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.
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.
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?