Gilded Cage, Deep Water, The Otherlife – January books for the British Books Challenge

Gilded Cage by Vic James cage cover

‘A modern Britain. An age-old cruelty.

Britain’s magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years – and now it’s the Hadleys’ turn…’

The setting was the real hook for me. This is no invented dystopian world. The brutal servitude enforced by ‘the Equals’ (the magic-possessing aristocrats) is taking place in modern day Britain, and that’s what makes Gilded Cage so shocking. The Equals have used their magic (‘Skill’) to create a slave state run entirely for their own benefit, in which everybody else has to spen ten years of his or her life as a chattel. I loved the realism provided by the little bits of re-imagined history dropped into the story. For example, the references to the Confederate slave-owning states of America, and the way Oliver Cromwell’s revolt against Charles I is replaced with that of Cadmus the Pure-in-Heart, (the ancestor of the Jardines, the most powerful modern family).

The story moves along rapidly, told from various different viewpoints, and the characterisation is great. Two teenage boys are at the heart of the story: the youngest and most powerful Jardine brother, Silyen, and Luke Hadley, an ordinary 16 year old who is sent to the horrific slave town of Millmoor. While Luke becomes involved in the resistance movement, Silyen is working on his own bid for power. Luke is noble and heroic, contrasting strongly with Silyen’s creepiness (which reminded me a lot of Sebastian from The Mortal Instruments). Supporting characters are also really well drawn. I really felt for Gavar, the Jardine heir who loves his illegitimate daughter and feels trapped by his destiny – he is most definitely in a gilded cage. And his nasty, plotting fiancée, Bouda, is one of those wonderful characters that you just love to hate. Gilded Cage is the first part of a trilogy, so I’m really hoping she gets her come-uppance in one of the next two books…

 

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What if you discovered you weren’t who – or even what – you thought you were?

Suddenly people start to fear you. They think you’re evil. Cursed. And then they want to destroy you.’

Deep Water reminded me a lot of another series that I really love: The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper. It has that same sense of mysticism and place, of magic being rooted in a particular landscape. In the case of Deep Water that place is the Cornish coast: its villages, cliffs and caves. When Danni’s mother goes missing, Danni has to go and stay with her Dad in Cornwall, and Danni’s life rapidly becomes stranger and stranger. Her mum is found on a Cornish beach miles from home, and she has amnesia. Strangers cross themselves when Danni is nearby. Her hands start leaking water. And what is the truth behind the activities of the cult which dominated a nearby village not so many years ago? As Danni starts to uncover secrets about her family and its origins, her mum’s life hangs in the balance. Will Danni be able to accept what she is before it’s too late?

I really loved reading this story. Danni is a believable heroine, and Levi (her friend) and Elliot (her potential boyfriend) are both great characters.  Mamwyn, Danni’s previously unknown Cornish grandmother, is just brilliant: strong and unusual. And the insance, vengeful Crawford  and Aunty Bea are a perfect villainous couple. I’d love to read more about Danni and her special gift, so fingers crossed for a Deep Water follow up one day soon!

 

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I always get away with it when I try stuff like this. Partly it comes down to sort of assuming that I’m going to. I’ve got loads of confidence. And Loki got away with everything. Well, almost everything.

I love anything Viking or Dark Ages, so The Otherlife, with its blend of modern London and Norse mythology, is as perfect read for me. The story focuses on two teenage boys: the clever but struggling Ben, and the rich, dangerous Hobie. They become unlikely friends when Hobie realises Ben can see The Otherlife – the Norse gods – and becomes obessessed with finding a way into The Otherlife himself. There are two stories interwoven: the Norse story of the murder of Baldr by Loki, and the unexplained death of Ben’s friend and tutor, Jason. And it’s all set against the background of school exams – scholarships and GCSEs – and the huge amount of stress that they can bring. The story switches from Ben’s POV to Hobie’s diary entries – something I found really effective – and the pace ramps up as Ben discovers Jason’s death and then starts to try to find out what really happened that night at Hobie’s house….

Ben and Hobie are wonderfully contrasting characters. Ben is into metal, suffers from terrible headaches, and (at least at the beginning) seems rather put upon by his divorced parents. Hobie is so spoilt that he has his mother’s au pair boil him a second egg because the yoke of the first is too runny. But as their friendship grows, the risks that Hobie is prepared to take to keep Ben in his life get darker. The ending is a real twist that I didn’t see coming.

A who-dunnit set in London with Norse Gods and an antagonist who is as fascinating as he is destructive – what’s not to like?

2 thoughts on “Gilded Cage, Deep Water, The Otherlife – January books for the British Books Challenge

  • Chelley Toy

    Love these reviews and thank you so much for linking up to the British Books Challenge x

    Reply
  • susankmann

    These sound like really good books. I have Deep Water to read and looking forward to it x

    Reply

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