Thursday, April 11, 2024

*Review* The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

 Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: February 9, 2021
Pages: 422

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.

The start of a bold and immersive fantasy series for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther.

I picked up this book as part of an effort to read mostly Black authors for Black History month this year. When my arch-nemesis said I wasn't allowed to read it, my desire to do so increased. 

One of the first things that stood out to me about the world I was transporter to was how restrictive the religion was for women and girls. In my mind I compared it to extreme Islam (women must cover their faces) and fundamentalist Christianity (purity is super important). A lot of the ways the women were treated, especially the ones deemed "impure" made my blood boil. So I was thrilled when Deka was rescued to become an elite warrior. 

There were a few twists and turns that had me feeling conflicted about my views on things, but going into detail on those would be some rather large spoilers, so just know that not everything is what it seems. This story also reinforced my personal feelings about organized religion (not to be confused with personal faith).

Overall I give The Gilded Ones 4.99982 out of 5 stars and enjoyed the book so much, I put holds on the next two books through the library after telling myself the only reason I was getting a library card was for book club books. I definitely recommend this book if you enjoy fantasy at all. - Katie 

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.

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