Gilded Cage by Vic James is a really interesting story. It is one part political intrigue, one part rebellion, and the best parts of both.
The story is told from multiple viewpoints, which I quite enjoyed. I liked being able to “see” through various characters’ eyes and get a deeper understanding of the way the author’s world worked; which is, those who are Skilled are the Equals, the magic-using aristocrats of Vic James’ Britain and born to rule. Everyone else is ordinary, and condemned to 10 years worth of slavedays sometime during their lifetime. The sooner you get your slavedays in, the better your prospects and the brighter your future.
After her young sister’s tenth birthday, Abigail Hadley arranges to have her family start their slavedays together at Kyneston, a posh aristocratic household where they can hope to have a “quick ten years.” But problems arise straightaway, when her younger brother, Luke, is rejected from Kyneston and sent to Millmoor, one of the worst slavetowns in Britain. Separated, Abi and her family do their best to keep their heads down and do their jobs at Kyneston with as little fuss as possible. But Luke, alone in Millmoor, finds himself drawn into a network of intrigue and rebellion.
For the most part, I really enjoyed Gilded Cage. The worldbuilding was neat, and I liked how Skill worked. While geared to an older reader, overall the author handled a lot of the innuendo and gore with discreet class. I recommend Gilded Cage for readers of Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series, and Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse trilogy.
Review of an Advance Reading Copy
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Del Rey
Profanity/Language: 5 mild obscenities; 21 derogatory names; 4 scatological words.
Violence/Gore: Characters are occasionally pursued; a character is shot; characters are occasionally punched and/or beaten; characters are threatened; some mentions of a past murder; a character finds a dead creature; characters engage in dangerous rooftop activities; report of a past king’s death; report of a fire that killed a household; characters discuss use of torture; characters sometimes fight or argue; a character in prison is seen badly wounded; characters report violence around an escape; there are a few explosions and destruction of property, with some casualties; characters discuss rebellion; there is reference to a trauma that disfigured someone; a character is choked with someone’s magical Skill; a character uses Skill to throw someone across a room; a mob threatens guards; a character is chased by another with intent to harm; characters riot, with some description of gore and death; a character wakens in a transport in injured condition; a character is left to freeze to death; a character relates why he was condemned to a torturous existence; a character describes a suicide, and vengeance killing of an entire family (not overly graphic, but a bit disturbing); a character calls someone a child-killer; a character uses Skill to force someone into violent action; there are some flashbacks to past violence and death; a character is accused of murder; a character wakes in a pool of blood; a character’s Skill is forcibly removed, with some description of violence; characters occasionally attack others.
There is a scene near the end that is a bit more descriptive in terms of blood and gore, with description of bits you didn’t know might be a person, blood surprisingly bright, bodies described whole or in pieces and some graphic details of wounds and injuries.
Sex/Nudity: A character reveals an illegitimate child; characters occasionally hug or kiss each other; a character is described as naked and on a leash (not sexual, but may be disturbing); a character mocks someone’s slave-born brat; there is mention of someone being inappropriately involved with another; mention of pregnancy; characters are seen “snogging” (kissing); several instances where a naked “dog-man” (a person punished into the form of man and dog) is described; a character wears a dress slashed to the small of her back; a male character drags a female character close, touching her back and her throat (not overly sexual); a female character clutches a male character’s arm; innuendo implied of sexual activity (not shown, not graphic); a deceased character is reported to have been raped; a character wears a dress that gapes wide across the breastbone.
Mature Subject Matter:
Slavery, murder, child born out of wedlock, assassination, suicide, gossip, rape, torture.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Characters try to bribe morphine from another; characters often drink wine, whiskey, scotch and/or other spirits; a character applies analgesics to an injury; a character is thought to have drunk too much; characters smoke cigarettes and cigars on occasion; characters pass around illegal “hooch”; characters are sometimes drunk or nearly drunk; a character is described as sherry-scented; a character smokes a cigarillo; drinks are served at a reception.