A world with a society separated by abilities inherent from birth, notably an aristocratic birth, and a struggle for power from the oppressed and abused features in Gilded Cage by Vic James.
Abi is an intelligent young woman who works to attain a favorable situation in which her parents, younger brother Luke, and younger sister Daisy can work out their ten years of service to the Equals, aristocrats with Skill similar to magic who dictate how the world functions. Having secured a place on a well-known estate of England’s most powerful family, Abi and her family believe that they’ll be spared the horror stories they hear coming from the slavetowns where most people serve their years. But when reporting for their years, Luke is separated from his family and sent to a cruel factory community instead. But the estate is not quite as happy as it might seem and the slavetowns aren’t as complacent as they might appear as both commoners and Equals struggle with the status quo.
In a quickly moving narrative, there’s fairly strong world building, as well as character development to keep readers invested in the outcome of the story. With all that was introduced in this vision of the world and what the characters are going through, the story arc is well set up for a series by resolving an adequate amount and introducing just enough new twists to propel the story forward and maintain reader interest. I enjoyed that there were elements of a dystopian society that read as familiar but it was incorporated in a manner that didn’t feel overly clichéd.
Overall, I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5 stars.