Book Review: GILDED CAGE by Vic James

Title in black on white next to gold bird in a cage
Genre: Dystopia
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: yes - first book of trilogy


Book cover for GILDED CAGE: title in black on white above a gold cage

In modern-day Britain, magic users control everything: wealth, politics, power—and you. If you’re not one of the ultimate one-percenters—the magical elite—you owe them ten years of service. Do those years when you’re old, and you’ll never get through them. Do them young, and you’ll never get over them.

In the darkly glittering milieu move the all-powerful Jardines and the everyday Hadleys. The families have only one thing in common: Each has three children. But their destinies entwine when one family enters the service of the other. They will all discover whether any magic is more powerful than the human spirit.

Have a quick ten years. . . .

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


GILDED CAGE is an engaging start to a fantasy-leaning dystopia series.

The set up is pretty typical for the genre (magically gifted rulers oppressing the ungifted majority, relying mainly on the world’s set up to keep the lower classes in place but falling back on their powers if need be.) The girl falls for one of the overlords, the overlords are all scheming among themselves for power, the leads are going to be part of an uprising (though that’s not this book and the leads themselves don’t have powers), etc.

However, it’s a lot of fun. It’s quick and easy to read, with nice pacing. It’s the sort of book I pick up when I don’t want to have to think too much, as I can predict what’s going to happen but enjoy just watching it play out. There were a few moments which surprised me (always a bonus) and the writing was very nice.

It’s set in an alternative Britain where the history from about Charles I is very different, when the current regime was put into power. The American War of Independence and Civil War, plus the French Revolution, have all gone differently and/or been about different things. Being nerdy, I really like books where the history and the consequences of the magic system have really been thought through. A lot of things had to play out differently to get to the current state of the world, and the author’s care over that really shows.

There are a lot of POVs characters, but most only get a chapter or two. Nearly all the chapters are from Abi or Luke’s perspectives, with two from Gavar Jardine, two from his betrothed Bouda, one from an aunt in a coma, and one from Silyen’s perspective. It did feel a little scattered to have all these additional POVs who we spent almost no time with floating about – and given how long the chapters are, it does constitute a sizeable chunk of the book.

However, as they weren’t consistently returning characters, there wasn’t enough time to get to know the characters or really understand what they were doing. Not to mention they were all “Equals” – aka, top of the food chain, so self-absorbed and whiny. At least with Silyen, you get the feel that he was supposed to be a villain, but it felt like the others were supposed to be a bit sympathetic, but they don’t come across that way. It felt a bit like they should have either had more page time (or chapters) to flesh them out as characters and the parts of the story they were telling (as their unique storylines were very much tertiary at best), or the bits of crucial information they were imparting given to Abi and Luke.

And onto the next book.

Read my reviews of other books by Vic James:

Dark Gifts (this series):


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