Gilded Cage by Vic James
Release: February 14th 2017
I almost put this book down— but I am glad I didn’t. Though it wasn’t a beloved- OMG- sweep me off my feet book like all the reviews and publisher kept saying, I am intrigued. I’m not going to declare a fandom status, it will however go on my shelf and remind me not to judge a book too quickly. After about 70 pages, if I’m not interested I normally give up, that’s just me, but I won this ARC from Goodreads and I just kept hoping to feel the magic that everyone else was feeling. Now, I will never say I’m an amazing book reviewer, but everything I say comes from my heart in an honest matter. I simply cannot force myself to love something just because everyone else does, that’s not me. Back to Gilded Cage: I spent ten chapters wanting something, hoping it would come after one more page— I wanted a reason to love this book. And I got a spark, not a flame or kindling, but a spark of what lies beneath the surface. About 100 pages in (chapter 10) I started enjoying myself. But let’s start with what is Gilded Cage about, shall we?
Gilded Cage is set in a modern English society where there is a class hierarchy based if you are Skilled or unSkilled (magic or no magic you might say). The story follows the Hadley family, an unskilled family starting their “slavedays”, a period of ten years given to the workforce that reminds the unSkilled they are indebted to the Skilled for keeping society from chaos. The eldest daughter, Abi, gets the entire family assigned to one of the lush Skilled mansions, the Jardines, but things don’t go as planned. Luke Hadley is reassigned to Millmoor, the slavedays factory town. As all the Hadley family members adjust to their new lives, the Jardines are faced with their own dilemmas and family issues. Each have their own prerogative, their own use for each other, but both the Hadley and the Jardines become linked through a series of events that rock both unSkilled and Skilled society alike.
Sounds intriguing, right? I was thrilled to have it arrive, but things are not always what they seem. I felt the letter from the editor was a bit over zealous, claiming Gilded Cage was “destined to become a phenomena”. That’s where the skeptic stalked in. I’m a picky reader as is, and I have no problem telling people my true opinion, so when I started reading and hesitated, I wasn’t so sure I could finish.
At first the writing seems a bit distant, which was a red flag for me. Could I enjoy a story with this much distance between characters and the reader? Between the story and me? But I continued. The first few chapters weren’t much, mostly situating the reader in the world and introducing the large cast of characters to come. I didn’t feel connected, which made it difficult to keep going, until I hit chapter ten.
So, what’s so special about chapter ten? Why read 126 pages to finally get into a book? (Well it was better than the 200+ pages of trying to get into A Court of Thorns and Roses! Yikes! That was hard to push through. And even then— it was Meh.) Because finally at this point there was something interesting, that glint of gold buried away and finally unearthed— and it involved Silyen, the middle Jardine son. From this point on the story picks up, the characters come alive, and I enjoyed each moment. Each chapter had something new to introduce, a thread that kept getting pulled, unraveling more intrigue with each turn.
The characters I enjoyed the most are Silyen and Bouda. If there were a sass meter, these two get the best award for this book (But Nina from Crooked Kingdom is a Sass level MASTER! There are few who can compare.) Characters define whether I love a book or not, and I feel that while I want to love these characters, there is something blocking that connection, but maybe in the second book we can get to explore them a bit further.
Overall, Gilded Cage was good. Not great or fantastic, but an enjoyable read. I recommended this book based off the assumption that I’m just a very picky reader (and always have been). If you love magic and social structure and intrigue (minus over-the-top romance, because YUCK! Who wants that?) then you’ll probably fall for Gilded Cage. Definitely give it until later on to make a decision, I was pleasantly surprised by the turns it took. And though I don’t love Gilded Cage, I do have to say it has potential to grow.