Content Warning: Strong Language, Violence, Non-Consensual Sex, Emotional/Psychological Manipulation, Sexual Content
The story within Gild seems to be rather straightforward. Midas’s touch turns anything into gold and the only living being he’s touched and lived, he has tucked away in his castle. However, not all is as it seems. Gild takes us on a journey with Auren, Midas’s favored, as she is tugged along through Midas’s conniving plans, all of which cause her harm, physical and emotional. But what else is the gilded favored supposed to do when she’s kept in a cage for 10 years?
Gild is based on the Greek myth of Midas; he who has the golden touch. Don’t know the myth? Don’t worry, I didn’t either before brushing up on my greek myths and legends.
- Excellent pacing
- Robust writing
- The characters
- No map
- Unsure of where the plot was going at first
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
Auren is Midas’s favorite saddle, one only touched by him, hence the gild of her skin. She is kept separated from the other saddles and most of the outside world. Auren lives in a gilded cage that spans across the top floor of the castle.
Everyone, royal and commoner alike, is fascinated with Midas’s favored, especially King Fulke. Fulk is the ruler of Fifth Kingdom and is allied with Midas, ruler of Sixth Kingdom. Upon his visit to Highball, Fulke pushes his bounds with Midas into seeing if he can have Auren for himself, at least for a night.
Surprisingly, and to Auren’s horror, Midas agrees, but there are conditions. Fulke must move his entire army to the border of Fourth Kingdom to meet Midas’s waiting army. They are to attack and conquer Fourth Kingdom, dividing up the lands.
However, Fourth Kingdom is ruled by King Ravinger, or King Rot. And no one fights King Rot, because, as his name implies, he can cause the human body to rot instantly, making him a deadly foe.
But, Fulke agrees. After moving his army and strategically planning with Midas for a week, all their efforts reign true as Fourth Kingdom is conquered. In honor of this victory, Midas holds a celebration. As part of their deal, Fulke gets Auren to himself for the night.
On the way to enjoy his “spoils,” King Fulke is stopped by a messenger from the front lines. Apparently, King Fulke’s entire army has been wiped out by King Rot’s forces.
Perplexed by the messenger’s tale, Fulke and Midas, along with their guards, meet in private to discuss the matter. The truth? Midas betrayed Fulke and sent his entire army to their deaths. Sixth Kingdom’s forces were never meeting Fifth’s. Instead, they were heading right for his kingdom.
Upon this discovery, a fight breaks out, resulting in King Fulke being murdered by Midas’s guards. He later spins the tale that the messenger was behind Fulke’s death. So, to protect Fulke, his ally, Midas must travel to Fifth Kingdom to rule in his spot, while he leaves his wife, the queen, behind to keep after Sixth Kingdom.
A month after the move, Midas has all of his saddles, and Auren is transported to Fifth Kingdom. The caravan travels through the nights and faces relenting snowstorms to reach the neighboring kingdom.
However, they never arrive. Instead, the caravan is attacked by the Red Raids, a pirate group located on the Barren ice fields.
The group kills off most of the soldiers, strips the men, carriages, and horses of all the gold plating, and takes the royal saddles. Captain Fane of the Red Raids decides he will sell off all the saddles, horses, and remaining guardsmen upon arriving at port in the Fifth Kingdom, but not after the pirates have their fun. So, Captain Fane sends out the word of his bountiful steal.
Not even an hour after capturing Midas’s caravan, the Fourth Kingdom’s commander, Commander Rip, boards the ship. He offers to pay Captain Fane for all of Midas’s remaining fleet, which does not come cheap.
Much to Captain Fane’s dismay at the commander’s quick notice, he relents to the commander’s agreement, furious that he and his men do not get to enjoy their “prizes.”
While Commander Rip and readying the rest of Midas’s fleet, the saddles were taken inside, out of the snow. However, not before Auren and Rissa, a royal saddle, are taken aside by the captain to his quarters.
Things go south for the pair as Captain Fane is one who gets off on violence. To protect Rissa and end her torment, Auren impulsively turns Captain Fane to gold, revealing the truth behind Midas’s power.
However, the pair must get rid of the evidence to protect their king’s secret. So, Auren and Rissa push Captain Fane’s solid gold body out the back window of the ship, along with the chest of gold Commander Rip just paid.
