‘Gilded Cage’ – Vic James

Gilded Cage

TARNISHED CITY is published early September 2017
BRIGHT RUIN concludes the trilogy in June 2018

A dark fantasy that immediately had me intrigued, and now I’ve read the first part I am desperate to see where James takes this next (it’s not that long to wait until September, honest!)

Our story opens with the death of a young slave at the hands of her ex-lover as she tries to leave the estate with their young child. Immediately it is clear that this is a brutal existence and the Jardine family – as one of the foremost Equals – are a force to be reckoned with.

In this world the ruling elite – the Equals – have authority over the masses, and everyone is forced to give up ten years of their life to servitude. Some romanticise the Equals and their Skills, but the reality of their power and capabilities is truly frightening (and isn’t really shown fully until we are immersed in the world).

We focus on the events involving Abi and Luke Hadley, the older children of a family who are set to spend their slave period working for the Jardine family. Unfortunately, Luke is not found a position and ends up in one of the slum towns working in a highly dangerous place. What is more dangerous is the group of people he encounters who hold beliefs that could result in a lot of trouble.

Without giving too much of the plot away, I found myself gripped by this. The characters were all intriguing, and it was exciting to see how each of them coped with their varied experiences. James skilfully sets up this world, and gives us a clear history/sense of where these ideals have come from, yet keeps racking up the intrigue. Throughout my reading I was vacillating between which of the Jardine brothers was least to be trusted, and there’s just enough revealed to satisfy us while keeping plenty back for the next in the series.

This was an unexpected treat, and I think it’s a definite must-read for fantasy fans.