An Amateur’s Structuralist Perspective on Josie Jaffrey’s The Gilded King #UltimateBlogTour


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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Summary I got 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.

Author’s Bio, lifted from her website:

Josie is the author of nine self-published novels plus short stories. She is currently working on a range of fantasy and historical fiction projects (both adult and YA), for which she is seeking representation. Ultimately, she hopes to be a hybrid author, both traditionally- and self-published.

After finishing her degree in Literae Humaniores (Classics) at the University of Oxford, Josie wasn’t sure what to do with her life.

She slogged through a brief stint working for an investment bank in London during the 2008 credit crunch, then converted to law and qualified as a solicitor specialising in intellectual property. She worked at a law firm for five years before moving to a UK-based international publisher in 2016. Whilst she loved law, in the end she didn’t love it quite as much as writing, which she now does almost full time.

Josie lives in Oxford with her husband and two cats (Sparky and Gussie), who graciously permit human cohabitation in return for regular feeding and cuddles. The resulting cat fluff makes it difficult for Josie to wear black, which is largely why she gave up being a goth. Although the cats are definitely worth it, she still misses her old wardrobe.

The 5(ish)- Minute Book Review (if you aren’t in the mood for a long post)

Binary Opposites and Symmetry in The Gilded King

Before proceeding, here’s another disclaimer: I’m a vampire noob. My knowledge goes as far as Dracula’s and Lestat’s names- Vincent Valentine if you consider him one. I don’t gravitate towards vampire literature for no specific reason similar to how a number of people turn up their noses at other young adult fantasy novels *coughs in Harry Potter*. Reading The Gilded King eased me into this uncharted realm – the fact that I didn’t read the whole invitation tweet for the blog tour was partly to blame. With that said, let’s get it on with my amateur two cents on Josie Jaffrey’s novel.

The Structure

Josie Jaffrey’s storytelling is superb.

Each chapter shows a limited perspective based on the featured character, not unlike an episode in a TV Series. It’s telling something without giving everything away and as a reader, I appreciated how the plot thickened all the while I was concerned about what each character was doing. Given the structure, I could only see the whole plan coming to fruition as Cam was unraveling it and as Julia was suffering from it. The effect was perfect. Those like me who often had thoughts like, “Don’t be stupid, don’t go there!” or “He’s the villain!” will enjoy the pacing.

Also, The Gilded King, though the first novel in the Sovereign Series, is but one of the novels created to build the world of the Silvers. A reader gets bits and pieces about the world but not everything, just enough to pull you in, help you understand the story and make you want to read and know more.

Red and Blue as Colors, as Places

Black and red are colors often associated with vampires but in the novel, Red and Blue are the colors that hold significant meanings. Red’s meaning in a novel about vampires hardly needs to be explained (blood, hello!) but it gets an additional context in The Gilded King similar to how red signs are taken today: red light means ‘stop’, CAUTION or WARNING signs are inked in red. Red is the name of the dangerous area outside Blue. How dangerous it is to the citizens of Blue, I can’t tell you without spoiling the story. To go to the Red border means death for the citizens of Blue. It is a place Julia, one of the protagonists, yearns to go to but never sets foot in. Red in the novel equates to chaos.

Blue on the other hand signifies peace and order, something that the Silvers in the city would like to keep. The seemingly harmonious relationship of the Silvers and their Attendants also contribute to the meaning of the color. Not to mention that it is also associated with aristocracy. In Blue, there is a social hierarchy where Silvers are Nobles and humans are Servers. This is where the role reversal occurs: Silvers cannot exist without the Servers’ pure, uncontaminated blood so the former will protect the latter at all cost which tells us, a Silver’s servitude can also be bought by blood. Perhaps Blue isn’t only the representation of the Silver’s nobility but of the importance of the Server’s blood.

The tension between these two places, Red and Blue, is emphasized when Julia attempts to leave (there goes one spoiler) but utterly fails as her courage betrays her. This tension builds up until it culminates with Red breaking through the Blue’s borders.

Silver and Glass

We’re Silver, so we’re metal right? … we’re strong, but we corrode. The humans … are breakable … but they’re the ones who’ll survive for millennia, not us.”

Lorelai, The Gilded King

As previously mentioned, Silvers, with their strength, beauty and immortality, are a sort of nobility and humans treat them as such. Some revere them, others detest them. Meanwhile, humans are mortal and in the world created by Jaffrey, subject to servitude. With my description, you’d think a Silver outclasses a Human- the Nobles in Blue encourage this- however in the story it is more complicated than that as their relationship is more symbiotic rather than predatory. Although human beings are considered servers, the irony lies in the Silver’s dependence on their “attendants” for their immortality. Without pure blood, they’d die of hunger. Contaminate that blood and the Silvers would run out of food. Force them to drink contaminated blood, the Silvers would lose what makes them special. Human beings, primarily uncontaminated, on the other hand, depend on the Silver’s power or perish. They either choose to live their lives controlled but protected by the Silvers or escape from Blue and suffer consequences like blood coming out of their eyes and mouth. To complicate the relationship even further, a noble can easily suck up their attendants blood when uncontrolled and the blood of a human being who has eaten food from Red can ‘cure’ a Silver and turn the latter into a normal human being.

Cam and Julia

Julia and Cam are both central figures in The Gilded King. Both are smart, curious and faithful to a fault. Cam, the Silver protagonist, actively pursues what he believes is his remaining purpose to find Emmy while uncovering a plot brewing outside the unsuspecting civilization of Blue. Meanwhile, Julia, the human protagonist, tries to resist her destiny by going against some rules, going as far as to plan an escape from Blue. They cherish their friends, in Cam’s case Emmy, in Julia’s case, Claudia, and will do anything to protect them.

Their similarities don’t end there. Julia and Cam meet their love interests, or what they appear to be (remember, this is but the first novel in the Sovereign series), from groups outside their own which mean potential danger for either of them. Lucas, Julia’s Noble, is a young Silver, whereas Felix is a Contaminated. I don’t have to tell you that the difference in their respective classes, though partially touched, is a conflict waiting to explode in the next novels.

Apart from how each of the love interests’ breath smelled like ‘mint and honey’, I couldn’t find any element that isn’t relevant to the whole picture. The fact that it took me a while to finish reading the book was more about my preference rather than the material. As I don’t read romance novels about vampires, I applaud Jaffrey’s ability to get me hooked.

Given the chance, I would want to read the next installment or other books related to The Gilded King. It would be fantastic to revisit the world Jaffrey created. Here comes the however statement: I have a number of books waiting to be read and reviewed. I want to finish my Harry Potter-Lord of the Rings-Sherlock Holmes marathon and I have signed up for another blog tour in May. These may sound like lame excuses but I sincerely want to finish Jaffrey’s series. In fact, I have a number of questions I need to be answered: 1) What happens to Cam and Felix? 2) Who’s Emmy and how important is her role? 3) How will Lucas and Julia survive in this dystopia. All these thoughts coming from someone who does not care about romance and vampires. That is saying something.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Ellie Rayner says:

    Great review, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts and I hope you enjoy your HP, LOTR and Sherlock Holmes marathons as well as the next books in this series!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. prexybasco says:

      Thank you for reading my review! It’s a great novel and I wanted to do it justice.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ellie Rayner says:

        It is! I loved how your review was structured!

        Liked by 1 person

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