Auren and Rissa then pretend to be tied to the bed as the captain’s second in command, Quarter, comes to announce Commander Rip’s return. When the captain doesn’t answer, Quarter barges in and demands to know where the captain is.
The pair say that Captain Fane snuck out with the entire chest of gold after tying the two of them to the bed. The lie is believed, for now.
After exiting the cabin, Quarter discovers Fane’s hat and coat left behind. During his interrogation, Commander Rip interrupts and takes Rissa and Auren away.
As they are leaving the Red Raid’s ship, Auren almost passes out due to exhaustion, but she catches herself. However, she reveals her ribbons, as she calls them, in the process.
The book ends with Commander Rip telling Auren he knows what she is and Midas finding out Auren has been taken from him.
The synopsis of the book doesn’t give us any information on what Gild is truly about. There is so much more at play here and I am here for it!
In general, I don’t have anything negative to say about the plot and what happens. So, the following points are all neutral or positive aspects.
The plot was rather slow to unfold in Gild, however, I’m not complaining. As long as it is done well, I enjoy a slow plot that builds and extends into other books, similar to From Blood and Ash. It provides the reader time to familiarize themselves with the characters, the world, the history, and more, before the big ending.
In the beginning, I liked King Midas’s plot to fool King Fulke. It was clever and I didn’t see it coming until the messenger came along. It was a great twist that showed us a bit more on who Midas actually is. This event definitely alludes to a larger, overall plot that we haven’t been made privy to yet.
I also didn’t foresee Auren being able to turn things into gold. Like, fuck, this changes so much!
- Does this mean that Midas doesn’t actually have a golden touch and is using Auren to gain power and status?
- If this is true, how was he able to convince the Sixth Kingdom of his abilities?
I have so many questions!
After learning about the fae and Commander Rip, I have a prediction.
I think Auren is actually fae. She has different body-like modifications, e.g. her ribbons, gold skin, gold blood, etc., just like Commander Rip. So, it begs the question: if she is fae, does Auren know it? Has she always been gold? Where does she come from? Again, so many questions!
Towards the end of the book when thinking back on Midas’s and Auren’s relationship, something dawned on me. If Midas is 7 years older than Auren and she was 15 when going with him to the Sixth Kingdom, Midas had to be at least 22.
Midas groomed her. That’s exactly what this is. He’s groomed Auren, given her no freedom, controls her every move, and says that what he is doing is out of “love” or because “he cares for her.” *eye-roll*
This revelation made me sick. But, I now understand Auren a little bit more afterward and I truly feel for her.
Auren is an intriguing character and at times I forget that she has lived a life outside of the castle walls, like when she rode the horse while traveling. She’s such an enjoyable character to read about, too. Auren is brave, kind, and just wants some friends.
I love her and can’t wait to read more about what happens next and her background.
But let’s dive into her character, because oh boy, has she been through it.
Auren’s mannerisms, thought process, and speech in some scenes scream manipulation and isolation.
Poor thing has been groomed into being Midas’s golden girl. Even though she gets the luxury of living in a castle, she doesn’t get to roam or interact with others unless it is approved. Hell, her guards won’t even talk to her!
She even gaslights herself into thinking she should just accept the little physical and emotional contact she receives. She thinks she shouldn’t complain because she “has it good.” But she doesn’t. She’s a captive, even in a gold cage.
Auren is allowed to have wants and needs. He’s a person, too. Having these desires and needs ignored only add to the trauma of her whole situation.
It breaks my heart seeing her gaslight herself. I remember being in a similar situation years ago, and it was not fun. It’s exhausting and all you really want is to be with the person who is manipulating you.
I just want to give her a hug.
Even though Auren is isolated from most others, she still has a cautiously carefree attitude. She’s fun and still does what she wants, well, within her cage, as long as it doesn’t go against the king.
When she is out of her cage and traveling to the Fifth Kingdom, Auren still maintains her cautiously carefree attitude. She talks and jokes with Sail, rides a horse in the freezing cold, defying Digby’s orders, and helps where she can.
Auren doesn’t conform to what is expected of her. She does as she wishes, but knows when to listen. For example, she helps the kids in the shanties of Highbell by giving them gold, regardless of what those around her thought.
