The Gilded King
Written by Josie Jaffrey
Publication date: 25th June 2018
Summary (from Goodreads):
In the Blue, the world’s last city, all is not well.
Julia is stuck within its walls. She serves the nobility from a distance until she meets Lucas, a boy who believes in fairytales that Julia’s world can’t accommodate. The Blue is her prison, not her castle, and she’d escape into the trees if she didn’t know that contamination and death awaited humanity outside.
But not everyone in the Blue is human, and not everyone can be contained.
Beyond the city’s boundaries, in the wild forests of the Red, Cameron has precious little humanity left to lose. As he searches for a lost queen, he finds an enemy rising that he thought long dead. An enemy that the humans have forgotten how to fight.
One way or another, the walls of the Blue are coming down. The only question is what side you’ll be on when they do.
Julia’s world was blue.
Blue was everything. Blue was safe. Blue was home.
How she longed to see red.
She could just glimpse it from the alley in which she crouched. The forests of Red were ever present, cradling and encroaching on stone and blue paint. The tops of the tress danced over the stuccoed walls of the buildings that formed the Blue: the last city on earth.
Watch the book trailer below:
First impressions: Gorgeous cover! The blurb also sounds fascinating. I have a soft spot for dystopian novels and the city of blue, surrounded by the dangerous wilderness of red sounds like a place I would like to find out more about. I like how the cover reflects this with the hint of red bleeding into blue. A small point I also liked was that everyone has Roman names and there were a few nods to Roman civilization.
The story is told in alternate chapters, each following a different character: Julia, a human, teenage girl whose parents abandoned her as a baby and left the city of blue to go in to the wilderness. Sometimes, she thinks about following them there but fear keeps her within the city walls where she attempts to keep her head down and get on with her work. All her plans come to nothing when both she and her best friend, Claudia, are chosen to be Attendants to the ruling class, which basically means a walking blood bank as those in control of the city are vampires.
The second narrative follows Cam, a Silver (vampire) who is searching for a friend, Emmy, who disappeared a long time ago (Her story is explored more fully through Josie Jaffrey’s first quartet of books). He has spent centuries scouring every part of the world outside the city of Blue, searching for Emmy and coming across the Weepers (zombies) who hunt through large parts of the Red. Along the way he discovers that the leaders of Blue might know more than they are letting on and he begins to question everything.
At first, I was more drawn to Julia’s narrative, but Cam grew on me as the book went on, particularly as we learn more about him and his past. I also loved the descriptions of the ruins of human cities being reclaimed by the wilderness – they were very evocative.
I found myself reading quickly, wanting to now what would happen, although, at times, I had to stop and reread to make sure I hadn’t missed something important. If you have already read the Solis Invicti series, a lot of the world-building will be in place for you, but I still think that this book could be read as a stand-alone. A lot of dominoes have been set up in this first book so I look forward to seeing what will happen next!
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?’
What I liked: Both of the characters who narrate the story are complex and interesting, with plenty of development throughout the story
Even better if: Although it is possible to read this book without having first read the Solis Invicti series, I did get the impression that I wild have had a better understanding of the world if I had read them first. I wanted to know more about Lucas and his motivations -why is he so different from all the others in his position? Why does he risk everything he does for Julia?
How you could use it in your classroom: There is nothing in this which would make it inherently unsuitable for older readers, although there is some reference to lust when Lucas feeds from Julia, but it is one I would recommend for reading independently rather than in a classroom. I would recommend this for 16+ or adult readers who are interested in paranormal stories with good character development, power struggles and a bit of a mystery.
(Thank you to the author for sending me a review copy!)
Don’t miss my interview with Josie, coming up in a few days!
Thanks for reading!