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Gilded Cage (Spoiler Free!) Review

“She didn’t do people, dammit. She did books. A world of difference.”

-Vic James, Gilded Cage

Hi everyone! I’ve been meaning to get around to reading Gilded Cage by Vic James for ageees now, and when Tarnished City was released in the UK a few weeks ago, it propelled me into action! A huge thanks to the lovely people at Macmillan for sending me a copy to read.

So, Gilded City is the first book in The Dark Gifts Trilogy, and it’s an intriguing blend of dystopian and magic, check out the blurb:

A modern Britain. An age-old cruelty. 

Britain’s magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years – and now it’s the Hadley’s turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England’s most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom – or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends’ ideals might cost him everything. 

Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever. 

So this book is set in modern Britain, but it’s an alternate Britain. One where the elite ruling classes have magical powers or “Skill”, and the rest of the population have to serve them for ten years of their lives. They can take any ten years they choose, so the Hadleys have just chosen them at the start of this book as the eldest daughter, Abi, has found them what she believes to be a great position, all together at a noble family’s house, as opposed to the tough living conditions in the slave towns where most people go.

However, things rarely go as planned, and when Abi’s younger brother, Luke, ends up in that same slave town she tried to keep him out of, both Abi and Luke come across things that will change their perspectives forever.

This book was definitely more violent and horrifying than I expected it to be – not one for younger YA readers or people who don’t like that kind of thing – but it worked really well with the dystopian setting. After all, if you’re going to be discussing the concept and realities of slavery, then it’s going to be a darker book. And it made the entire plot tenser, with more at stake for the characters, and more feels for the reader, knowing what those characters are up against!

I have to admit, I found the start a little slow to get into, especially as there are quite a few different point of views with a lot of action packed into them. However, this is the case with a lot of books that have a bigger world that needs laying out, and the complex political situation in this variant of Britain needed those introductory chapters. Once I figured out who was who, I became thoroughly gripped and raced through the rest of the book! I’m actually so glad I’m reading this now because there was a huge cliffhanger at the end and luckily I have Tarnished City to dive straight into to find out what happens next! (I feel for you if you had to wait, we’ve all been there!)

I enjoyed Luke and Abi’s chapters and thought it was really intriguing to read about their introduction into their ten years of slavery and how the realities contrasted with their preconceptions of it. But I was especially interested in the character of Silyen-who doesn’t get a POV of his own in this book, so we see him through the eyes of other characters-the possessor of the dark gifts mentioned in the blurb. He was an extremely complex, compelling character that I’m dying to know more about!

Gilded Cage has a great group of multi-dimensional characters, all with their own (sometimes conflicting) agendas, set against an action packed plot with some great moments of romantic tension added in, and more than a dash of dark magic. Overall, I really enjoyed it and like I said, I’m so excited to be able to read Tarnished City straight away! I’m giving this one 4/5 stars, and I’d really recommend you read it if you’re a fan of dystopians or fantasies!

Has anyone else read this one? What did you think of it? Do you all read many dystopians? What are your faves?

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