Gilded Cage by Vic James – Review

Have you ever finished reading a book leaving you with a massive uncertainty on whether you actually enjoyed it or not? I’m sure most of you have. Unfortunately, this is how I felt after reading Gilded Cage. Scroll on down for my spoiler-free review!

Published 26th January 2017 by Pan Macmillan. Paperback 405 pages. Get your copy here UK or here US

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.

This is the darkly decadent world of Gilded Cage. In its 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. . . .

I didn’t really know too much about Gilded Cage other than EVERYONE was reading it. So naturally, I wanted to read it for myself. Before I roll out with all the negatives, let’s look at the positives…

Luke, the middle child of Hadley family, is sent to the god-awful slave town Millmoor. He will spend the next 10 years of his life working in hard gruelling manual labour. The Hadleys leave their home, in Manchester, so they can all complete their slave days together. How sweet…

The eldest child Abi has ensured that they will all go to one of the most prestigious families in the country, The Jardines. Unfortunately, the Jardines have no use for poor little Luke and sent to Millmoor.


A seventeen-year-old boy separated from his family is thrown into a world that could literally make or break him. Instead of crying and whining about how awful his situation is he gets on with it. Luke’s faith in his sister never falters; knowing that she will return him to his family. His chapters were my favourite because they were exciting. I was intrigued to see how Luke would cope with the misery which has befallen him. Oh, and the friends that he might make along the way…

The book is quite political and is a central theme. Vic James explores the class system and how the Skilful treat the Skilless throughout the book. As someone that is interested in the class system and how it can affect those in negative ways I really thrived off this. It made me feel a range of different emotions towards the Skillful and how “normal” people were being treated. I think this is why I enjoyed reading Luke’s chapters the most. He’s surrounded by the worst conditions, struggling, like so many others, to get by.

So now for the negatives. Brace yourself.

There were too many characters. Spending my time struggling to remember who was who and what their role was in the story is not something I enjoy in a book.

It became super frustrating.

Ideally, I would have been happier with just Luke and Abi chapters. There were 3 or 4 chapters that looked into different characters and though understood why Vic James did this, I found it dull. It didn’t move the story along at all, it did the complete opposite and dragged.

Now I have spoken a lot for my love for Luke, so it’s time to talk about Abi.

A big no for me.

I didn’t like her. I was majorly disappointed in her character or lack of. Bland is the best way to describe Abi. I wanted there to be more too her. Don’t get me started on the romance between her and another character. Oh god no. I won’t go any further.

At the end of the book, I did sense a turnaround and some character development, but I was fuming that it had taken so long.

So Abi, her mother, father and younger sister go to Jardine estate to work their ten years. Given jobs which are relatively “easy”, not causing too much stress and, on top of that, they have a nice comfortable home; generally well looked after. That’s what annoyed me. I get there was meant to be a contrast to her and brother’s situation but I just thought it was dumb. I was incredibly boring reading her chapters. I just did not care.

I didn’t hate this book, though I did find it disappointing. It has so much potential and after the ending, it does make me want to go out and see what happens next.




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