The Hadleys are due to start their slavedays, ten years of servitude to the Equals who run the country. The local slave town of Millmoor is little more than a prison but there is one alternative. Young Abi sacrifices her place at medical school and offers her family to the Jardines, where they can serve out their days in relative comfort. Yet not everything goes to plan; Abi is separated from her brother Luke and she is soon to learn of the true cruelty of their captors.
I’m becoming quite a fan of alternate history fantasy which is set in the present or future. Whilst the Britain of Vic James’ vision got rid of the monarchy with Charles I, a new ruling elite emerged. This time they had magic on their side and they wanted to use the non-magical citizens to their advantage.
You all began your slavedays and entered a state of legal non-personhood. You are now chattels of the state. To explain for the little one here, that means that you are no longer ‘people’ and have no rights at all.
The political tension mirrors some of what we’ve gone through in Britain lately. The disillusionment with the government, a division between classes and geography. Here the Hadleys are a Northern, working family and the “Equals” come across as posh and Southern. The irony is, there is nothing equal about the situation. The non-magical people are seen as nothing other than bodies to do jobs; how often does out government make us feel like that too?
The slave town of Millmoor is reminiscent of the industrial north of our past. Children as young as ten can work their slavedays and the slaves lose all their rights for those ten years. They are there to make money for the Equals, to keep the country running, and nothing else. When Luke is separated from his family, he is sent to Millmoor and put to work. The labour is incredibly tough and the place demoralising.
At first, Luke wants nothing more than to see his family again, knowing Abi will find a way to get him out. But when he learns of a group of people doing the best they can to help people inside the slave town, he finds new purpose. But can a rebel survive in a place like that?
Here, there was a chance to do something. Change something. Maybe even change everything. No, that was ridiculous. He was only a teenage boy. He was doing well if he changed his worn underpants for clean ones, from one day to the next.
There’s a lot going on and it’s quite twisty and turny in places. I do think a little of its structure comes from the fact it was originally serialised on Wattpad, so it feels like every chapter is jam-packed. With the alternating perspectives, it did feel on occasion that the story was leaving a thread just at a really juicy bit. Overall I thought it was something a bit different and I got sucked in. Can’t wait for the next one now!
Gilded Cage is published by Pan Macmillan and is available now in ebook editions with a paperback due on 26th January 2016. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review. Pop back later in the month for my Q&A with Vic!
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.