Welcome to todays blog tour stop for Gilded Cage! I completely loved the book and I'm excited to share that with you! My review for the book is down below, but first....I have an exciting article from Vic James to share with you all! I'm genuinely excited about this article, it's all about Vic's research at the Vatican Archives...how awesome is that!? I am incredibly jealous that she got to go to there and read through all the books and...I can't even. Just read and you'll see why I'm so jealous! So without further ado here's the author herself...
Let’s give the Vatican Archives their full name, shall we? The Archivum Secretum Vaticanum. There – doesn’t that sound even sexier?
They sit in the heart of the Vatican, nestled next to the slightly-less-secret Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, in which you work at desks beneath a vaulted ceiling painted with extraordinary frescos.
I spent a year living in Rome, finishing a doctorate on English Catholic writing in the reign of Charles I. (Yes, that’s why the divergence-point for the alternate Britain of GILDED CAGE is the English Civil War! Poor old Charles, beheaded by Cromwell’s regime in real life, meets an even worse fate in GILDED CAGE: magically tortured to death by a wicked revolutionary aristocrat.)
In Charles’s reign, a century on from Henry VIII’s Reformation, England was a Protestant country. To the Vatican, England was a rogue state that required re-conversion. While in Britain, Catholics had been enemies of the state, hunted down and persecuted. With the reign of Catholic-sympathising Charles I, that persecution finally eased.
So the period was ripe with intrigue. States took an interest in the political affairs of other countries, and tried to gather intelligence on them and influence them. (Yep, politics never changes….) I was studying documents relating to the Vatican’s intelligence-gathering on Britain, and the English Catholics living in Europe.
Here’s where the Secret Archive (ASV) gets really incredible. Its catalogues are hand-written. These indexes are often centuries old. I had to do a master’s degree in Renaissance bibliography just to be able to read the handwriting and learn how to handle the texts!
It’s also all in Latin and Italian, so to be granted access to the Archive, I was interviewed in Italian about my research. I can read Latin, but talking Italian was a whole other matter. I used my dismal picked-up Italian mostly to order coffee. It didn’t help that the librarian interviewing me was one of the most handsome men I’ve ever met. Oh dear! I mumbled my way through and, incredibly, they gave me a researcher’s pass.
So that was that. I spent many happy hours in the ASV, during one of the most memorable years of my life. There is something miraculous about the survival of letters and documents long after the person who wrote them is dead. In the blots of ink, the gradual fading-out of ink before a pen was re-dipped and replenished, you are so close to long-lost lives.
Although GILDED CAGE is set in the present day, I’ve had to reimagine two thousand years of British history to write the Dark Gifts trilogy. Figures from those past centuries have breathed and spoken to me, as I’ve written, just as they did when I handled those documents in Rome.
And then, a few years later, I saw the movie version of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons in which the Vatican Archives are shown looking like this and … NOPE.
Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Alisha, for asking such a cool question, and for loving GILDED CAGE! If anyone has any questions - come and find me on Twitter @drvictoriajames !
Gilded Cage by Vic James is the first installment of the Dark Gifts Trilogy. It is published in paperback 26 January 2017 by Pan Macmillan £7.99
There are a lot of fantastic blogs taking part in this tour so check out the rest of the stops!
And now....on to the review! As per usual, I got carried away and wrote way too much!
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher!
NOT ALL ARE FREE.
NOT ALL ARE EQUAL.
NOT ALL WILL BE SAVED.
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?
The thing that sold me on this book was the synopsis! The comparisons intrigued me, but it was the synopsis that hooked me in! But I still wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I started to read the book. I threw the comparisons to Red Queen and Game of Thrones out of my head almost immediately because it became obvious that this was nothing like either, it was something entirely different to both, and better!
The opening of the book was enticing and I was immediately intrigued by the world of the book. It was modern, but the estate had an old timey vibe thanks to the horses and a few other things. I really liked the mashup, I'm not going to lie, and I'm assuming that's why this is compared to Red Queen. The world of Red Queen is way different to this, it's more fantasy-ish with some modern things sprouting up. This world, is very modern and dystopian, and it's the Equals I feel that have an old timey vibe to them, as well as the estate!
I really enjoyed the characters both main and supporting. Our main three characters are Luke, Abi and Silyen. We get Luke and Abi's POV's the most, and I really felt for Luke and I admired how he made the best of a bad situation and threw himself in to helping others even though he was in an environment where most people wouldn't bother. I was rooting for him and enjoyed his journey in the book. He and Abi are both brave and kind people, and while I was sad for them, I did enjoy seeing how the world effected them. Abi was determined to get her brother back, and she knew something weird was going on both with Leah and after the incident with Bouda, and she wasn't afraid to poke about. If I had to pick, I might have to pick Luke as my favourite! My thing with Abi was that Luke was out there taking part in this revolution, but when he got to the estate Abi was more cautious, and after reading Luke's exploits, Abi's kind of paled in comparison, but I'm excited to see where she's going to go in the next book, but more on that later! OH and I loved the Club by the way. You know....the rebellious group in Millmoor that was full of nerds and hackers and completely freaking awesome!
