ARC Review: Gilded Cage


Title: Gilded Cage

Author: Vic James

Series: Dark Gifts, #1

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Release Date: January 26th 2017


Four Stars

For readers of Victoria Aveyard and George RR Martin comes a darkly fantastical debut set in a modern England where magically gifted aristocrats rule and commoners are doomed to serve.


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?

– Blurb courtesy of

I received an ARC of this book free from Pan Macmillan. It in no way affects my views on Gilded Cage.

My Thoughts On…

…The Plot

“Face down on the filthy vehicle floor, pressed against strangers’ stinking boots, Luke didn’t see how anything could be more awful than what had just happened.
Millmoor would prove him wrong.”

If you had to spend ten years of your life as a slave would you rather it be when you’re young or when you’re old, and what choice would you make for your children knowing that if they complete their slavedays they will have better options when it comes to jobs and housing.

Luke is only sixteen years old when his parents sign them up for their slavedays as a family. Knowing he will spend the next decade as a slave, the best years of his life, is hard but at least they will all be together, and working at Kyneston for the Equals is better than being shipped off to Millmoor. Unfortunately for Luke the Equals at Kyneston don’t want all of them, and Luke finds himself alone heading off to Millmoor.

“She pushed away the image of dad on his knees, blood streaming down his face, and Luke being prodded into a van with a baton.
Whatever it took to make Jenner Jardine bring Luke here, Abi intended to do it. She’d started with what she did best: work.”

Abi promises to do everything in her power to get her brother back with the family and inside Kyneston where they can all complete their slavedays together. But she has very little power to do anything, and the Equal she is working for, Jenner, cannot help her anymore than she can. As Abi works with Jenner day in and day out, and her younger sister Libby works for Jenner’s older brother and the Jardine’s heir, she discovers that maybe Kyneston isn’t as safe as she first thought.

Meanwhile in Millmoor, working day in and day out at the Machine Park Zone D, Luke finds himself joining a group of fellow slaves who want to see change, who know that the conditions in Millmoor are not ideal but who believe they can do little things to help people out and make their slavedays more bearable. Then, something happens that could change everything, a motion is brought up by one of the Equals to abolish the slavedays; and for Luke and his friends at Millmoor it is a chance for rebellion.

…The Characters

“Millmoor changes people, Luke Hadley. But what most folk never realize is that you get to choose how.”

Luke doesn’t want to spend the next ten years of his life as a slave, but still under sixteen after his parents sign the forms he has no choice. When he arrives in Millmoor Luke is all alone, and he dreads spending the next ten years there. However the more time he spends with Renie and her friends the more he believes in what they are doing, and how can he help their cause if he’s in Kyneston with his family. It’s dangerous, Luke knows that, but after a while he sees the good he is doing, they are doing, and believes they really can help bring about change.

“Do be careful, Abigail,” chided the person sitting cross-legged and contemplative in the wooden seat. “It’d be such a nuisance to have to haul you from the flames and put you out.”

Abi was the one who had the idea to go through the slavedays as a family, and she’s the one who got them all places in Kyneston, all except Luke that is. She feels guilty for leaving her little brother in Millmoor, and despite being told time and time again there is no way to get him out she still asks, still tries her bests to bring him home to them. Abi seems to take on a lot of responsibility in her family, maybe she feels it’s up to her to get Luke back when it’s her mistake, so to say, that led to him being in Millmoor without the rest of them.

One thing I was not a fan of was the romance between Abi and Jenner. I liked Jenner on his own as a character, as an Equal born without a gift he’s always felt like his family’s dirty little secret, and I liked Abi on her own as a character too. However when she was around Jenner it seemed like her everything that set her apart as her own character, an intelligent, family orientated and stubborn girl, seemed to fall in the wayside of her crush on Jenner. It was only really at the end, and don’t worry there are no spoilers here, that Abi seemed to become her own character again and I really started rooting for her.

“Father was planning a debate. Silyen was planning a resurrection. And Gavar was planning a wedding. There was so much wrong with that, Gavar didn’t know where to start.”

