Gilded Cage by Vic James – eARC review

Gilded Cage by Vic James

Series: Dark Gifts (#1)
: February 14th 2017 by Del Rey Books
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 368p
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★☆

Not all are free. Not all are equal. Not all will be saved.

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?

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

4.5/5 stars. This is leaps and bounds beyond any YA ‘political intrigue’ fantasy I’ve read in recent memory, especially as it contains actual politics. *gasp* This was the literary equivalent of being lured down a dark alley and choked. My chest genuinely hurt from anxiety during the last few chapters.

Twists that are actually twists! Some twists you can figure out yourself! Actual politics! Magic! What a world.

Some of the Jardines do occasionally feel like mouthpieces for exposition (like revealing their evil plans/history a la Scooby Doo or Superman). I, at least, was able to wave this away easily enough: Jenner is lonely and sad, Silyen is a sociopathic braggart, magical protection, yadda yadda. Apart from the characters that weren’t seen often, the cast felt really solid and well-rounded (though it could’ve done with being a bit more obviously diverse).

Silyen reminded me a lot of The Jackal from Pierce Brown’s Red Rising – at least before The Jackal was more deus ex machina than character. I was maybe a little too invested in these characters, Abigail and Silyen in particular, and can certainly see myself picking up book two. Also, bonus points for zero implication of a future love triangle. Hooray!

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