This is a spoiler-free review.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Deathless, Book 1
Expected publication February 9th, 2021 by Delacorte.
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.
Content Warnings: violence, torture, xenophobia and racism
Thank you to Book Terminal Tours and the publisher, Delacorte/Random House Children’s Books, for providing me with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.
Today is my stop on The Gilded Ones blog tour, organized by Book Terminal Tours, and I’m so excited to share my thoughts with all of you! 🤩
There were so many things that drew me to this book initially, and I’m not just referring to the gorgeous cover art. A West African-inspired feminist high fantasy series about warrior women? It’s no exaggeration to say The Gilded Ones had one of the best premises I’d ever heard of. And was, of course, one of my most anticipated reads for 2021!
And let me start by saying, that this book did not let me down. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. Pushing the boundaries of my assumptions for YA fantasy, The Gilded Ones went far beyond what I ever could have imagined. It’s rare to find a widely anticipated book that not only meets but surpasses your hopes – but on this front, The Gilded Ones most certainly delivers.
“All this time, I’ve been terrified of my ability, when instead I should have been regarding it as a treasured weapon–a sword to unsheathe when the situation requires.”
Deka is a demon. Branded as impure, because of the gold blood coursing through her veins, she’s exiled and reviled by the members of her village; forced to endure unspeakable pain and suffering in the name of “purification.”
But Deka is not so easily broken. She’s an alaki, which makes her practically immortal.
So when she’s presented with the opportunity to fight as a member of the Emperor’s elite army in exchange for absolution, she doesn’t hesitate to accept. But training to become one of the most powerful female warriors in her empire is no easy feat. And what’s more, Deka seems to have unusual abilities – unique even for an alaki – that grow more powerful the stronger she becomes. Dangerously so.
“Never forget: the same gift they praise you for now, they will kill you for later.”
The Gilded Ones is the epitome of an epic, empowering read. At the beginning of her novel in a letter penned to her readers, Forna discusses how the idea for The Gilded Ones came from a dream she had of a powerful female warrior in gold armour. Just that image alone send shivers down my spine. Ever since reading this book, I’ve found myself often returning to that striking imagery, and the incredible feelings it stirs within me.
The Gilded Ones is a YA high fantasy novel that – in between uncovering its rich lore and describing its inspiring characters – takes the patriarchy and turns it on its head. As Forna herself says, “after all, the world we live in right now is not so different from the world in my book.” The Gilded Ones takes a microscope to all the hairline cracks in our society’s foundation and brings them forward in a creative and fresh, yet timeless way.
It’s hard not to fall in love with this novel. The wonderful cast of characters, epic battle scenes and unexpected plot twists – The Gilded Ones Truly has it all. Every aspect inspired so much ~emotion~ within me! I loved the characters, and adored even more the love, acceptance and support that they found from each other.
The found family vibes were strong in this one – and I LOVED it. I also really enjoyed how there was no unnecessary rivalry between the girls? They were all there to lift each other up, not tear each other down, and I was here for it. Even the romance, which I have to admit was pretty adorable, takes a backseat to the friendships between the girls.
It. Was. Awesome. I wish more books would approach female relationships that way.
And that conclusion… wow! What a revelation! I cannot wait for the sequel and to see what more Deka’s incredible world has to offer. 💪🏾💥
“Till our empire is free from those monsters … What was she referring to with those words? Was it the deathshrieks … or the men who send us out to battle them?”
About the Author
Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the 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.
~ Check out the rest of the tour schedule here! ~
What new YA fantasy novels have you got your eyes on?