Along with our loveable characters we also have those that are less so. The Equals are powerful, Gavar has no problems with blowing things up, and most terrifyingly of all..Equals can mess with your mind, as was brilliantly and chillingly shown with Abi's POV. Most of the Equals also have a penchant for cruelty, and I do like a dark read, so I really enjoyed how the author didn't flinch back from showing us just how cruel and evil the Equals could be, as well as exploring that grey area between good and bad. There where characters that I hated and will always hate, like Papa Jardine. But there where other characters that I couldn't decide on. They weren't wholly bad/evil, but the weren't angels either, which quite frankly, made them all the more fascinating to read about. Every single day you see people doing what these characters do, it's all about nuance, and people do things thinking they're doing it for the right reason, and people who do things for the wrong reasons and so on.
In this category we have Silyen and Gavar. We get both POV's but Silyen is one of the main three. I just couldn't decide how I felt about them throughout the book, but I wanted to understand them and I wanted to like them, I was genuinely reading like "Come on guys, I really want to like you, GIVE ME A REASON!". Silyen was uber creepy, and his POV added a nice dose of foreboding more than once. He does good things, but he does them as part of whatever plan he's putting in to motion and I just cannot decide if he's doing something good or bad. I wavered between the both over the course of the book. Whatever he's doing I'm fairly certain he thinks he's doing it for the right reasons, whether or not he's doing a good or bad thing.
Gavar was another character, although the author has reassured me I will get reasons to love Gavar so I'm excited! Right from the beginning, Gavar was in the 'bad' column. He's big and scary and ragey and I just figured he was the big bad guy. But then as we saw more of him throughout the book, I started to wonder if he's really all that bad. I started to wonder if he had a reason for what he did at the beginning of the book, if he regretted it, or if it was a rash decision he made in anger. Because for someone who's seemingly as bad as he is, he really does love his daughter, and he's really nice to a ten year old slave. I think it was the scene when he was berating a servant for knocking in to Daisy that had me wondering about him. Then we got his POV and I started to understand him a bit better and I related to him and I really understood him when you saw him and his father together and how he felt, plus he really did care about Leah. And then he does the Thing for Daisy and I was like damn Gavar! Because everytime he does a good thing, he also does bad things. But the more the book went on the more you saw Gavar doing these good things and I was like JUST LET ME LOVE YOU GAVAR. GIVE ME A REASON PLEASE.
These characters. They really make you feel all the feels, and they really make you think too! There's plenty of other fascinating characters throughout the book, Jackson, the Angel, Renie (like Genie ;) ), Jenner, and Daisy. Daisy though...man I wanted to shake her in the beginning, hero worshipping Gavar. Of course as the book went on and I started to struggle with my feels about Gavar I minded it less. Jenner I couldn't decide on because I didn't see much of him. I do feel like he needed more of a backbone though, because he's so damn nice and in the world of the Equals...I don't think that's a good thing. Bouda, was admirable in her determination but hard to like, and then there's Papa Jardine. He was such an a-hole. I'm 99% sure he's sleeping with who I think he is and I really want Gavar to go for him. Genuinely Gavar is one of those characters who's kind of an a-hole but you still root for them to be better, and they ended up being your precious flower and you don't like people who are mean to them :') I got so emotionally invested in this book because all of the characters....they just grab you and they've all had bad experiences, none of them are little rays of sunshine who've had it easy.
There's suffering and pain, and it makes you so emotionally attached to the characters it's unreal. Whatever a character does...it has consequences. Ones that you can see, and feel and it was SO well done. I also loved how believable the characters and their reactions to things where, it made the book more enjoyable and more authentic. And I have to say, all of the female characters are so well written, it was brilliant to see in a book.
I just love how the author has created these characters that make you think, they're neither good nor bad, they're in that grey area and it brings up all these questions. It's made reading such an experience! I have to say, I'm really loving the authors writing style. It pulls you in, I loved her writing and imagery, and I love how she's created this world, and she's gone all out. The book, the plot, the characters, it's all so rich and well developed and so brilliantly done. It's authentic. She doesn't flinch from the hard stuff. Like the slavery thing. She goes all out. She doesn't flinch from the ugliness of it, it's all there in the story. Then she balances that with the hope you feel through Luke and the rest of the Club, and the friendship between the group. You see this dark, ugly place, but there's this little ray of light in it. The subject is given the gravity it needs and is just so well balanced with everything else.
