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 immensely to Hear Our Voices Book Tours, Namina Forna, and Penguin Random House for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. It was such an honor to be a part of this tour. Make sure to check out the rest of the Tour Schedule as well as the Featured Hosts for The Gilded Ones Book Tour.
Namina Forna’s debut YA Fantasy couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. The amount of unique and beautiful literature coming out of the Black community is just a breath of fresh air after reading novels about mostly white main characters since the beginning of my reading career. It makes a huge difference in the quality of your reading when you’re reading about someone who looks like you and has the same features as you.
In this coming-of-age fantasy novel Deka has faces so many challenges mentally and physically. Forna’s writing makes Deka’s situation so believable and tangible. I could feel all of Deka’s emotions and the pain that she would sometimes go through. The skill that it takes to build a world for a novel should be celebrated every chance that we get. I completely understood the society and world that Deka lived in within the first third of the book and Forna compounds on that information and we get deeper into the story. There was absolutely no info dumping and all the information presented was relevant.
The character development for all of the main cast of characters was really well thought out. I loved the sisterhood that Forna portrayed within her novels and how the girls developed and changed with each other. Each of the girls was just as unique as the next and it was so pleasant getting to know all of them through author’s words.
I would definitely recommend this book for fans of The Rage of Dragons and Black Panther. If you are looking for a MC that will kick some a** while having great character development, this is definitely the right book for you. The pacing will make you never want to put this book down.
“Are we girls or are we demon?”
Reading The Gilded Ones put me back in my mindset that I had when I read The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter. Deka and Tau have so much in common and those common qualities are the reason why I love both of them so much. They remind me of who I wanted to be when I grew up, someone strong and unapologetic. Author Namina Forna did not shy away from the hard topics within this book. What Deka has to go through I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It was definitely hard to read at some points because how much of a visual reader I am. But, these experiences also showed me that Deka could persevere through whatever life throws at her. She deals with physical pain, racism, colorism, gender roles, and many other themes that can be present in any young girl’s life. Stories like these are necessary to prove that black girls and women are not an afterthought to be added to a book for diversity. They have their own important groundbreaking stories, we just need to listen to authors like Forna who want to tell them.
Meet 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.
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