Gilded Cage, Vic James
Genre: Sci-fi and Fantasy
Well, I’ve had a fantastic year for debut books. I try to choose all reads carefully as I hate doing low star reviews but debut reads are a shot in the dark, with only a few words to decide wither its for me or no. No previous stories to tell me authors writing style, and the type of plots he/she writes so it really is a whole bran tub surprise, but I’ve unearthed some real gems for me this year. This is one of them.
I’m not really a YA reader, except for those few stories that really are suitable for any age, such as Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, and the Golden Lily spin off, Twilight ( of course), The Paper Magician trilogy, stories like these that appeal to anyone regardless of age.
A well written story does that, so though YA isn’t my preferred read I don’t rule anything out, especially in the Fantasy genre.
I did find this a little struggling to begin, I was intrigued but the to and fro of Millmoor and Kyneston settings took a while to adjust to, as did the fairly large cast of characters. Then throw in a world that is like the UK now and yet so not like it, that there’s a lot to take in. It works though, really well once I’d got that mentally mapped out.
I’ve read that the 1% v 99% dichotomy inspired this story, the haves and the have nots of money and power. Vic has replaced the money side with Skill, a magical talent. Those families who have it are called Equals, a very small proportion of the population, and they rule the rest.
The rest, the commoners, all have to do a ten year slave term at some point in their life, and families can do it together once the youngest child is 10. That’s what happens here, with eldest sister arranging – she thinks – for them all to do their 10 years at the large estate of Kyneston. That way they can all stay together, stay safe she hopes. But things go wrong, despite being only 16 Luke gets sent to Millmoor alone, separated from the family and against rules which say under 18’s stay with their parents.
Its like now though, a whole way of life ruled by red tape, and underscored by deceitful scheming and grasping for power – gosh you can tell which side I’m on in politics can’t you 😉
The story follows Luke and what happens to him, alternating to what’s going on with the rest of his family and the other inhabitants at Kyneston.
We don’t really see much about Luke’s parents but sisters Abi and Daisy figure largely. Daisy at 10 is a kind of nanny to the Heir’s illegitimate child Libby, and she adores her. Heir Gavar seems to be a strange character, a ball of anger, hates everyone it seems and yet plays the game, wants the power that will come when he succeeds his father and yet is a ball of mush when it comes to Libby and strangely gentle with Daisy.
Jenner, the middle son, is on the almost unique position of having no Skill despite coming from a strongly skilled family. Abi works with him on the admin side of running Kyneston, and we see a slow developing regard for each other growing. Forbidden of course, Equals never get involved with Commoners, its a disaster, as shown by what happened with Libby and her mum. Despite being the only grandchild her place is on sufferance only, and she’s mostly kept out of sight of the other Equals and not really spoken about.
Then there’s Silyen….he is seriously strange and yet – I can’t help feeling a soft spot for him. He’s very solitary, with the constant grasping for power no-one really seems happy, to have friends, to be close to family but he seems even more alone than the others. There’s an air of mystery about him and I feel there’s lots more to come from him.
So, in a society like this, with all its abuses there’s bound to be a revolt. So far the cruel and rigid ways have kept things controlled, but there’s a feeling of change brewing and this book heralds the start. It ends with a real – “I want the next book now, dammit” feeling for me, so I really hope books two and three are progressing well!!
Its an absorbing world, full of magic, full of cruelty, on both large and smnall scales, and the cruelty isn’t just confined to Equals, but also those commoners who’ve risen through the ranks, a -rse kissng their way into positions of power….and yet the characters are not one sided but multi faceted, so no-one is quite what they seem and the fun is working out who is really who, what place they will play in the future, and just how things are going to go, not just on the large scale but on the small one. I’m full of questions, what’s going to happen to Luke, what about Abi, will she and Jenner ever be together, will Gavar marry the fiercely ambitious Bouda as his father commands, or find a way out? What will happen to Libby, and Daisy? What about the dogman, what part is he playing, and the Doc, and Angel, Rennie and the rest of the gang…..and of course the big one. Silyen – what’s he plotting, and is it for good, for bad or just to pass the time? With him you never quite know 😉
Its a fabulous read, if Skill were real as in this book you could imagine that all these things could – and probably would 😦 – happen. A book destined to become a real Classic, a treat to read and I’m rooting for books two and three ASAP.
Stars: Five, a gem of a debut read
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher