Closing the book after reading the final few sentences, I felt as though all air had been pulled from my lungs. The only thing I was able to say aloud?
That was the culmination of my time reading Gilded Cage by Vic James, in a lucky bout after receiving an advanced copy of the novel at Octobers NYC Wattcon event, co-hosted by the author. Of course, coming home with awesome new reads is a perk of attending any writing conference, and Wattcon’s are no different. The variety, the interaction with the writers, and the insight into their inspirations make you excited to dive in to your new treasures as you cradle the books against you all the way home.
But nothing could have prepared me for reading this particular book.
With a release date schedule for February 14, 2017, please don’t confuse the romantic tenor of the day to insinuate that the book is light and fluffy. Because I assure you, it is not. It is a beautifully spun tale of fear, triumph, bravery, torture, torment and loss all bound into a glorious paperback.
I believe my first description of the story to my husband was ‘deliciously dark’. And that theme carried throughout the book.
The back cover gives a gentle nudge to the world created by James in the pages:
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 Englands grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.
A girl thirsts for love and knowledge.
Abi is a servant to Englands most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of their noble born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the families 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 be liberate, or destroy?
Intriguing, yes? Well, James delivers big time, weaving together a powerfully gripping tale that can only be described as Harry Potter meets Hunger Games meets 1984. The gallantry and ferocity of the Equals, matched against the determination and oppressive world of the commoners, to fight for what each side believes to be right.
But, beyond the politics, is the true lives each side is forced to endure; an Equal forced to marry for status to a woman he loathes. A man hiding in a world of strangers, trying to change it all. All the while, a dark, mysterious, and sometimes sinister Equal lurks, whom you know early on is the master of his own game.
The world building, while set in a modern day England with a skewed history without the monarchy, is exceptionally played out. You find yourself balanced between depictions of historical England, with modern day touches that could easily meld into reality.
The story jumps from one key player to another in each chapter, which also allows you insight into their thoughts and lives beyond the outward appearances they rely so heavily on. You end up feeling for certain characters further into the story that you began the journey despising. Surprising, yes, but I have to admit I ended the book understanding their plight.
In the end, you are literally left mentally screaming NOOOOO and frantically turning the pages. You want more. You need more…YOU MUST HAVE MORE.
Will you have more? I certainly hope so, and definitely messaged James in a frantic VIC WRITE FOR ME plea and may have been a little incoherent. I’m not sorry though.
Now, I know it’s a little early to be making Valentines Day plans, but if you’re like me and hate the whole busy restaurants, loud bars and hoopla, definitely pick up your copy of Gilded Cage when it is released. It will satisfy both the literary craving and dark side of possibility that we all secretly love, and is the perfect excuse to stay in with a hot tea and warm slippers.
Well done, Vic…you have gained another fan!