The Equals are the rulers of England, and they have abilities that mean they’re better than everyone else and means they’re exempt from slavedays. The Jardine’s, the family who live in Kyneston, are incredibly powerful, incredibly connected and incredibly ruthless. Jenner, the only one without a gift, seems to be the only one who understands the plight of the people working their slavedays in the manor. Gavar, the heir, is cruel and has a terrible temper but there is more to him than meets the eye and I kind of enjoyed learning more about him. Silyen, the youngest, is hardly there at all. His gift is something new, something powerful and a little terrifying. and you’re never really sure where his motivations lie.

It isn’t just the Jardine’s who rule over England, there are plenty of other Equal families who all fight politically for power and control, scraping and clawing for any bit of power they can get their hands on, even if it means tearing someone else down on their quest to the top.

…The Setting

“Even back in Manchester you could taste Millmoor when the wind blew in the wrong direction. Sometimes it was a acrid chemical stink from the industrial zone. Other days, the whiff was foul and rotting, from the meat processing plant. If you were really unlucky and the breeze was strong, it was a gut-churning cocktail of both.”

Gilded Cage is set in an alternate version of England. Everything is the same in terms of the technology and, most, of the landmarks; the only difference is that every person has to complete ten years of slavedays. This was introduced to leave the Equals free to rule the country but it is brutal and hard, and if you end up in Millmoor there’s no telling how you’ll come out but it certainly won’t be in one piece. Following Luke in Millmoor kind of reminded me of the stories you would read about old Victorian factories; long hours, terrible condition, horrible pollution, and dire circumstances all around. Luke ends up in a factory, one of the worst of the worst, but the whole of Millmoor is a horrible place to spend ten years. Kyneston is supposed to be better, safer, but in reality it’s just as dangerous as Millmoor only in a different way.

This book was incredible. Other than the relationship between Abi and Jenner, which I didn’t really care for, I have no complaints about Gilded Cage. The setting is amazing – the politics and the history of the world has clearly been well thought out – the characters are well written, and the story itself is addictive. The end of this book is a real game changer and a cliffhanger too, and now I really need the second book to find out what happens next.

What did you think of Gilded Cage? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.

All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.

34 thoughts on “ARC Review: Gilded Cage

  1. I finally finished Gilded Cage last week and I am so with you on needing the second book. That ending! I need to know what happens next. I’m so glad you ended up enjoying this one too. It was such a fantastic book, wasn’t it? And I completely agree about the romance between Jenner and Abi. I didn’t care for it either. I didn’t form much of an opinion when it comes to Jenner for some reason but Abi I didn’t like when it came to the romance but by the end of the book she was one of my favorites. I also loved the group of people Luke meet while he was in Millmoor. Were you completely shocked by who a few of them were too? I couldn’t believe I didn’t catch it ahead of time because when it was revealed it was so obvious. Also, Millmoor reminded me of old Victorian factories too. At times I would forget it was a more modern day setting and felt like it was in the past. The world building was definitely great. Great review as always, Beth!! 😊💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s amazing to hear Melissa. The ending was a massive cliff-hanger, and god it seemed like everything was building up to the last few chapters and I was gobsmacked by the time I reached the last page.
      By the end of the book Abi’s character had much improved for me. It seemed like when she was around Jenner she lost all her individuality as a character, even her trying to get Luke back from the slave town and with their family again fell in the wayside. I’m hoping we’ll see more of her development in the second book and it won’t be overpowered by the romance again.
      God yes, completely shocked. In terms of reveals that was a completely amazing one I never saw coming, and god what happened to the doctor at the end was a little heartbreaking I won’t lie.
      I loved the world-building. I think overall this book was just something I never expected but now I need to last until the second book is released and I just don’t know how!
      Thanks so much Melissa, will you be posting a review for this book soon? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right!? I swear by the time I was getting closer to the ending I literally couldn’t put the book down. I got nothing done the day I finished the book because I couldn’t stop reading it. You know a book is good when it completely surprises you like that.
        I completely agree. From the moment they were sort of introduced to each other the whole focus on her attraction to him seemed to overpower everything else that was more important and even her. That’s never good with a romance. I didn’t even really see a plausible way for them to actually be together. Hopefully we will see more of her development. Especially with how the book ended. Her character has a lot of potential.
        Yes! I mean I had this feeling that he had Skill but I never caught on to who he was and it was so obvious after it was revealed and that plus the shock of it was great. Yeah, that broke my heart too. I really hope it’s something that wasn’t permanent.
        Same. I really hope it isn’t too long of a wait to the second book. I have to know what happens.
        You’re welcome, Beth!! 😊💕

