Title: Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)
Author: Vic James
Great for: lovers of epic fantasy adventures and coming-of-age stories.
Themes: YA, fantasy, magic, dystopian, coming-of-age, contemporary
Review: Ordinarily, absorbing fantasy adventures tend to involve complex world-building to bring the author’s creation to life. This means that the stories will initially involve a plethora of descriptions to properly acquaint the reader with the fantastical setting. By creating this story in our contemporary world, James has made the need for an overabundance of information obsolete. And by delving straight to the heart of this action-packed and high-thrills story he has made this an unforgettable and unputdownable story.
Our world is presented as both recognisable and nothing like we know it. Seen through the eyes of various members of the Hadley family, as well as the ruling class of the Equals, the reader gets a full insight into life as lived in this alternative present. The rules of this new world are quite simple: those possessing magical Skill rule. And those without it serve. Every non-magical individual must donate ten years of their life to slavery. The story opens as the five members of the Hadley family are embarking to do just that.
Despite eldest sibling, Abi’s, best efforts to keep their family together, her brother, Luke, becomes separated as they depart from their old lives. He becomes enslaved in Millmoor, the most brutal factory town in Britain, whilst herself, her parents and ten-year-old sister, Daisy, become servants to one of the aristocratic Equal families.
With the family divided, how will they survive the next ten years of captivity?
From the very first page I was enthralled by the intriguing and complex plot. Each character’s perspective added something to the story and I was equally as invested in their personal struggles. The converging of these separate narratives provided an unguessable ending and a multitude of plot twists to appear along the way.
However, it was the evocative and compelling power of the writing that truly grasped my attention. Each facet of the world, the magic system, and the society was relayed with a captivating lyrical beauty:
“A row of overalls hung on pegs like shrivelled skins, as if Millmoor had sucked the sustenance out of the bodies that wore them.”
Despite the obvious fantastical elements, this felt like a revival of the Classic British text. Using aristocracy as the locus made this a voyeuristic insight into the lives of the elite, which added a whimsical feel to the story. And the focus on both the Equal and serving families made for a good contrast and comparison. Their difference in circumstance is self-evident. Their similarities in their kismet is not as obvious…
The political intrigue of the story is the catalyst for the many fissures evident in both families. And both sides will have a part to play in the future of feudalistic Britain. I shall have to wait until the next instalment in the series to discover which side will come out on top.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Thank you to the author, Vic James, and the publisher, Pan Macmillan, for this opportunity.