My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
I love it when people aren’t who they seem. It makes life so much more exciting, don’t you think? — Silyen Parva-Jardine
I first read Gilded Cage as an e-ARC given by Pan Macmillan. Essentially, I gave it two stars because it turned out to be overhyped. You can read my first review of this book here. When Penguin Random House innocently sent me a physical ARC, I figured it would be a waste if I did not give the book a second chance. Now, I am happy to say that I do not regret my decision. Since my expectations were no longer affected by the hype still surrounding Gilded Cage, I ended up having a better reading experience.
I still stand by my opinion regarding the book’s general content. In typical fashion, Gilded Cage is a dystopian novel that depicts the bourgeoisie as perpetually corrupt. As usual, the oppressed lower classes are featured as the instruments of glorified revolution. I’ve read tons of dystopian books, so even though I was determined to reread Gilded Cage with fresh eyes, I just couldn’t shake off my jadedness, as well as my tendency to feel sleepy every now and then. Nevertheless, I am thankful that I reread this book because doing so enabled me to view the characters in a different light. All in all, nothing much happened in this book, but its complex and shady characters made it worth my time.
Initially, there was a clear distinction between the good and bad characters. I could easily establish the poor Hadleys as the protagonists and the rich Parva-Jardines as the antagonists. Luke Hadley and the other commoners experienced violence and exploitation in the hands of the Skilled (magical) aristocrats. Hence, it was only natural for me to root for them. However, after getting to know the perspectives of the Parva-Jardine siblings (Gavar, Jenner and Silyen), the line between “good” and “bad” became blurry. Silyen was particularly intriguing because it was so difficult to know (decode) his true intentions. His ambivalent personality reminded me of Harry Potter‘s Severus Snape, Shatter Me‘s Warner and A Court of Thorns and Roses‘s Rhysand. The same could be said of Gavar and Jenner, in that some of their actions conveyed a sense of sympathy for the marginalized members of their society.
When I come to think of it, most of the supposed/traditional antagonists in this book turned out to be my favorite characters. Don’t get me wrong. I do not support the objectification of the lower classes. My fondness for the Parva-Jardines is only a result of their unique characterization. I always love it when I encounter fictional characters who defy my expectations. 🙂
Overall, Gilded Cage deserves 3.5 stars because even though it still did not amaze me, at least its multifaceted characters encouraged me to use my critical thinking. In the end, I guess this shows that even books deserve second chances. ^^