*Thanks to Netgalley and Del Rey Books for an ARC in exchange for a fair review*
Gilded Cage is the debut from author Vic James. This narrative, set in Britain, supposes an alternate world where humans are either born with or without magical abilities. The Equals, aristocrats with magic, have all the power. Leaving the commoners to suffer in servitude, most often hard slave labor, for 10 years.
Behind the enchanted gates of one of the three most powerful estates, Kyneston, a great power rises that just might break their world apart.
There is a lot going on within the book. One one hand is the haves and have-nots of magical ability and how that affects the characters, the world and the driving force of politics throughout the book.
Is the adult fiction or YA? Probably a crossover for both. The driving force is the introduction of two families and how they impact each other. As commoners, the Hadley's are in a precarious place. Eldest daught, Abi, thinks she's negotiated a great deal to have her entire family serve their time together at Kyneston; however, as Equals, the Jardines break their own rules regarding keeping minor children with parents and Abi's younger brother, Luke, gets sent to the harsh labor town of Millmoor. These scenes are brutal but are the driving force for the story. While at Millmoor, Luke becomes involved with a rebel group trying to improve the lives of slaves and readers later discover that there are more connections and a lot more deceit and power struggles afoot.
The Jardines are an interesting family. Lots of highs and lows with plenty of potential for the rest of the series. Silyen is proving to be very tricky, dark and apt to show his hand at being an unhinged sociopath. If nothing else, he's creepy. Gavar's relationship with Daisy, the youngest Hadley is also unsettling and I spend part of my reading wanting to shake more sense into Jenner. For Abi, I can see the romantic appeal and attraction to the 'skilless' middle Jardine brother but she's a bit naive.
I do see potential for the series, especially with the events occurring at the novel's end for Abi and Luke. I discovered the book, thinking that it might have echoes of Harry Potter and in some ways it does. What surprised me is the bleak, dark and plain cruel nature of this society. Definitely though provoking given the state of our own world. For the next book, I do hope there is more exploration of magic.
Final rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Follow the author on Twitter: @DrVictoriaJames