I kindly received a review copy of The Gilded King from Josie in exchange for an honest review – thank you so much! All opinions in this review are my own, honest thoughts.
In the last city of the world, the Blue, all is not well. Humans have to serve the noble Silvers, who, in turn, are dependent on their blood. Julia, one of the Servers, dreams of escaping into the freedom of the Red – if it wasn’t for the contamination, death and possibly other unknown threats that might await her there. Julia and her best friend Claudia live their grey and predictable lives until they are chosen as personal Attendants to two Silver males. One is ruthless and egoistic, while the other dreams of freedom and fairy tales, just like Julia. Will they come true after all, in a world that is threatened to break down..?
The Gilded King takes place in a kind of post-apocalyptic world and includes dystopian themes and zombies and vampires. The lifestyle seems to be more traditional, taking place after the world of technology that we nowadays know of. The society of the Blue is divided into different categories of people. You get the Nobles (vampires), Candidates (humans who could deserve to be turned into vampires), Attendants (humans allocated to vampires to feed them), as well as simple Servers (general human servants).
In the beginning of the book, Julia and her best friend Claudia start of as simple Servers, working in a kitchen. Soon though, Claudia gets allocated to one of the Nobles, and after her first day ‘serving’ him she comes back with a terrible wound on her neck. Julia mistrusts the Nobles and doesn’t share the romanticised viewpoint of Claudia, who still believes in the fairy tales that Nobles could fall for their human Attendants and they could live a happily ever after together. Therefore it is even more interesting to see how Julia copes with the situation when she becomes an Attendant herself – something she wasn’t ever planning on. It is easy to like Julia, and you can totally empathize with her and how she copes with the situation she is in.
I also liked Lucas, Julia’s Noble, a lot. With his 20 years, he is a new immortal, and still has to learn how to get along with the rules and implications of this life. He is keen on breaking the rules though, which makes him even more sympathetic. I also liked that he and Julia share their dream of a free life in the Red, even if they don’t yet know they want to live it together.
Another thing that totally sucked me in was the legend Lucas told Julia about the story’s eponymous gilded king. I was wondering for a while why he told her that because it doesn’t seem to matter much in the story, but in the final chapter you get another glimpse into it that has you desperately waiting for the next instalment! Like, you NEED to know what happens next!
What I also really liked was the two perspectives you get in the story – the one from Julia, and then Cam’s, one of the Silvers. You find out that he is morally very much unlike you would have expected, he values human life a lot and thinks a lot about what is wrong and right. When Cam’s life is threatened by people he had trusted, you also feel very sorry for him. His search for Emmy in the Red is challenging and interesting, and it gives you glimpses of how the Blue and Red are really different from each other.
However, and this is one of the slight negatives, I didn’t really understand why Cam was so desperate to find Emmy – the search has already taken him years and years and he is still as eager to find her as in the first days after her disappearance. At first I thought it was because he was in love with her, but it later turns out that they didn’t share a romantic relationship at all. It was only in the end slightly touched upon that he is not happy with how the Blue is ruled and that their situation was far better when Emmy was around, but I didn’t really get what that was all about – I would have loved to get some more background information on that, but I’m hoping to get it either in the next book, or when I read the previous series.
I know it clearly says that you don’t need to read Jaffrey’s previous trilogy in order to get into this book, but I have to say I would have appreciated a little introduction to set the context first. I had some minor difficulties understanding what exactly the deal was with the contamination and the cure, why some blood was dangerous to the otherwise invincible Silvers and the other isn’t. It even took me a while to understand that Silvers are in a way vampires and the Weepers are like zombies – I think a proper introduction into the terms would have helped a lot.
Overall though, I really enjoyed this read, and would recommend it to those who like dystopian fiction with a hint of romance in it. It is also perfect for lovers of the vampire myth, because you get it here – but with a twist. I really hope to be able to pick up the previous series on the events prior to this book soon because I really need to find out more about the world Jaffrey has created and I also cannot wait for the sequel (THE SILVER QUEEN), which is due out on 17th October. I sincerely suggest you give it a try – 4 stars from me! Below I’ve included an excerpt below for an extra glimpse into the story.
At the very furthest point of the temple, at the end of the double row of pillars that processed towards it, there was a pedestal mounted on a stepped dais. A figure was laid out on top of it. For a moment, Julia froze, thinking it was a real person lying there, slumbering in the temple, but something didn’t fit.
The figure wasn’t breathing. It wasn’t moving at all.
‘Come on,’ Lucas said, leading her down the aisle towards it.
‘Is it a statue?’ she asked.
‘A tomb, really.’
As they walked, he snuffed out the lamps that lined the walls, until finally the only illumination came from the rounded alcove into which the dais rose. It was a bright island in the centre of the darkness, and in the middle of it the statue shone: a man, wearing fine clothing in an unfamiliar style, with a blanket of stone covering his body. His exposed skin was tinged with a sheen of gold that glowed like the walls of the temple.
‘He looks so real,’ she said, reaching out to touch the golden curls that crowned his head. They were slick under her fingers, so intricate they might have been moulded from a real person.
‘They say he was.’
‘You mean this is his coffin?’ The pedestal certainly looked like a tomb. It was wide and deep enough to accommodate a body.
‘No,’ Lucas said, ‘I mean that this is him, that this statue was once alive.’
Julia’s hand had been tracing the lines of the face, but now she snatched it away. ‘You’re not serious.’
‘This is why you brought me here,’ she said.
‘Of course. You want to hear the fairytale, don’t you?’
Thank you to Josie for this amazing glimpse into the book – this was actually my favorite scene!