do with the characters.
James is the kind of author who makes you sympathize with each character and see his or her side of the story. I could see the perspectives of the aristocrats, who can sometimes do terrible things, and I even saw a bit of characters like Kaz Brekker in all of Silyen’s (which sounds too much like Sylvan) scheming. From the youngest person to the oldest, each character surprised me. There’s Daisy, Abi and Luke’s younger sister, who’s only ten but can hold her own on the estate that her family’s working on. And there’s the Chancellor, a mighty aristocrat who brings up the incredibly unpopular idea of abolition for the chance to get the love of his life back.
The second thing that surprised me was how well the world unfolded. Yes, things were a bit unclear in the beginning, but I quickly came to realize what Abi and Luke’s situation was and what this new world was like.
I’ll be honest–one of my main issues with Gilded Cage is how unattached and unaffected the writing is. As much as I appreciated the characters, I never loved them or felt any personal attachment to them. It’s one of those good stories that’s exactly that–a good story and nothing more.
Despite that, I was surprised by the shocks of viciousness that woke me up while I was reading Gilded Cage and that significantly added to the world that James built up. There are moments of clarity that went straight through me and made even more of an impression because of how sleepy the writing is in general. Unfortunately, I found that these moments weren’t used to their full potential. At the end of certain clever chapter-outs, I found myself looking forward to that character’s POV again… only for the timeline to have moved much farther along. It was disappointing to see, and it only continued over the course of the story.
I was impressed with Gilded Cage at the start and way through the middle, but it got a point where not a whole lot was happening. The story was all set up with nowhere to go. The pacing dragged, and I found that I’d encountered another The Jewel. It had incredibly promise and a disturbingly fantastic world, but the plot wasn’t going anywhere intriguing.
I know I’m the black sheep when it comes to this novel, and I’ll probably still pick up the second book to see how things go, but I was disappointed in the ending of Gilded Cage. As of right now, I probably wouldn’t recommend it just because there are so many great books with political feels to them (namely, The Winner’s Curse and Red Queen), but if you’re interested in it after this review, I would say give it a try! Overall, it wasn’t enough for me, but I definitely want to see more from this author.