Review: The Gilded King by Josie Jaffrey

The Gilded King has a lot going on.

From the very beginning, the book is set in a world that has been taken over by zombies and vampires thanks to some sort of apocalypse. The Gilded King is set in a post-apocalyptic world where only one civilized city seems to have remained run by a noble class made up entirely of Vampires. The city they live in is blue and safe, and everything beyond the boundaries is red and dangerous. The book unfolds itself from two key points of views. One from Julia, our human protagonist and Cameron (referred to as Cam throughout the book), our vampire protagonist. From these two main characters, we learn about the city of Blue and the dangerous world outside of it.

From Julia, we see how humans are treated in this society. The human world is separated into Servants (the lowest of humans), Attendants (next rank of humans that are basically also a vampire’s personal blood bank), or Candidates (the worthiest of humans, ones that might be given the chance of becoming a vampire). Candidates are the only humans who have a chance of becoming nobles.

Julia, a teenager, is our eyes and ears for the city of Blue. While at first, she’s completely averse to the way humans are treated in the city of Blue, that all changes when she meets a young noble named Lucas.

From Cam, we learn about what the world outside of the Blue is really like. Outside the city walls is a place of vampires gone rogue and an unstoppable virus that affects vampires and humans in entirely different ways. There is a war that’s been building up for centuries as tensions against the vampires rise. Cam is how we see the war as it’s raging and how it will change the game for the humans who have been able to survive so far.

In the Gilded King, Information and key plot points are sprinkled throughout this first book so that the reader is left piecing information together bit by bit. It’s not immediately easy to understand how the city of Blue came to be and what exactly the Red outside of it really is.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Lots of stories drip feed their readers lore and background about the world that they’re in.

The problem with the Gilded King is that the characters are built in a way that makes them feel one-dimensional.

I won’t go into exactly why since that’s spoiler heavy. Inevitably though, there isn’t enough to leave you intrigued about the characters by the time the last chapter and cliffhangers of the book are presented. The end of the Gilded King makes it clear that it was written to keep the reader waiting for book two.

Beyond complaints about the characters, it was strange to be reading a book centered around vampires in 2018 when the fad feels like it’s fading. The Gilded King was released six years after the last of the Twilight movies and a year after Vampire Diaries had ended. Aren’t we collectively tired of vampires yet? Wasn’t The Mortal Instruments fantasy’s last-ditch attempt at making this particular subset of the genre cool again?

These fads are cyclical, they’ll come back around, but focusing on vampires now is a little old-fashioned. I’m conflicted. I feel like I’m being too critical in my judgment of the first book in this series. I hope the second book surprises me, but I’m not sure what The Sovereign series will add to the genre.

Although I wasn’t a fan of the way the plot was spread out in the Gilded King, I can appreciate the way the author sprinkled key plot points and new lore developments throughout the book. Cam’s back story isn’t just handed to you and the book makes the reader work to piece things together. If you want to understand the city of Blue and what in the heck is happening in the Red surrounding the city, you need to put the work in.

In the end, the Gilded King is fine. It’s just fine. Maybe I’m exhausted by the idea of vampires. Or maybe I had to work too hard to piece together all the information strewn throughout the book. But by the time I reached the last page of the Gilded King, the cliffhangers left by the author didn’t matter enough to me.

There was so much story to be set up in the Gilded King, so much lore to establish without giving too much away that the characters felt incomplete even when it was over. I suppose since this is book one in a series of however many, this was meant to set the scene rather than involve you.

Every fantasy genre book you pick up will have its own rules and lore to learn and figure out. I don’t have a problem with that. Except with the Gilded King coming in just under 288 pages, focusing so much on the environment meant something would be left lacking. And in this case, unfortunately, it’s the characters. I will say though, that the cliffhangers at the end of the book are great. They’re a real ‘oh snap’ moment.

It’s fine. It’s just fine.

2.5 / 5

See y’all for The Silver Queen (Sovereign #2)!


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