Gilded Cage by Vic James
Genre: YA Fantasy/Dystopian
It’s been a while since I’ve read and really enjoyed a young adult dystopian novel, in part because they all feel the same. There are so many repeated themes that I get bored with them quickly. When I saw the synopsis for Vic James’s Gilded Cage, though, I started to hope that it would be different from the rest, and luckily, it didn’t let me down.
In Gilded Cage, James creates a world in which the Equals (not equal, just skilled with some kind of magic) run everything, and everyone else is required to complete ten years of slave labor. The concept for this world is interesting and unique, and I enjoyed learning about it and seeing how the characters navigated this place with all its complexities.
The book jumps around to different characters’ points of view, and I did enjoy this. It made me keep reading to get to the next part of a particular person’s story. I liked how everything eventually intersected, bringing the characters together despite their seemingly different paths earlier on. I also enjoyed that the characters weren’t black and white; even the people who are seemingly the bad guys have some redeeming qualities (most of the time) and it was hard to predict exactly what they were going to do.
I really liked the Jardine characters. I felt that they were supposed to be villains, but they were also fairly well-rounded. I enjoyed seeing how they would respond to the situations they were in and how they created their own fates by manipulating the people around them. I didn’t love the Hadleys, especially the parents. How can you just make a decision to have your children be slaves for ten years at young ages without even talking to them about it? Still, I did like seeing how Daisy and Abi adjusted to their new lives, even if I didn’t love the choices they made.
What I really didn’t like was the author’s treatment of Luke. It seemed like he was just a pawn to move things along. How do we make things worse for the heroes? Hurt Luke, of course! From the beginning to the end, I felt that he was the character with the least amount of agency, and that bothered me. Even his ten-year-old sister Daisy managed to be able to make decisions that moved the plot forward without something just happening to her. But Luke? Nope. He has to be the target of every bad twist of fate. It bugged me that these things just kept happening to him. It didn’t seem like he was really able to make any choices for himself, except maybe for a little bit at Millmoor (the slavetown he’s sent to). I really wish that he’d been more in control of his own life.
Overall, though, I did really enjoy reading this! I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it went, and I honestly didn’t put it down from start to finish. I look forward to reading more from this author and the next book in the series. I gave it four stars.
*ARC from Del Rey via NetGalley