Gilded Cage

February 14, 2017
Gilded Cage Book Cover Gilded Cage
Dark Gifts, #1
Vic James
Del Rey Books
February 14th, 2017

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.

Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

A boy dreams of revolution.

Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.

And an aristocrat will remake the world with his dark gifts.

He is a shadow in the glittering world of the Equals, with mysterious powers no one else understands. But will he liberate—or destroy?

(Via Goodreads)

Guys! I’m actually posting an ARC review on the publication date! #Winning

I am not one to read hyped books. When I found this book on NetGalley, I read the description and knew I had to read it. After all, this was described as magical realism meets dystopian Britain. How could I not read it? Requested. Approved. Psyched! And yet… This was before the hype. Once Gilded Cage started to be hyped up around the blogs and social media I thought I was in trouble. In the end, I wasn’t in as much trouble as I had anticipated. While I didn’t fall completely in love with this book, I know I will read the entire series.

Our setting is a stereotypical dystopia. In an alternate-universe, the Equals have risen to power. They possess Skills, magical abilities, and in one swoop took over the governance of the entire world. In each part of the world, Equals rule differently. In Britain, those without powers are required to commit 10 years of servitude to the Equals. In most cases, these are in harsh work camps where you can practically smell the want for rebellion…

And he remembered Renies words when he’d done his first job for her: Millmoor changes people. But you get to choose how.

Right off the bat, I struggled with a lot of the world building. James did a great job showing us how the other side lives by alternating perspectives between characters living in the Millmoor work camp and those living on Kyneston Estates, where one of the most powerful Equal families lives. But, how we got to this point is fuzzy. We have the work camps, but what do they do? Why are they doing it? What makes the Equals so stupid and heartless to think that they need this? Where did these powers come from (silly mythology story aside)? Why has there only been one revolution EVER? I was left with more questions than answers. And I was frustrated.

I also struggled with the multiple points of view. There were seven different perspectives in this first book, all of whom are introduced in the first half of the book. It was challenging to keep everyone straight, and honestly, it made the story less interesting. It was distracting for the first 45%-ish but eventually, I got used to it and appreciated it. My least favorite narrator is Abi. She is predictable and the least interesting in my opinion. But that could be because she is surrounded by other stronger characters. I have high hopes for her in the next book, however…

And what did you say to that? Abi’s mind raced for an answer, but found none. She didn’t do people, dammit. She did books. A world of difference.

I can see where James is going in the future. She packed a ton into this first book, and I was on the edge of my seat for the entire second half of the book. These are complicated characters with complicated motivations. Take Silyen Jardine. He is arguably the most mysterious and complex character in this series. He is the first to take up the stance of abolition. But not because he is compassionate or concerned in any way about what slavery does to the economy. No, he is motivated by the belief that Equals have grown lazy in their exercise of power. Personally, I think he wants to see the slavedays stripped away so he can have direct control over the masses. Creepy. James did a wonderful job dropping clues to the reader throughout, but I was still shocked by many of the twists and turns taken in this novel.

Or were some people really subject to such constant storms of feeling? Garvar was, Silyen supposed. It must be exhausting. 

By the end, however, I was hooked. James’s voice is unique. The story is a bit of a regurgitation at first, but it quickly evolves into something exciting and refreshing. Mostly, I am intrigued by the moral compass and ethics of the different characters. I am also interested to see if the other countries of the world get involved as more political intrigue and potential rebellion unfurls. We shall see.

Recommended to all lovers of dystopian YA. For sure.

I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Del Ray Books in exchange for an honest review. Check out more about Del Ray Books and Vic James on their respective websites. 

What do you think?

  • Do you think YA dystopian literature is still at the same place it was when Hunger Games came out?
  • How do you cope with poor world building? Have you ever loved a series which started out with bad worldbuilding?
  • How do you feel about multiple points of view?


  • Resh Susan @ The Book Satchel February 14, 2017 at 9:06 am

    I am glad you liked the read inspite of finding some difficulty with the large number of POVs. I have been seeing negative reviews of Gilded cage everywhere. This is a nice change.

    • Jackie B February 14, 2017 at 11:49 am

      Thanks! I haven’t seen many reviews for this book, but that doesn’t surprise me that most are negative. There is a lot of potential here. I hope the series improves as it continues!

  • Brendon February 14, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Great review! I tend to like multiple perspectives myself but to have 7 in the first 150 pages seem rough. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    • Jackie B February 14, 2017 at 11:51 am

      Exactly. I think if the POVs had been fewer I would have been hooked sooner. C’est la vie!

  • ChicNerdReads February 14, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    I DNFed this book not because it was bad but because of everything that’s going on in the country. I read to escape. However! I did get to 45-50% of the book and felt the same as you with the different perspectives. I also thought it was pretty slow paced. I liked that we got to see Abi and her brothers side for this dystopian. Cause we see inside and out. I have seen the same concerns in other reviews that the other books in this series might be more promising and a lot of questions weren’t answered. I hope the other books do come around. I would like to finish this but when I’m in the mood. Great review!

