Title: The Gilded Ones
Author: Namina Forna
Category: Folklore & Mythology, YA Fantasy
My Rating: 5 Star
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in Otera, a deeply patriarchal ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is tied to her purity, and she must bleed to prove it. But when Deka bleeds gold – the colour of impurity, of a demon – she faces a consequence worse than death. She is saved by a mysterious woman who tells Deka of her true nature: she is an Alaki, a near-immortal with exceptional gifts. The stranger offers her a choice: fight for the Emperor, with others just like her, or be destroyed…
I remember sitting in a crowded cinema watching Captain Marvel and feeling the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention as the heroine kept standing up after being knocked down. It was such a powerful piece of film and a scene that’s stayed with me.
As I got closer and closer to the end of The Gilded Ones, I experienced that same feeling I’d had in the cinema that day. Strong female protagonists are a joy to read about, cheer for, and encourage. My own daughter has solid values and beliefs that have developed over time thanks to books like The Gilded Ones.
When I started reading, I could see the similarities to Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale with a strong theme of oppression and submission. It clogs your throat and adds pressure to your chest as you read the horrific acts done to young girls.
I immediately bonded with Deka, our heroine of the story. She’s grown up with the ways of her world drummed into her so much that she believes there’s no other way to live.
Any book that contains blood, gore, and beheadings within the first few chapters is my kind of book, and The Gilded Ones has action scenes in abundance.
Told from Deka’s point of view, you are living the horrors and adventures with her. The secondary characters weave their magic into Deka’s story and help her grow as a character and begin to let go of the frustrations, fears, and anxieties she holds onto so tightly.
The author does an incredible job of including feminism within the pages of the book. She explores society from a young girl’s point of view where men govern, and the girls are shut out; something that is still relatable today, unfortunately.
It’s a classic good versus evil story with a powerful cast of characters, but you are left wondering who is on the side of evil. The ending was well wrapped up with plenty of threads for book two, which I can’t wait to read.
A fabulous debut novel and an author worth watching.
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.