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I was the same, I was reading the ending on the train and I kept looking at what stations we were approaching thinking to myself ‘right I’ve got ten minutes left on this journey to read two more chapters, I’ve got to do this because I can’t survive eight hours at work not know what happens next!’ This book completely surprised me and I loved every second of it.
        I’m hoping it will improve in the second book, I think because of where Abi’s character started to go at the end of Gilded Cage she’s obviously not going to be around Jenner much and it may give the two of them a chance to be developed on their own before meeting up and the romance beginning again so to speak.
        I didn’t even realise he had Skill until ridiculously close to the end, either way I hope it’s not permanent either but I can’t really see it being that way. I can definitely see the next book kick starting the rebellion that was hinted at in this one.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I can only imagine how unputdownable book two is going to be after book one having been that way. I’m going to want to try to finish it in a day. 🙈
        Yeah, them having separate journeys could definitely give both of them a chance to develop more. Jenner, in particular, I feel has a lot of potential because he’s an Equal who is Skill-less and kind of has choice to make. His whole stance on everything wasn’t exactly explored. Abi’s development toward the end showed a hint at what her character could become. I love how there’s so many possibilities with so many characters.
        I only realized it because of when Luke was badly injured and then after he sees him his injuries suddenly weren’t so bad. Then that one part where they rescue Oz and Gavar didn’t even see them. I was like “Wait a minute… He has Skill!? 😱😱” but it never clicked who he actually was.
        I can see that too. Especially since it’s a trilogy. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I’ll very likely be able to finish it in a day. I can get most books read in a day so normally it’s kind of par for the course for me. Either way the second one will be one I speed read through I think.
        I always like it when books can separate a romantic couple and give them both separate journeys. It lets them developed without the other in the way so to speak and I think it will work really well for Abi and Jenner. I’d be interested to see what Jenner’s like without Abi because so far we’ve only seen him with her.
        I didn’t pick up on that. I just thought his injuries ended up being not as bad as he first assumed. I think I may have wondered if there was something more to him when they rescued Oz but yeah I never guessed who he was. Not in a million years.
        If this was the first book god what will the third be like?! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I’m only able to finish books in a day if I do nothing and stay up all night so for me it’ll probably be two or three days. Which is quicker than normal. I’ll definitely be speeding through it too and then wishing for the third one. 😂
        I used to not like it for some reason. I remember reading Through The Ever Night and being mad when Aria and Perry were separated 🙈. I do like it now though and agree, I think it will do wonders for both Abi and Jenner. Same. I hope we get some Jenner POV chapters.
        I know right? It’s going to be a whirlwind of I series I think. It reminds why I used to love dystopia so much. The suspense of it! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Yeah I have a long commute to work each day so it gives me a fair bit of reading time. A day or two is normally my average reading speed depending on the length of the book.
        I was the same with Through the Ever Night, I just wanted the two to meet up again. But I think in some books it just works really well to kind of establish both characters as separate rather than a couple you know?
        I’m definitely feeling the need to add more dystopian books to my to-read list after reading this one! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Although long commutes suck the positive has to be that it gives you that bit of extra reading time. 😊
        Yeah, I get what you mean. Sometimes the characters really do need that bit of extra development away from each other.
        Same! I’m going to have to search GR for some good ones. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The premise sounds a bit confusing. I mean, is there a deadline in a person’s decision to do their slavedays young or old? If not, shouldn’t they just decide to do when they are pretty ill/pretty old/close to death? Is it because your prospects are dramatically better if you complete those 10 days early that makes the decision to do it early much more… seducing? Otherwise, I heard a lot of great things about this book, just like you’ve pointed out. It does sound fun! Great review! 🙂

    – Lashaan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s likely described better in the book. There are a few people who choose to do their slave days towards the end of their lives but if you do do them while you’re young I do think your prospects after they’re over are so much better. I guess it’s down to personal choice in a way, all we really discover is Luke’s families reasons for doing them now rather than later.
      It’s a good book, and I think there are a lot of people out there who’ll end up loving it.
      Thanks Lashaan. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. *exhales a sigh of relief* LOL! I am sOOo glad you enjoyed Gilded Cage, I’m actually reading it at the end of this month & was wondering how some of my blogger friends were feeling about it. The whole alternate version of England really appeals to me & the system set in place of 10 years as a slave has me raising all sorts of eyebrows. I’ve heard amazing things about the world building & politics in this book. I met the author at Bookcon and she was a real joy, I’m hoping to enjoy it just as much. Cliff hanger you say? Typically I wait for sequels before I pick up the 1st book but this is an ARC so I can’t do that lol so I will join you in your wait for book 2 afterwards 😉

