I’m breaking my hiatus to scream about one of my most anticipated releases.
My exams begin in 5 (!!) days but here I am, ready to convince you to read an amazing book with Black feminist warriors!
Today I present to you, a review of The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna as a part of its blog tour hosted by Hear Our Voices Book Tours!
I really enjoyed the very unique and beautiful story this book presented and I hope I can convince you all to pick up this book yourselves today!
Click for resources to help the world
The Gilded Ones
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.
Thank you Delacorte Press and Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a spot on The Gilded Ones Tour! This did not impact my review in any way.
All the quotes used in this post are from an advance reader copy and may differ in the final publication.
The Gilded Ones follows Deka, a young girl living in a deeply patriarchal society where once all girls turn sixteen, a priest cuts them to determine whether they are pure or not. It is simple – if the girl bleeds red, she is deemed pure, but if she bleeds gold, she is deemed impure. If the impure girls get lucky, they are killed on spot, if they aren’t, they will be sold, tortured, enslaved, and killed over and over again. Because girls with golden blood are demons, they will heal, and are almost impossible to kill.
On the day of the ceremony, Deka’s blood runs golden and as a consequence she is trapped in a cellar and killed nine times by the village’s elders. Every time she is harmed, her body heals itself. One day a mysterious woman frees her from the cellars and takes her to the capital to train with people like her, the Alaki, girls with cursed blood, healing properties, incredible strength and speed.
“The way I see it, we all have a choice right now. Are we girls, or are we demons? Are we going to die, or are we going to survive?”
According to the emperor’s wishes, Deka trains with the other Alaki to form an army of deadly warriors that will rid the country of its enemies: Deathshrieks, pale monsters that attack villages all over the empire, steal their girls and kill every man in sight.
And Deka shall lead the demon girls into battle because she is an anomaly even among her fellow soldiers. Her powers are depthless and she soon becomes the emperor’s hero.
“All this time, I’ve been afraid of my ability, when instead I should have been regarding it as a treasured weapon.”
I enjoyed every aspect of this book very much! It had a very diverse cast with many characters of color. Many, if not all of them were very well developed and made me invested in learning more about their growth, which is very hard when it comes to books with a large cast. Namina did a great job in making all the characters distinguishable and unique in their own ways!
The world-building was also well done. The author described everything in a great manner which made the whole thing easy to understand and enjoyable. Even though the plot was very unique, I had some issues with the pacing of the book, especially during the beginning, but as the book picked up pace, everything was perfect!
Also, did I mention that there is a sapphic romance in this? I loved how it did not overshadow the main plot and still kept fighting for equality and friendship as its main focus.
Overall, The Gilded Ones was a wonderful book which not only kept forward a wonderful story, but also dealt with many issues like racism, xenophobia, misogyny and inequality which are still very relevant.
“No matter my origins, there is worth in what I am.”
Representation: Queer Black MC, POC li, Black, Asian, and Brown MCs and SCs
Trigger Warnings: Beheading, dismemberment, blood, graphic violence, mentions/allusions to sexual assault, religion-based persecution, misogyny
About The Author
Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the upcoming 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 has an MFA in film and TV production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA from Spelman College. She works as a screenwriter in LA and loves telling stories with fierce female leads.
Have you read The Gilded Ones? What are your thoughts on it? Is it on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!