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Gilded Cage is a debut novel, and the first installment of a trilogy that is sure to impress. A combination of dark magic, political drama, and a forbidden romance, this novel is a piece of work that anyone can find entertainment in, and it’s definitely worth a read.
This novel tells the story of the Jardines and the Hadleys, in alternating points of view. The Jardines are Equals, the people with magic (“Skill” in this novel) who hold all of the power, and have the highest positions in the government. The Hadleys are Common, the Unskilled, who are bound to ten slaveyears under the control of the Skilled.
The stories collide in the opening pages of the novel, when the Hadleys are sent to the Jardines, and then separated. Luke is sent to a slavetown, while the rest of his family stay with the Jardine family at their estate, Kyneston.
The story is told from multiple perspectives, most of the time spent is either with Luke, or with his older sister, Abi. Luke’s story turns into the center of the rebellion that is sure to come, while Abi falls slowly in love with one of the Jardines, Jenner.
Sadly, we don’t get much of the Jardine boys, even though I fell in love with all three of them within pages of reading their stories. Gavar is the eldest, and the heir of Kyneston. Jenner is the middle son, and Skilless. Silyen is the youngest, and arguably the most powerful of the three.
The brother we spend the most time with is Gavar, and I think that’s important, though I wish we had more of each of them. Jenner doesn’t get his own say in the story, and is only presented through other character’s perspectives. The same goes with Silyen. He has one chapter that’s his own, and then the rest is presented through other character’s perspectives. Because of this, he’s presented as a very creepy person. I hope to learn more about him in the next installment.
While the break in perspective was nice, I wish that it had been equal between the characters. We have ten chapters with Luke, seven with Abi, and two with Gavar. The remaining five chapters are split between Leah (a dead slave who is the mother to Gavar’s Skilless daughter, Libby), Euterpe (a comatose aunt), Bouda (Gavar’s betrothed), and Silyen, which I don’t think necessarily needed to be there to move the plot along.
In fact, I even found myself disengaged at these points in the story. No matter how well written, these sections were just boring. Unless the characters become more important, these sections are rather useless, and feel like they’re just there to take space while we wait for the real action.
The thing I found most intriguing is the world Miss James puts us in. It’s modern times, but it feels like it’s the 1950’s because of the slavetowns and what they do in the slavetowns. You don’t really think much of factories in 2016, so it sets a tone of being in the past, and it feels confusing and unclear. On the other side, you have Kyneston, which couldn’t be more different. It’s an estate, and the way that the government is run, it feels like we’re in the 1920’s so again, confusing and unclear.
None of the characters were given extremely detailed physical descriptions, either, and I’m not sure if I like that or not. A lot of the other things that I have that I dislike are nit-picky, but one of the parts I found most interesting is that the parents weren’t/aren’t killed.
Normally in fantasy, you get rid of the parents. If the parents aren’t present, there aren’t rules, and you’re free to have the adventures be as creative as you want them to be. In Harry Potter, Harry is an orphan. In the Hunger Games, Katniss is separated from her mother and her father is dead, in Divergent, Tris is separated from her parents when she turns to Dauntless.
In this novel, they’re all safe and happy, for the most part, at Kyenston Estate. Their parents are barely even heard from. So why not just get rid of them instead of having them be in the background?
I also found Luke’s story to be more interesting when he was away from his family, than when he’s with them. Once he’s with his family, a lot of the book feels like filler content until everything happens all at once in the end.
All I can say, is that Luke’s story is about to get a lot more interesting.
All in all, this was a good read. I recommend it, just give it a little time to develop, like with any fantasy. Once you hit page fifty, you won’t be able to put it down.