Gilded Cage by Vic James

Rating 9.5/10
Ms. James writes with the skill of someone who has been an author for decades

A Recommended Book of the Month

England is no longer the England that we are all familiar with. In this alternate England, everyone is by no means equal and all are not citizens with full rights. It is an England now ruled by a select few aristocratic families or “Equals” touched with a special magic called the skill. This magic can burn entire buildings to the ground, influence people’s thought and actions, and in some cases even kill. Those who wish to become citizens with full rights must serve the Equals as indentured servants or even worse, be shipped to a factory slave town called Millmoor. There they will serve as slaves for a full decade of their lives under horrendous living conditions and harsh supervision. The most prominent of these Equals are the Jardines. Their family was the first to impose the Slavedays Compact upon the citizenry hundreds of years prior. Consequently, they now hold a place of great prominence, prestige, and influence in the council government. Yet there are secrets buried within the musty library inside the Jardine estate which if uncovered, could change the course of England’s future and may potentially reveal the secrets behind what led to the heinous compact that now keeps all commoners under the boot of tyranny and oppression. There are those; however, who want the Slavedays to end and are working behind the scenes to force a vote within the council eliminating the barbaric compact forever. They, along with a small rebellious faction who have risen up within the factory slave town of Millmoor to fight for their freedom, may ultimately be the key to ending the scourge of the Equals once and for all.

Vic James is a new writer who has emerged on the scene with great fanfare. Ms. James completed her doctorate in the Vatican Secret Archives, which I found incredibly interesting. Gilded Cage is her first book, which makes what she has accomplished here all the more impressive. I have wanted to read and review Gilded Cage for quite some time as I kept hearing the comparisons to Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I’m a huge fan of the Victorian-era magic theme and so I went on a quest to track down an ARC (the release date for Gilded Cage is scheduled for February of 2017) so that I could see for myself what the buzz was about. After reading Gilded Cage, I will say that the comparisons to Clarke are only valid when it comes to the splendid quality of the writing. For when I actually immersed myself in the story, it bore little resemblance to that 19th century time period and plot. The crux of the story of Gilded Cage takes place in a modern day England, albeit a significantly alternate modern day England. Yes, the feel of the writing and specific settings do strike one as Victorian in nature, but that is part of the brilliance of the book. You can’t really pin down a specific time, and so the reader is left to appreciate the story instead of focusing on when in history this is occurring. It lends a uniqueness and freshness to the story as well as a very good mystery. The aspect that really made this book work for me was that I was constantly kept guessing and wondering what was truly going on throughout the entire book. I knew there was something that the author wasn’t revealing and Ms. James would give a snippet here, and a clue there, which I thought worked beautifully. The archaic practice of the Slavedays is a brutal but intriguing premise and ultimately I wanted to find out how that came about and to what ends was this practice initiated. Ms. James writes with the skill of someone who has been an author for decades. I was blown away by how beautiful the prose was and that just lent more effectiveness to the story for me. I haven’t read a book like Gilded Cage in a long time. It disturbed me at times, moved me to moments of joy, made me angry, and also created a sense of wonder in my mind that only a skilled author can deliver. 

In the end I was left emotionally spent and wanting another book to read immediately so that I can find out more about this amazing world that Vic James has envisioned. Extremely impressed is all I can really say. I recommend this to everyone regardless of what genre is your favorite. Even though it would be classified as Dystopian, the story is so well-written and compelling that any reader can appreciate and enjoy it. The good news is that Gilded Cage is just the first book of a planned multi-book series called The Dark Gifts. So there’s a lot more coming and I for one am happy to hear that. I really can’t wait to see where Vic James takes this series next. She’s an incredibly gifted author who should be making huge literary waves for years to come.

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All reviews for: The Dark Gifts Trilogy

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