    • Jackie B February 14, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      Yeah, it’s not a great time to be an American (particularly an non-white non-male American) and read dystopian right now. I had a friend who had started The Handmaid’s Tale right before the election. She obviously had to immediately stop. I don’t blame either of you! It’s scary thinking how quickly things could collapse…
      Here’s hoping future books are AMAZING. With all the hype this one got, I am looking forward to it having a killer conclusion. You know. In a year or 5. O_o

  • LizScanlon February 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    Love your review… the very first review I ever read about Gilded Cage was a 4 or 5 star review and I was like- yessir, I want to read. Then, a few days ago I read a review that wasn’t as positive and pointed out all the problem areas for the reader. I found all those points interesting. And now, your review, kind of smack in the middle… I love it.. seeing all those different yet similar issues as well as praise. I will surely try this book some day 🙂

    • Jackie B February 14, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      I think there is a ton of potential in this book, and with the rest of the series. Assuming everything continues to improve, even incrementally, I think it will be a worthwhile read. It’s really intriguing. Plus, the moral/ethical dilemmas are fascinating to me. I can understand why people would both gush and scoff. But, it’s just YA dystopia. It’s not mean to be a hugely life-changing book.
      I look forward to hearing your future opinions. Perhaps you’ll love it. Perhaps not. 😉

  • Books, Vertigo and Tea February 14, 2017 at 6:45 pm

    While I definitely think I connected with this one much more firmly than you (I may be biased because I am obsessed with dystopian reads- don’t judge haha).. It did have that same affect in the end. That is where it truly grabbed me. i thought she did a fabulous job with some characters that are shaping up to be very complex. I also loved her writing. Fab review Jackie, fab! happy VDay <3

    • Jackie B February 15, 2017 at 9:40 am

      I will certainly not judge! Dystopian literature can be amazing and everyone has their favorite genres. You are welcome to your biases. 🙂 I really hope that we get to better understand certain characters better in future books ::cough::Silyen::cough::Luke::cough::Daisy::. In fact, I am most curious to see what happens to Daisy as she grows up.
      There is a TON of potential here!

  • Shouni February 14, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    Ooo, questionable world building and unexplained powers always bother me. I actually didn’t know what Gilded Cage was about until now even though I’ve heard so many people praising it. It pretty much seems like a traditional dystopian world. It’s been a while since I read a Dystopia so I’ll probably pick this up but my expectations have decreased a little bit after your review.

    I love how you blurred the little spoiler section there. That’s so cool!

    • Jackie B February 17, 2017 at 11:24 am

      Right? I think a lot of this first book is predictably dystopian. But, after getting to the end I have hopes that the next book will take us in a fresh direction. Vic James is already proofing her next book, so we’ll know soon!

      I adore the spoiler plugin. One of the best things about being a self-hosted site. 🙂

  • YAandWine February 14, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    I’ve been really looking forward to this one. The cover is gorgeous. Too bad it didn’t quite live up to the hype for you though.

    • Jackie B February 17, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      I have hope that it will reach the hype in the next book. There are a ton of amazing things waiting to happen; I know it! 🙂

  • Laila@BigReadingLife February 15, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    I enjoyed reading your review! I read another one a few days ago that was mostly positive as well, but mentioned similar concerns. I don’t think this is a fit for my tastes, but you did a wonderful job describing it!

    • Jackie B February 17, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks, Laila! I’m glad I can help people parse through their TBR. There are so many books, and so little time.

  • Marie February 18, 2017 at 2:14 am

    Lovely review! I always have a bit of trouble with so many different POV, and I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m a bit nervous about picking up this book. That, and all of the hype surrounding it ahah. I’m glad that you still enjoyed it enough to want to know what happens next 🙂

    • Jackie B February 19, 2017 at 10:36 pm

      Thanks, Marie! I often avoid hyped books… this was actually one I picked up on NetGalley before I even saw any of the hype! So, I had hope. I also know this means I’m really interested in the premise and not the hype, which is why I have faith in the following books. Only time will tell on that front.

  • Jasmine February 18, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    Awww not a 5 stars read for you? I always wish for multiple POVs when I read because it usually explains a lot. It’s very suspenseful with Silyen. Abi seems to act smarter at the end of the book than a lovesick throughout the book. I am looking forward to finding out what her school smart brain will do. I hope you will enjoy book 2 more! Excellent review as always!

    • Jackie B February 19, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      I also enjoy reading multiple POV books, but I’m soooo particular about them! If I can’t separate the characters between chapters easily, I get frustrated. I felt better once we got later in the book and the focus was really only on 4 different perspectives instead of the initial seven. I might just have a maximum brain power for it! Perhaps I max out at 4 POVs?

      Thanks for the props. 🙂 Maybe we can buddy read book two together?

  • theorangutanlibrarian February 19, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    oh it’s a shame that it was a struggle to keep everyone straight- but it’s good that you liked this one enough to want to continue the series! Great review!

    • Jackie B February 19, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      Thanks! 🙂 Also, thanks for coming out and commenting. That means a lot to me!

  • Donna February 20, 2017 at 6:35 am

    I was really glad to read your review – all the reviews I’ve seen have been overwhelmingly positive and I just wasn’t feeling it. I was starting to think I’d missed something! Your review matched how I felt much more – there’s potential there, but it wasn’t quite fulfilled in this book. Great review!

    • Jackie B February 20, 2017 at 10:35 am

      Thanks, Donna! It’s nice to find a like-minded fellow reviewer. Sometimes, particularly with hyped books, I feel like I’m bursting bubbles. Oops! It’s great to know I’m not alone in my opinions. 🙂 I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

  • Jasmine February 21, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    Yes, we can plan on the buddy read. Hopefully they will put book 2 on NetGalley too 🙂

    • Jackie B February 22, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      Yay!!! It’s earmarked on my To Do list. 😀 I haven’t done a buddy read across blogs before. I’m looking forward to it.

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom February 24, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    I’m pretty much burnt out on the YA dystopia genre, so I decided to hold off on reading any more books within this genre for a little while.

    I’ve seen some fairly mixed reviews for this one. It sounds like there is a lot of info dump going on in the first half along with multiple perspectives? Sounds a little busy…

    • Jackie B February 26, 2017 at 9:53 pm

      Yeah. It is definitely busy- that’s a great way to describe it! If you are feeling burned out on dystopian lit, I would avoid this. Particularly since it’s really just setting you up for the future books. If the rest of the series is amazing, I’ll let you know. 🙂

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