Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)
Book received free for review from Random House Publishing Group.
This might have been the best book I read all year.
Set in an alternate universe England, a very small part of the population has magical powers (called Skill in the story). Unsurprisingly, they're the ruling class. Surprisingly, the nonmagical people have to spend ten years of their lives as slaves to the people with Skill. It can be any ten years you want, from age 18 on. Some people do it right away (and then spend the rest of their lives bitter and likely broken), others wait until what is probably their final ten years of life.
The slaves live in awful conditions, doing backbreaking work all day, six days a week.
The story follows two families, one with Skill and one without, and how the two intersect. Personal relationships between the two groups were explored, as well as much larger society-wide issues.
The author did everything, everything right in this book. The writing, both technical and storycrafting, were perfect. What little romance in the book was completely believable and realistic.
As I neared the end of the story (staying up well passed my bedtime to finish it), I was worried how the book would end. There was way, way too much story left for how much of the book was left, so I was worried Gilded Cage would do what too many other trilogies/series do: End on a cliffhanger. But it did not! While it was clear there was more story to come (so much more), this book had an actual ending! You rock my world, Vic James. More authors need to follow your lead.
I strongly recommend this book, unless you don't enjoy dark stories.