Book Talk

This is the place for book reviews and book-related round-ups or lists. I read all sorts of things, but book reviews here will mostly be of the science fiction, fantasy, YA, historical fiction, or contemporary fiction variety. My reviews are based on a) how much I enjoyed reading a book and b) the quality of the writing; there is not an exact balance or recipe for how I come up with my final rating, but those are the points I consider. Also, I read a LOT more books than I do full reviews on, so if you want the full rundown of activity, find me on Goodreads. You can also check out my list of Recommended Reads.

Book Review: Gilded Cage

Gilded Cage (Dark Gifts #1)

by Vic James.

Gilded Cage In this alternate England, magically-gifted aristocrats (Equals) rule the land, while ungifted commoners must serve 10 years as slaves. When in their life they serve those 10 years is up to them, but serve it they must. Not everyone is happy about this arrangement. The slavetowns are backbreaking and bleak, and it’s becoming more clear that being Skilled with magic is not the straight genetic shot everyone thought it was. Three young people find themselves in the midst, in different ways, of this political turmoil and magical hotbed.

Luke, a teenage boy, is serving out his 10 years of slavedom in a milltown and getting a taste for social revolution. His older sister, Abi, is serving out her years more cushily, as secretary to a powerful Equal family and finding herself in over her head. Silyen is the youngest son of that Equal family, and also the most talented magically- to the point no one knows what he’s really capable of or planning. Things mostly focus on Luke and Abi, with occasional appearances by Silyen. I found all 3 believable in the context of their world, and compelling. I’m always partial to a mysterious boy, though, so I would’ve loved to see Silyen on more pages.

This is a pretty well-done first book in a series. It sets the stage and gets the ball rolling, and gets you intrigued. Just enough happens that you want to keep going, but there is still a lot left hanging to make you pick up subsequent books. I liked that it was a mix of a lot of different things. You’ve got bits of political maneuvering, romance, espionage, magic, dystopia, revolution, family, murder, and more. All set in this alternate (yet recognizable) England. Instead of feeling schizophrenic, it mostly works. The writing style was not particularly memorable, neither beautiful nor terrible. The emphasis is on plot and character rather than language, and in this case that worked fine for me. Sometimes the text needs to get out of the way of the story.

A few things I didn’t like: some of the lesser characters were a bit cookie-cutter stereotypes. Particularly the older brother and the slave overseer. Luke and Abi’s parents were annoyingly passive about… well, everything. The ‘reveal’ towards the end as to certain revolutionaries was not at all a surprise to me, the hints were broadcast pretty widely. On the other hand, one key figure in the mix at the end seemed to come out of nowhere, as did the fact that a certain security measure was someone unknown or overlooked.

Overall, those are more minor points, and the book as whole I enjoyed quite a bit. I’m very much looking forward to getting my hands on book 2. Though it will be awhile, sadly. This first book will be out until early 2017, and no word yet on when book 2 will appear. But if you enjoy dark historical fantasy YA, put this on your TBR pile for next year.

I give it 4/5 stars.

I received a free advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Gilded Cage

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Book Review: Raven Song

Raven Song (Inoki’s Game #1) by I.A. Ashcroft. A century from now, after widespread nuclear war, humanity is clinging to a few select cities, kept safe from radiation by their force field domes. Jackson is a legit businessman and less-legit smuggler, making ends meet and sailing through life. And it would be smooth sailing, except for some troubling dreams, hallucinations of extinct ravens, and his own finicky magic. Then a big government contract lands in his lap, and it’s too good to pass up. Except the cargo is not a thing, but a person. And she is definitely not normal, […]

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Book Review: Black Fall

Black Fall (The Black Year Saga #1) by D.J. Bodden. Jonas Black is your typical teenager- 16, with a girlfriend, school, and favorite playlists he can’t live without. Sure, he has a missing/dead father, and mother he barely sees, but no one is 100% normal, right? Then strange things start happening and he learns just how far from normal his family (and he) is. The world he thought he knew is really just the surface. Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, demons – they are all real, and dangerous. And, of course, all balanced in an ongoing political struggle for power and […]

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Book Review: Ninth City Burning

Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black. The future of Earth is threatened when an alien race suddenly appears in our skies, wielding a power we have no idea how to combat. Cities disappear, and it looks like the planet will be overrun, when humanity discovers it can wield this new power, too. Or at least, some humans can. Enough to fight back. This sparks a centuries-long war spanning planets and realms. Things are much the same year after year, with each side gaining and losing ground again and again. Then the tactics of the alien force change, ever so […]

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Book Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin. Sometime far, far in the future, Earth (is it Earth?) is unrecognizable. The landmasses have shifted into one big, volatile continent called The Stillness. Every few centuries or so, this volatility causes a fifth season. It’s a different animal from the other four (spring, summer, autumn, winter); always inhospitable to life, it can vary in its length (months, years, decades) and the specific calamity involved. This book opens at the dawning of a new fifth season. The story is told via 3 characters: Demaya, a young girl from the countryside; […]

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Book Review: The Invisible Library

The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman. An inter-dimensional library tasked with collecting rare works from the the different alternate realities. Do you really need more of a hook than that? I didn’t. Turns out, being a Librarian for this particular library is a lot like being a spy and thief. Add in some time travel, some steampunk flavor, a few paranormal creatures, and more, and you have the makings of a delightfully entertaining read. And it was, at least, delightfully entertaining. This is a book you read for fun, not for Deep Thoughts or Social Commentary. […]

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Book Review: The Fire Sermon

The Fire Sermon (The Fire Sermon, #1) by Francesca Haig. Some time in the future, a nuclear disaster devastates the world. 400 years after that, humanity is still around but has been changed drastically. Every single person is born with a twin. One twin comes out healthy and ‘normal’ (the Alphas) and the other inevitably has some kind of deformity or abnormality (the Omegas). And despite society’s best efforts to segregate these two types, one hard fact remains: whenever one twin dies, so does the other. They are irrevocably linked. When Cass and Zach are born, it’s not clear which […]

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