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.
4.5-5/ 5 stars
“She says we’re the descendants of the Gilded Ones.”
“The Gilded Ones” by Namina Forna is the coming of age fantasy that I never knew I needed. I am in awe that this is a debut. The author begins the book with a letter to the reader. In this letter, she speaks of her life in Sierra Leone and how patriarchal it is. How women are seen as less than men. She then goes on to say that she attended Spelman, an all-female, historically black college. She explains that the goal of “The Gilded Ones” was to examine and explore patriarchy in multiple ways. In my opinion, she definitely reached that goal.
The story itself was very compelling. A lot of information was presented throughout but not overwhelming so. I was immediately immersed in the story and the amazing world building that it contained. It tackled many themes including sexuality, gender, racism, feminism, colorism, and sisterhood. And that is just to name a few.
This novel features a variety of diverse characters. I love books with a tight knit group of girls/ women and this book definitely has that. Deka herself is a perfect lead and Britta, a faithful sidekick. I found everyone to be well developed and in-depth. Even though we are dealing with a large cast of characters , there was a lot of thought and detail put into each and every one of them. There was a little romance but nothing that I felt was just thrown in for the sake of throwing it in.
The pacing was steady. It was a very easy read with non-stop action and quite a few twists! The only complaint I have is that I wish one major scene had been a bit longer than it was as it felt a bit rushed.
I was so sad to see that the release date has been pushed back to March 2021, but I definitely understand. I can definitely see “ The Gilded Ones” being compared to other fantasy series in the future but I feel like Forna definitely made this story her own. I cannot wait for the rest of this amazing trilogy. Now come on 2021 so I can add the physical copy to my shelf.
TW: gruesome, death, imprisonment, mutilation, trauma, talk of sexual abuse/ assault, and torture.