    Great review as always Beth! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, yeah it was a good book, better than I expected it to be but then again I did go into this book not knowing what to expect so maybe that helped. It was an interesting world to say the least, and despite the whole ten years as a slave aspect and the magic there were parts that were very much like England today which just made it all the more surreal in a way.
      I hope you enjoy this book just as much as well Lilly. And yep, definitely a cliffhanger and it’s more than enough to leave you reaching for the next book. I’d like to say I normally do the same thing, wait for the second book before starting the first, but I never seem to actually do that. I just get too excited to read the first book that I do and then have to bear the wait for the second.
      Thanks so much Lilly! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I started Gilded Cage on my way in to work this morning & although I did not get very far, I am already interested in getting back to it on my lunch hour. I love coming across books where I’m familiar with the place/setting so I understand that surreal feeling lol. Sort of not looking forward to the cliff hanger but it’s out of my hands lol 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s great to hear. I felt Gilded Cage started slow in terms of the plot but the characters and the world itself was more than enough to draw me into the story from the very beginning.
        I think you’ll enjoy the cliffhanger as well Lilly, although it will leave you desperate for the next book though. You’ll have to let me know what you think when you finish it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Marie ❤ I do see where you and Reg are coming from, and maybe if I'd read more dystopian books recently I'd have felt differently about the world-building as well, but as it was I had nothing fresh in my mind to compare this book to so to me it felt pretty original you know? Still yeah it was a good story, I just felt it would have been better if the romance had been turned down a little. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I do as well. Normally I like romance in books like this, where it’s in the background of a bigger story, but in this case I almost wish Abi and Jenner had been able to develop as their own characters instead of being pushed together so quickly that their whole story became each other pretty much. I actually thought this book was pretty original, certainly in terms of the story and the characters, then again I haven’t really read any dystopian books in a while so that may have helped. 🙂


  4. Ooh, I can’t wait to read this one!! I’m so glad I have an ARC of this one. Hey…you got The Bone Witch, right? When you read that one, let’s do it together! By then you should have Twitter and we can buddy read! I’d love to do one with you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In that case I really hope you enjoy it. It’s certainly an interesting story and you like dystopian books don’t you so this will probably be the perfect book for you.
      I don’t actually have The Bone Witch no. I’m sorry 😦 but we definitely need to do a buddy read at some point, just need to find a book we both have on our to-read list! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Damn, I hoped you would have it! That would’ve been awesome!
        Don’t tell me they denied you? I’d be hella surprised. Did you just not request it? 🤔
        We will do a buddy read no matter what!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t think I actually requested it. I may have discovered it during my self-imposed NetGalley ban (when I had too many ARCs to get through already), but yeah I’m sure there’s another book out there we can buddy read one day! 😀


    1. Yeah that was pretty much the only thing I didn’t enjoy about this book. Everything else, especially Luke and his story, was amazing but Abi and Jenner just felt too ‘meh’ for me as well. It was like the second they laid eyes on each other their individual development and storylines flew out the window.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The world building in this book sounds interesting, but also kind of… cliched? I’m really into dystopian fiction but I’ve read a lot of them, and this is giving me very “been there done that” vibes. Did you find it to be original/surprising/unpredictable in any way?

    I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like the romance! It also annoys me when characters completely lose themselves in the face of their crushes, but hopefully the second book will deal with it better. At least it’s overall a good read, though. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I haven’t really read any dystopian books in a while, like a really long while, so while reading Gilded Cage I didn’t really find it that cliched. I’m not sure whether that’s because it genuinely wasn’t or just I had nothing fresh to compare it to you know? In terms of the characters and the story I did find it original, the only downside I had with this book was the romance. I do enjoy romance in books like this but not at the expense of the character development and their individual stories. Based on the way this book ended I do have high hopes the second book deals with it better! 🙂


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