Gilded Cage by Vic James presents an interesting look at what happens when some are born with abilities and some are not. This book is the first in a series and takes place in an alternate England where people who are born with magic are part of the elite, ruling class whereas people who don’t have magic are common citizens.
This book won’t be released until February 2017 so I don’t want to give the plot away. Instead, I’ll discuss what I found most interesting about the book – the social dynamics between the two classes.
At some point in their lives, all commoners are required to serve 10 years as a slave. During those 10 years, they have no rights. Commoners may request assignment at a certain location, but otherwise have no say in where they will be. Some are assigned to what amounts to labor camps. Others may get assigned to serve in an aristocratic family, which sounds like it would be better than labor camps … except that, since they are slaves and have no rights, there are no rules or punishment for mistreatment or commoners. For commoners, the big decision is when to serve out their 10 years. If they serve it while they’re young, they will most likely survive, but may be maimed physically or emotionally. If they wait until they’re too old, they won’t be able to survive the harsh demands of the physical labor.
While they are slave, if they don’t perform satisfactorily, they may have years added to their sentence. If they do something really bad like murder someone, they may receive a life sentence of servitude.
Interestingly, people who have no magical powers but are born to a family with magical powers seem to be exempt from the 10-year servitude requirement.
Obviously, no one wants to become a slave for 10 years so why would they agree to it? The answer is that the magical people could force them. The actual magical abilities are somewhat of a mystery, but there are rumors of mind control, moving objects, destroying objects, making things appear, deleting memories. Those with magical abilities don’t want to spend their whole time quashing rebellions so they give commoners some freedom. Getting to choose when they become a slave is one of the freedoms. When they are not slaves, they are considered citizens and have rights, similar to what we have today. They may own property, be protected from harm by police, etc. There is just enough “give” there to keep the commoners intent enough.
The book follows a family of commoners as they begin their sentence. The family consists of Mom, Dad, Abi, Luke, and Daisy. Abi is an intelligent 18-year-old who was accepted to medical schools. However, she turns down her offers to serve her time with her family. Abi requested that they all be assigned to an aristocratic family so that they could be together. Abi’s request is approved, but approvals means little once you become a slave with no rights. Luke is a few years younger than Abi and is bitter about having to give up the prime years of his life in slavery, but understands that his parents wanted to keep the family together. Daisy is the baby of the family.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), this book is part of a series so it does end on somewhat of a cliffhanger. Just a warning that you’re going to have to wait a while before the next book is released. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the other books in this series.
I received a complimentary e-book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.