I seem to be hounded by ideas that are similar to my own novel. I picked up ‘Gilded Cage’ in a local book shop back in Pembrokeshire, because the blurb sounded fascinating. I was met with a concept that sounded familiar to my own dissertation-turned-first-novel and it made me want to cry because it was so well done. It’s the overwhelming terror that what I’ve got to say isn’t original enough and has already been done before. But enough about my writing, this is about Vic James’ phenomenal debut.
‘Gilded Cage’ has a beautiful concept – a modern day Britain ruled by people who have powers known as Skill, with the normal Skilless people being forced into ten years of slavery during their lifetimes. This was done in such a beautiful way – James used various characters to tell the narratives from all points of view. What I find often happens when you have a story told from several characters points of view is that some of the plot often gets lost in translation between chapters, as you’re anxious to find out what the previous character was up to and either don’t invest in the next character or get distracted by them and completely forget about the significance of the previous character. This kind of happened in ‘Gilded Cage’ towards the middle of the book, but the key events that happened in each chapter were also threaded through some of the others so these chapters never lost their significance. Even chapters from Gavar and Silyen’s perspectives which only appear once or twice throughout the novel give us a key perspective to understand everything that’s going on in the story.
This plot was so tight knit, it is a true masterpiece. From the heartbreaking introduction of the Hadley family being split apart, right through to that gob smacking conclusion which draws all the plot points you didn’t even realise were significant together – it was so well done that I was absolutely gutted when I finished reading the epilogue. James has left herself so much more to do with this series that I really can’t wait to see what happens next. There’s something so original about this story that I found it really engaging – aside from the jealousy at how well done it was. James captured the individual characters perfectly and transferred the tone so seamlessly when changing to the different characters. For a little bit before the end you thought James had tied it all up so neatly that you couldn’t help but wonder where she intended to take it all next. Those plot twists at the end were so unexpected I was sat gaping at the page!
James’ style comes across in such a confident way you can’t help but be drawn into the narrative. I certainly can’t wait to find out what happens next to all of her characters! This was an absolute gem of a novel and I am so glad I picked it up. Not to mention the smug satisfaction you get from seeing your name as a character (albeit only breifly in the prologue, but when your name never appears anywhere, not even on those key rings you find in all the tourist shops, it’s funny to see your name in print) and mention of your home country (woo Wales!). There were so many other plot points that James had sewn through out the novel that I’m sure there’s plenty of material for her to cover in the next two novels in the series. I certainly can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!
I would give this a 5/5 because it was absolutely brilliant and I really hope I can write something this amazing one day.