Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

I’ve been really enjoying stories set in patriarchal societies lately. Not because I enjoy the patriarchy, but because I appreciate reading about strong women rising up against it. Deka lives in an oppressive world—one in which you’re judged “pure” if your blood runs red and “impure” if it runs gold. And, of course, you can guess what colour Deka’s blood runs when she’s tested at age fifteen.

The story includes trauma, abuse, and violence. The author has mentioned it is loosely based on her experience growing up in Sierra Leone during the civil war. It’s definitely got action-filled and terrifying moments. It’s not to wince at Deka’s abuse and the stories of abuse we hear from the other gold-blooded girls she meets.

Book Info

Title: The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1)

Author: Namina Forna

Publisher: Delacorte

Publish Date: February 9, 2021

Content Tags: Fantasy |  Black author | Black protagonist | Feminism | Misogyny| Racism | Abuse | Trauma | Monsters

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity—and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki—near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be—not even Deka herself.

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Female Friendship!

One of the things I loved most was the friendships that developed between the female warriors as they are forced to work for the emperor and train together. There seems to be this unspoken rule in YA fiction that females are always antagonistic towards each other, that they need to be rivals. These women, however, create unshakeable bonds that are the heart of this story.

A Take-It-Or-Leave-It Romance

I just couldn’t get invested in the romantic subplot. There was no tension or build-up, and their relationship didn’t feel developed enough for it to bloom like it did. I would have been just as happy reading the story without it.

The Mystery of Who—or What—Deka Is

The author did such a good job of keeping me turning pages, because I wanted to know what the heck Deka was! You learn very quickly that she’s special—and not just the gold-blooded type of special. Even among the other “demons,” she has unusual abilities, and no one seems to know why. I thoroughly enjoyed the reveals and the surprise ending, even though I suspected some of what was to come.

Overall, lovely writing and an exciting plot that’s hard to put down!

My Reading Experience

About Namina Forna

“Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the New York Times and Indie bestselling author of the epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina loves building fantastical worlds and telling stories with fierce female leads.”

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