Although Auren is cautious and carefree, she tends to be a bit reckless. This definitely stems from her lack of social interactions. For example, when she threw the book at Rissa to get her to stop dancing and take a break; Auren didn’t think it all the way through and she ended up in trouble for the act.
Again, going back to the kids in the shanty, her actions were reckless because the residents of the area were eyeing for an attack to take gold. She flaunted the gold in front of people who were starving and poor.
At first, I liked Midas. I thought he was a good guy taking in an orphan and protecting her. But as I continued reading, who he becomes clear to me. Midas is greedy, manipulative, and possessive. Not just of Auren, but of his saddles, his belongings, and his power.
And this makes him dangerous, too.
Midas is clever and knows how to push the right buttons on people; to give them what they want and then twist their arms to gain the advantage. Like what he did to King Fulke. He is always scheming and looking for opportunities to strike in order to gain the upper hand.
He is conniving scum that, as of right now in the series, cannot be redeemed in my eyes. But who knows where the books will lead.
There were a few side characters in Gild that really had an impact on me and the story: Sail, Rissa, and Digby.
I adored all of these characters. They were well-rounded and felt like actual people. Their actions and dialog felt realistic, and regardless of their occupation, are wholesome people.
Sail should be protected at all costs. He is such a sweetheart and a kind soul. But he is a true example of the good die young. Sail wanted nothing more than protect Auren and be her friend, but instead, he was cut down and killed in front of her.
Sail didn’t deserve that, he deserved to live a happy life. One with a much better outcome than what he received.
Rissa is a real trooper. After how she handled the Red Raids, I have a lot of respect for her.
Rissa trusted and talked to Auren when no one else would. She was even quick to accept Auren’s power of gold touch and her ribbons. Though she had a lot of questions, she still didn’t treat Auren that much different than before.
Maybe Rissa will be a new ally to Auren and help the other saddles warm up to her, too.
I love Digby. He is the stoic bodyguard that I love to see. His quiet demeanor and honor to uphold the king’s wishes even when he is not around is quite charming.
But where is he? Was he actually killed or is he still out there fitting to find Auren? Or is he in on it? Is Digby the tip?
The end of the book leaves a lot of speculation and I think Digby, no matter how much I don’t want it to be true, might be our missing piece.
I love the writing style of Gild. Auren has such a sarcastic tone, with just a hint of instability. Her POV and personality create such an intriguing experience. I enjoy seeing her handle interactions with others, problem-solving, and her general outlook on life. That “look at the bright side” perspective she has is admirable.
Auren’s POV also provides insight into how the men around her treat her as a possession. They don’t think of her as a person but something they can trade and bargain with instead. It’s shown very well with how little they regard her when talking about their battle plans or when determining how much she is worth in gold coins in front of her.
The writing is true to the original message behind King Midas—showing the greed behind man.
I also appreciated the content warning at the beginning of the book. When author’s include warnings about their books, it comes off as they care about the well-being of their readers, because some can’t handle the events that might be portrayed.
Fae and Ribbons
A couple of other things I enjoyed about the book is the brief history lesson on the fae (which I was not expecting fae in this novel, so yay!) and how the ribbons seem to be their own entity.
The ribbons in particular are interesting because they are portrayed as being separate from Auren. They seem to house their own energy and power, and respond to Auren’s emotions (e.g. waking her up after the carriage flipped, wrapping around her for warmth, etc.).
These both leave me with so many questions that I am itching to find out about.
The poem at the very end of the book was a nice touch. It summarized everything that had happened and alluded to what we haven’t been told yet through Auren. It’s very fitting for the theme and story.
One thing I did not like about Raven Kennedy’s writing was her kingdom naming scheme. It just seemed so lazy to me to number off the kingdoms. Maybe there is a reason later in the story for it, but right now it just seems like lazy writing.
Also, the last 1/4 of the book had some major grammatical and spelling errors– like “I’l” instead of “I’ll.” It was hard to focus at points in the end because of this.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Gild. It is so refreshing to read a solid and sound book after so many duds.
The premise of the book is promising and enticing, and I can’t wait to read more about the world or Orea. I love the slow, but steady pace it is taking (even with cliffhangers) and the characters are written very well.
I look forward to finding out what is going to happen to Auren and the saddles, what kind of trouble Midas has caused, King Rot, and the fae. I’m excited to continue the series and uncover its truths.
What did you think of the book? Did you like it or could you have done without it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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