Gilded Cage by Vic James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
*I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways*
Okay, I took a while to not only really gather my thoughts for this review but to also decide on how many stars I honestly thought it deserved. I've settled on 3 stars, and I'll explain my reasoning when I get there.
The main basis to go into this book is to understand the rules of the world and in Gilded Cage, aristocrats with magical abilities, known by everyone as Equals, are in charge of everything and everyone. The commoners have to serve 10 years of their lives in service to the Equals as slaves. They can mostly choose when they serve, and some can even apply for certain job positions to serve their time, but they have to serve as slaves.
The book started out strong, with a prologue about a character and a set of circumstances that had me immediately interested in everything about the book. However, the book then shifts to the story of the Hadley family. It turns out, the parents and their eldest daughter have discussed the future and decided for everyone else that it is time for the family to serve their slave years. And this was where my first quibble came into question.
Drawbacks of the book:
1. Personally, I feel like there is too much choice involved in a world where having to be a slave is the way of life for the commoners. It's bad enough that they have to be a slave but what is the point of getting to choose when you go into service? And even worse, why do kids have to go into service if their parents sign them up for the slave years before they have reached the age of 18? Why can't these commoners move to a different country, one where the slave years aren't in effect anymore? How is it that these slave years are even an accepted norm anymore, especially when there were hints given that some places in the world had done away with it? There are too many questions about the whys of this world. If you're going to take away 10 years of their lives, don't leave the characters with the illusion of a choice. The main takeaway is that common people have to go into service and as slaves, they have no rights to protest where they end up or what treatment they receive after that point.
2. My next quibble was Abi and her storyline which, according to the summary attached to the book, involves falling in love with one of the sons of the family she serves. It was her bright idea to apply to work as houseslaves for an aristocrat family, which is how they end up serving the Jardine family. Some of her family end up in worse places than they expected and they can't change that because as slaves, they have forfeited all of their rights as people. Abi's initial thoughts are to figure out how she can fix the mess but instead, she falls in love in what felt like 2 seconds, and spent the rest of her chapters throughout the book frustrated because the noble-born son is not acting on his feelings towards her. She was stubborn, arrogant and naive, resulting in her being the weakest character of the book.
3. Finally, the pacing was something of an annoyance in this book. There were several instances of chapters ending on some disturbing reveal, only for the story to pick up again with that character in a completely different situation several weeks later. Eventually the reveal is spoken of again, some detail is given, but the emphasis the reveal was supposedly given as a cliffhanger to keep you reading is always a let down. Also, the passage of time was never clear. The events always seemed to follow one after the other so imagine my surprise when one character says its been 6 months that they have been in service. How does that figure? I would suggest that maybe there be a countdown attached to the chapters that are from the point of view of the known slaves. Maybe something like "Day 106 of service", or even go the other way and say "3,500 days left", something to show that the events are moving along at a certain pace. Otherwise, certain developments feel like they happened in the blink of an eye compared to other parts of the book.
So why the 3 Star Rating?
The rest of the characters.
When the story followed Luke, Silyen, Euterpe, Gavar, even Bouda, all of my past quibbles weren't so noticeable. I was involved in their stories, well, except for Bouda, and I cared about their struggles. I was surprised that I even liked Gavar as a character, considering what I'd seen of him in other character chapters. I liked their developments, I wanted to see how they overcame their obstacles. And the part of the book that made this 3 stars instead of 2? There was this reveal in the end, something I kind of figured out a page or two before it came to light, but when it happened I thought, wow, that's the kind of thing I was hoping for overall in this book. That reveal was tiny, maybe not even a big deal, but if you go over the book, you can see where the bits of it were planted and as a result the payoff when it came about was the kind that made me smile.
I can only hope that Abi matures considerably in the next book. Also, I hope to see even more of Luke and Silyen specifically, followed by Gavar and Euterpe. Basically, if the next books followed only those characters, I would be one happy camper.
Overall, there was a lot of good things in this book and I liked it for the most part. I'll read the next book when it's released.
Rating: 6.5 Stars
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