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Saturday, September 10, 2016

"The Gilded Cage" by Lucinda Gray (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

OVERVIEW: After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can't accept that her brother's death was an accident.

A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There's a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother's killer claim her life, too?

FORMAT: The Gilded Cage is a standalone YA gothic historical fiction novel. It takes place in 1820s England.

The Gilded Cage stands at 245 pages and was published by Henry Hold and CO. (BYR) on August 2, 2016.

ANALYSIS: While sci-fi/fantasy is my go-to genre, I enjoy a good historical fiction novel every now and then. The Gilded Cage caught my attention with a mysterious gothic cover and a plot summary that seemed unique and intriguing. Unfortunately, looks – at least when it comes to the cover – can be deceiving.

There isn't anything particularly wrong with The Gilded Cage, but there isn't anything particularly spectacular either. Everything from the entire story and how it unfolded to the world-building and characters are just 'alright'. There isn't one thing in this novel that makes it stand out from other historical novels.

When I read books, especially historical fiction, I want to feel as if I am transported back in time. I want to feel like I am walking alongside the characters, experiencing their experiences. That didn't happen in The Gilded Cage.

Let's start with the characters. Our main character, Katherine, is a feisty 16 year old American who finds herself suddenly uprooted and living in 1820s England. She was forced to move from her farm in America after her and her brother inherited an entire estate in England a huge fortune.

There is a lot of potential with how Katherine could be portrayed, but she fell flat. This could be because the novel is written with a quick pace in mind, so there wasn't much time to develop our main character. Unfortunately, I just felt like Katherine was a vessel for the story and there wasn't enough time to form a connection.

Of course, main characters are sometimes only as good as their secondary character or sidekicks. There were a lot of secondary characters throughout The Gilded Cage, but they were one dimensional. If it had been a play, the characters would have run on stage, said a line or two, and walked off.

Most of the interactions with Katherine, our main character, and the secondary characters occurred 'off book'. For example, Katherine becomes really good friends – the 1820s – version of BFFs with a girl named Jane. There was one scene with Jane at a party, which was the first time they met, then all of a sudden they are BFFs and Jane is lending moral support and they are connected to each other.

Another example, Jane and Katherine have a huge fight that actually results in violence. Katherine leaves in a huff and Jane is totally upset. A few chapters later, Jane is back and supporting Katherine because they kissed and made up, only it never was shown to the reader at all. It was just 'well we made up, accept it and it happened off page'.

It was the use of these off scene interactions that made the book feel flat. It gave me the feeling as if I was an outsider who wasn't allowed to see the good parts of the show or something.

There is a romantic angle brought into Gilded Cage, but the lack of character development made it difficult to buy into the romance. Katherine practically insta-loves almost any man in the story. There is a farm boy in America, a handyman of sorts, a lawyer, and that is all in a 250 page book. The final romance came out of nowhere. There wasn't any sign that it was developing and before you know it, two characters who had a total of 4 interactions the entire story are proclaiming they love each other until the end of time.

Another topic that needs to be discussed is the plot. The entire story was predictable. I knew who did it, what they did, and why they did it about 20% to 30% into the novel. There was one tiny 'twist' about 80% into the novel, but it wasn't all that surprising. The only reason I was caught off guard by it was because I didn't think the novel would tackle such a thing so close to the end of the novel. (Note: Sorry for being vague, I don't want to give details because it is perhaps one of the one different aspects of the novel).

The final question to ask is 'was Gilded Cage bad'. No. Gilded Cage isn't a bad novel. It is, however, one that I would say is easily forgettable. There wasn't one thing that made it stand out from other novels. A little more character development and little more world building would have probably elevated this novel and made it more enjoyable.

Overall, Gilded Cage is a fast paced, standalone YA historical novel. If it seems interesting to you and you have some time to spare, I would say go for it and try it out. The writing is decent, it just doesn't have that it power to stand out from so many other amazing novels out there.



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