TITLE : The Gilded Ones ( Deathless #1)
AUTHOR : Namina Forna
GENRE : YA Fantasy, West-African Fantasy, High Fantasy
FR RATING : ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4 Stars)
DATE OF PUBLISHING : 04 February 2021
TRIGGER WARNINGS : Abuse, Graphic violence, Rape. (12+ only)
DISCLAIMER : Thank you, Usborne Publishing for providing me with an ARC of this book. I am leaving this review voluntarily.
The Gilded Ones By Namina Forna is a West African YA fantasy novel that tackles the oppression of women by an extremist religious community. It is the first book in the Deathless series. I remember seeing this cover and being blown by it. It is truly one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen and the colors just pull you in. This is a story that is unapologetically feminist and female-centric cast takes on us a journey to unravel the secrets of a patriarchal community.
The gilded Ones tells the story of Deka, a 16-year-old who is subjected to the deeply abusive blood ritual of their community to find out if she is pure or not. The ritual proves her to be impure when she bleeds gold and she is abused over and over again for the impurity. No one supports her or comes to help her. People whom she considered to be friends abandon her during the troubling times. When a mysterious woman comes to her rescue and gives her a deal to start her life anew, she takes it. All she has to do is be part of the army and train with them to eliminate the threat their country is facing from a dangerous creature. As she learns to fight and train she discovers truths that will threaten the balance of their country forever. Will she be able to move forward confidently with the new knowledge or will she crumble under the truths?
The story is very much unique and adds elements of religion and religious texts that control people’s lives making it a fascinating exploration of ideas. The women in society are considered to be worthy only if they bleed red and remain subservient to men in their families. The scriptures and teaching are always taught by the priests who have complete authority over people’s lives. This makes it easier for women to be abused and subjugated and leaving them disempowered. The power scales are skewed and favor men in every circumstance. The community is lead by overzealous people blinded by faith who follow blindly. Asking questions is not something that is tolerated. The story also addresses toxic masculinity, xenophobia, sexism, racism, abuse, rape, trauma, PTSD, misogyny, inequality, and patriarchy. The focus of the story is the empowerment of women and how the education and the right skills make them valuable to the community. We see a feminist movement happening within the story and how the female cast is on a quest to take back their power.
I loved the diverse cast and how wonderfully the stories and background of each of them were created helping us readers form an idea of the world. I loved seeing the characters and their backstories and how wonderfully they were woven into the narrative without making it feel info-dumpy. I enjoyed Deka’s character and loved seeing her growth from being a meek and subservient girl to a force to be reckoned with. We get to see some unique creatures and a splendid world in this story. The romance was ok, but given that it wasn’t the main focus, I was Ok with it. I loved the female friendships and bonds we get to see in the book. I wish we had more of their camaraderie and banter in the book.
The world-building was amazing and I loved how everything came together to build the story as a whole. The information of each tribe, the history, different races, the power structure, and the creatures all added to the unique story. My only complaint would be the idea of Gods and how the world came to be. I had difficulty understanding the story behind it as I got confused by the creation aspect. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me while reading it. Now, I don’t know if it’s just me or it was something that was an issue in general. In my opinion, the idea of the Gods and their position didn’t feel convincing enough. And I am hoping the next book in the series will help me with the creation aspect and fingers crossed we get the book soon.
The themes discussed in the book are quite heavy and I do want to warn the readers about the potential trigger warning for those who might be concerned. I believe this is my first time encountering a YA fantasy with quite a lot of graphic violence and descriptions of it. So I want readers to be aware of it when they read it.
I enjoyed the pacing and was quite happy with the way the story progressed and how it concluded. It’s a truly riveting read that is going to invoke quite a lot of strong emotions and I am happy to have received this arc. The story is addictive and I couldn’t put it down. I remember reading it and finishing it in one day. That’s how fast I read this book.
I want to give you guys some quotes that really touched me to let you see what I have been talking about. Some of these were really powerful and deep.
No matter my origins, there is worth in what I am.
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?
Never forget: the same gift they praise you for now they will kill you for later.
Overall, if you love feminist stories of empowerment with a diverse female-centric cast then you need to pick this book up. It’s unique and Namina Forna deserves the credit for a wonderfully crafted YA fantasy that will enthrall you and keep you rooted in the story. I was thoroughly entertained and enjoyed this book. I gave the book 4 stars and highly recommend checking it out if you are on the lookout for a fantastic story.
Buy The Gilded Ones –
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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.