Vic James’ debut novel, Gilded Cage, is set in Britain in a time where grand estates, class, pedigree, and money separate those with power and influence from those without. To assume that this is a story about some bygone era would be a mistake, however. In fact, where we start is far in the future, where the British society as we know it today has been replaced by a republic ruled by the Skilled. The Skilled, also called the Equals, are aristocrats with a mysterious natural gift of magic inherited only through pure breeding. But unlike the banished mutants of superhero films, the Skilled have managed to rise and rule with their wizardry. Being governed are the commoners, who are doomed in more ways than one, but the biggest blow is slavedays—a required 10-year sentence of back-breaking work. Choose to start young and it destroys you forever; choose to start old and you might never make it out alive. James’ saga starts as the Hadleys, a family of five from Manchester, are assigned to spend their slavedays at the Kyneston estate of the most powerful Skilled family, the Jardines. The Hadleys feel lucky for being assigned to a beautiful estate rather than a Dickensian workhouse—until they realize that teenage Luke was not invited. Instead, he is sent to one of the worse slavetowns, Millbrook. But, amongst its cruelty and oppression he finds the courage to be part of a revolution. Luke isn’t the only rebel however: The Jardines too have an heir who has a secret plot to remake the world. Alongside the political drama also lies a budding love story between Abi Hadley and Jenner Jardine.
For those who can barely get enough of the British dramas like “Downton Abbey” or the magical worlds of J.K. Rowling, Gilded Cage reads like a perfect amalgamation of the two worlds. In this debut, James has successfully created anticipation for what’s to come. A great book to start your new series obsession.