I really should mention the multi POV's in a bit more detail! Obviously Abi and Luke are regulars, and you get Silyen and Gavar a couple of times, but you also get a couple of others like Bouda and Euterpe. I just really loved it. You got to know some of the characters a little bit better, you got to understand them and their motivations. Each character had their own voice, different from the others so you could tell who was who without the name at the top of the page. It kept the pace of the book going, and added to it, it provided a lot of the reveals and a lot of information that we needed to know. Plus it added the tension because you'd finish one POV and be like...no...NO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT YOU CAN'T CHANGE TO ANOTHER PERSON. Then you'd read the next POV and it would be the SAME situation!
I think the world was excellently built, you understood the politics and the history and wanted to know more about it, and there's a lot more to learn I think! But I also enjoyed the little things, like you know...some of the people at Millmoor casually doing a chat show with a radio in Australia who's government and situation is entirely different. I loved that aspect. I was curious to know which other countries didn't have Equals in charge and I really enjoyed the varying politics and situations of the countries. No one country is exactly the same, and this book follows that rather than having the whole world in the same situation. I enjoyed the magical system, and learning about it, plus it was nicely terrifying like I said, because they can mess with your memory. There is nothing more terrifying than that! Plus there's lots of secrets about it still to be found out!
Okay. So I loved the book. I even have a complicated relationship with Gavar going on. (Please Vic. PLEASE HAVE MEANT IT WHEN YOU SAID THERE WHERE REASONS. I need justification for semi-loving such a usually mean character!). But there is one tiny little problem that I had. Just one. I love romance okay, and I was excited for some romance between Abi and Jenner. Abi is frequently mentioned to be reading those cheesy/trashy romance novels with Equals instead of like Aliens or whatever. So I was intrigued to see how the author was going to do it. Especially as she's intelligent enough that she's on her way to med school, and Jenner was marginally responsible for Luke ending up in Millmoor and all the things she see's the Equals do over the course of the book. But we didn't actually see that much of Jenner. We didn't see much of the romance. We saw Abi having a crush on Jenner, one of the people who technically owns her, sure he's nice and he's not like the others, but he does what his mummy tells him and when the Thing with Bouda happens...does he do anything. Nope. He angsts it out to Silyen who says one of his best lines ever and I actually cackled. The romance isn't a huge focus of the book, I was just disappointed as the romance is mentioned on the book, and we hardly see it develop, there's the odd moment and then there's that huge show between the two of them at the end and it just felt a bit odd seeing as throughout all of Abi's POV we've hardly seen her and Jenner together or interacting. It almost seemed like it didn't need to be there to me. Plus Jenner rubbed me up the wrong way when he told Abi he asked his father for her and she was like "I know" like...dude. I would punch anyone who said that to me!
The ending though. I can't even. The reveal that I didn't see coming a mile off and really should have put together had me gasping out loud and shrieking like a banshee. Then Abi...damn. I really, really want more of her in the next book because my opinion of her shot up at that point. I just can't with the ending, and I need more NOW! I have to wait until September but it's just SO FAR. I also really want to see more of Euterpe and Sosigenes (I really hope I spelt his name right from memory), and their history, whether it's in this trilogy or whether it's in ebooks or whatever! There's so much to this world that you want to know more about, I'd happily read a history book on this world and the magic in it!
Gilded Cage is a brilliant, rich, complex and vivid read that makes you feel real emotion as you make your way through the book. It explores the nuances between good and bad. Doing good things for the wrong reasons and bad things for the right. It makes you think. There's suffering all around and your heart will break for you favourites. Gavar and Silyen provide an interesting crisis for you as you try to work out whether they're really all that bad. (JUST ONE REASON GUYS COME ON!). You really want to like them, you really want them to be redeemable and I'm looking forward to seeing if they are or not. The more evil characters are truly that and I feel a burning hatred for them. The magic system is fascinating and the Equals are not only cruel but terrifying thanks to one power of theirs. The female characters are brilliantly written and strong. Gilded Cage has many, many twists, none of which I saw coming, and I was gasping and shrieking and going "no no no" when I was reading the book and I hate to think what my face was doing! There are so many OMG moments throughout the book, and as the world sucks you in, it becomes very hard to put down.
Gilded Cage is brilliantly written, original, unique, and utterly engrossing. You'll want to know more about the world, the magic, the history and the characters and you won't want the book to end because that ending....I mean...wow. Talk about leaving you wanting more! I genuinely haven't been emotionally attached to characters to this degree before, it's kind of insane, and it's a world that has stuck with me even though I'm long since finished with reading it! I'm incredibly excited to see where this is going, and to see what more there is to learn!