Gilded Cage, Tarnished City, and Bright Ruin by Vic James (Books 2018, 21, 22, 23)

Also known as the Dark Gifts trilogy. I bought the first while at the recent BSFA meeting where Vic James and Lucy Hounsom, another fantasy author, interviewed each other. I enjoyed their conversation so much that I bought the first book in each of their trilogies.

I don’t read fantasy much, and I don’t really care for dystopias in SF, as I’ve mentioned before. So this being a fantasy dystopia, it shouldn’t really appeal to me.

But it turns out it’s great.

Apparently it was pitched in jest as ‘Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones in a world where Voldemort won.’ And… yeah, I guess. I haven’t read or seen Game of Thrones, and the time period is more-or-less present day. And none of the magical people (or Skilled ‘Equals’) is as out-and-out evil as Voldemort. But it’s not a bad description of the setup.

The idea is that there are people with magical abilities — referred to as ‘Skill’ — and they are the aristocracy and rule the country. Or at least they have since Charles the First and Last was killed by one of the Skilled, and they — also know as ‘Equals,’ ironically — took over running the country. Britain is an ‘Equal Republic.’ One thing that annoyed me at first is that there is no mention of what happened to Scotland. It appears to be part of Britain in the present day, but Charles the First (in our reality) was before the Acts of Union. Although not before the Union of the Crowns, so I suppose the Equals just took over Scotland too, by getting rid of the monarchy.1

Anyway, the worst part about the rule of these magical Equals is ‘Slavedays,’ wherein everyone is required to spend ten years of their lives as slaves. They get some choice in when they do it, but while you’re doing it you’re a slave, with everything that implies.

I found it hard to cope with the idea that people would just quietly accept this state of affairs. But I suppose if it’s been that way all your life, and it’s the law of the land… But I couldn’t help but think, wouldn’t people revolt against it?

Not surprisingly, of course, a trilogy like this is not about the maintenance of the status quo.

It’s really good. Well worth a read.


  1. Something of which under normal circumstances I would heartily approve, of course. But not the way it’s described here. []
Gilded Cage, Tarnished City, and Bright Ruin by Vic James (Books 2018, 21, 22, 23)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.