I like dystopian fiction, in fact I could say it is one of my favorite genres… but even though I dove into this book expecting to like it, I was still blown away. Gilded Cage is everything a dystopian book worm could want, and more. It has magic, it has doomed love, it has a flawlessly built backstory and world for the characters to move through…and its themes about slavery and wealth are so spot on that they actually made me physically uncomfortable. While being a wild ride full of magic, rebellion, and seething manipulations, the book also begs the larger question of how easily could the haves establish a slave society, building their fortunes and ostentatious lifestyles on the backs of those have nots? We’ve certainly seen it in the not-so-distant past with African slavery, and in the modern caste system in India…so could it happen again where you live? And would you have the strength to resist? These are just a few of the disconcerting themes that lace their way subtly through this very excellent work of fiction.
Every character in this book is effortlessly developed and mesmerizing…with so much duality that even now, I am still unsure of the motives and allegiances of a few important characters. The basic premise, that all non-magic members of British society must give ten years of their lives as slaves to the magical elite, is fresh and new. And the moment when Abi, Luke, and their family realize that they have signed away all rights, and even their basic personhood, is the first moment when your stomach might twist uncomfortably. But, there will be plenty more moments like that, as the story progresses and the evil rot at the core of this dystopian version of Britain is gradually revealed. Abi thought she was making the best choice for her family in choosing to do their days on one of the grand estates, but she quickly realizes that the golden veneer is just that: only skin deep, and what lies beneath is horrifyingly twisted. This overarching sense of doom is nicely tempered by the budding romance between Abi and one of her masters, who by a twist of fate is non-magical, despite having been born to privilege. But will he be willing to risk it all to help Abi and her family?
The book ends with multiple cliff hangers, that have me waiting with bated breath for the next book in the series. Here’s hoping for some resolved questions, and even more uncomfortable musings…because the books that make you question yourself and the world really are the best ones. I highly recommend that you pre-order Gilded Cage today.