Reviewing: The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey

The Gilded King promo slide

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?’

Guys I think I’ve found a new vampire series to read.

The Gilded King is a dystopian vampire novel where the outbreak of a virus and the subsequent attempt at a cure has created a world where contamination could taint every living thing, and both humans and ‘Nobles’ as they have come to be known exist in a delicate balancing act where any misstep could mean extinction.  

The novel follows Cameron, an ancient Noble in search of his missing friend out in the contaminated wilds of the Red and Julia, a human server confined within the walls of the Blue city – the last city on Earth, where humans serve their Noble masters and live in fear of the poisonous world outside. Through the eyes of these two wildly different characters, we see both inside and outside the city walls as the society they depend on begins to unravel. Cameron might have a lead at last regarding where his friend has been taken, and Julia’s new status as the human attendant to one of the resident Nobles puts her in a position of vulnerability  – but also of opportunity to understand the world around her. Is the Red as poisonous as she has been led to believe? And are the Nobles content in their lot?

The ‘Nobles’ were handled really well. They are a society, a species with their own creation myths and traits, using the withholding of information and fear tactics to maintain steady access to an untainted food supply while also being startlingly human. Some are aloof and distant, old and powerful. They hold themselves above humanity and rule over it with a sense of righteousness. Others, like Cameron and Lucas, form closer relationships with the humans around them than with their own kind, and see feeding more as an act of bodily necessity then a power play of ownership. The idea that the only physical marker of what they are is their eyes which can become indicators of their greatest weakness – the ones they love – was an interesting one, and contained a little bit of magic amongst the otherwise logical existence of these creatures in the world we know. It also means vampires can never lie about being in love, which must be tremendously awkward for them, and is possibly the most crushing thing about the intimacy and closeness between Julia and Lucas – for all his supposed passion, his eyes have not silvered with love.

I loved the writing style of this book. It was in turn tense, melancholy and funny and I found it both easy and tremendously enjoyable to read. The characters were unique and fully fleshed out, with their own agendas and ways of perceiving the world around them. Mostly, this is a story about how in a world where the population is dwindling, our relationships to one another take on a whole new light. Julia will never abandon Claudia, her closest friend, even if it means a life in servitude. Cameron will search for Emmy until the end of the world itself because she is his friend, and she is missing, and if he were missing she would do the same.

I have since figured out that there’s another series following Emmy (Cameron’s missing friend) in the days of the outbreak and the ‘Fall’ – so guess who’ll be reading those soon.

Me, I’ll be reading them.

This book had little bits of everything I like to read. There was fantastical and supernatural elements, a dystopian world where survival is key, fairy-tale like myths and political intrigue. Seriously, seeing the threads of the story come together was fantastic. Cameron and Julia never meet, yet through them and what they see individually we as readers can piece together what is happening to the world around them. It is also one of those rare books where there is romance and it DOESN’T GET IN THE WAY OF THE MAIN PLOT. That’s right, Cameron definitely has a massive crush on the handsomely rugged woodsman he finds in the Red, and he still manages to uncover a plot far beyond what he anticipated, and Julia’s growing closeness to one of the Nobles the human race are bound to serve enables her to find out more than many humans in the Blue City are allowed to know.

Can I also quickly shout out to Hades, Cameron’s ‘clever bastard’ of a horse who stole my heart by being a total asshole for the entirety of his time in this book.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was well-written and well-paced, and the constant threat of contagion and unravelling plot outside the city walls kept me reading. Honestly, if you like dystopian fiction and vampires, give this one a read.

Keep your eyes peeled for a review of the sequel when that comes out because I HAVE to know what happens next.

Overall rating: 📖📖📖📖📖 5 books out of 5

A copy of The Gilded King was provided by the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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