4 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this book.
This was an absolutely wonderful read that I did not anticipate liking nearly this much, but I did! And it was awesome!
Britain is ruled by the small, elite group of people who have fairly generic, not really well defined magic powers. They used to do cool, awesome things like build magnificent buildings and heal people, but now they seem to just spend a lot of time sitting on their asses and playing politics. This would not be completely terrible but they have decided that any unSkilled person (most of the population) have to spend a decade of their lives as slaves to the state. By slave we mean the full-on, no rights whatsoever legal nonentity. Given the relative power of the Skilled, most people have been somewhat loathe to bring up the unfairness of this arrangement, but things are coming to a boil. The Chancellor has been blackmailed into bringing up the possibility of abolishing slavery before the government and this might be just the opportunity a small group of rebels could use to overthrow the system.
This is one of the most multiple POV novels I have ever read. It does not switch between 2-3 different voices, but 5+. This could be either very thoughtful and helpful to the flow of the story, or end up annoying as hell. Here it turns out to be the former (thank goodness). The story unfold over two geographically separate areas (a slave camp and a manor), so we need at least that many POVs. The author has added in viewpoints from most of the major characters, and instead of getting confusing, it really makes this progress nicely. You can see everyone’s internal logic for their actions and get to know all of the characters very intimately.
The world is an uncanny mix of severe dystopian for most of the book, contrasted with a VERY normal looking home life for everyone before their slavedays. The first couple of chapters with Luke, Abi and the rest of their family before they decide to get their slavery out of the way read a lot like contemporary fiction with a slight twist. Once they are in the system, the tone of the world switches very quickly and severely. This really brought the reality of people working in those types of conditions across our world into focus for me. This type of slavery does not just happen in books, but there are real humans in this sort of situation right now.
I really enjoyed this book more than I thought I would for not having heard of the author before. I cannot wait for more from Vic James.