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Deathless #1

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.

The start of a bold and immersive West African-inspired, feminist fantasy series for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther. In this world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice.

432 pages, Hardcover

First published October 8, 2020

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About the author

Namina Forna

5 books2,388 followers
Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the New York Times and Indie bestselling author of the epic fantasy YA trilogy 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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Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 5 books13.5k followers
December 2, 2020
"Are we girls or are we demons?"

Reading is a struggle when you pick up a highly anticipated book, your expectations have reached Mt Everest levels, and you have to hold your breath until the very last page, hoping it won't disappoint. But the feeling when it actually smashes the ceiling? Priceless.

As most love stories, this one started with a cover reveal. And I knew I NEEDED this book in my life. Usborne was kind enough to send me a review copy and I swear, my eyes have seldom beheld something so gorgeous. It's all shimmering gold everything. You can look at it here. I was scared to touch it. But when I eventually did I couldn't let go of it anymore.

So what's it all about? A deeply patriarchal society that abuses women and girls. A ritual that every girl has to go through in her 15th year. A priest will cut her - if she bleeds red, she is deemed pure, if she bleeds gold, she is deemed impure. If she is lucky, she is then killed on the spot. If she isn't, she will be sold, tortured, enslaved, and killed over and over again. Because girls with golden blood are demons, they will heal, and are almost impossible to kill.
Deka's blood runs golden. As a consequence, her village's elders put her in a cellar and kill her. Nine times. And every single times Deka's body heals itself. One day a mysterious woman frees her from the cellar and takes her to the capital and training grounds for others like her: Alaki, girls with cursed blood, healing properties, incredible strength and speed. The emperor has decided they shall be turned into deadly warriors that will rid the country of its enemies: Deathshrieks, pale monsters that attack villages all over the empire, steal their girls and kill every man in sight. And Deka shall lead the demon girls into battle. She is an anomaly even among her fellow soldiers. Her powers are depthless and she soon becomes the emperor's hero.

The Gilded Ones is a powerful high fantasy novel. It deals with issues that we know all too well: Racism, xenophobia, misogyny, inequality, abuse, trauma, and more. It's a super feminist and empowering YA novel that offers a diverse cast of complex female characters. A Black main character, with many Black, Asian, and brown major and minor characters. I was also really glad to see some f/f representation. I think it's super unrealistic when a fantasy novel doesn't feature queer characters, especially when it has a huge cast of same sex characters. Are you gonna tell me that we have a dormitory filled with 20 to 50 young women and not a single lesbian in sight? I do not think so. So yes, page 330 made me really happy and had me cackling (loudly). I would love to see a (few) trans characters(s) in the sequels, though. Feminism is not worth much when it isn't inclusive and I think this series offers the perfect opportunity to show that trans women are women, and that disabled characters are part of a just and equal society. The Gilded Ones is a call for the oppressed, the overlooked, the ignored to rise up and take what is rightfully theirs. Everyone deserves for their voice to be heard and this first book of a trilogy already offers so much. I can only hope for the sequels to be even more inclusive.

I should issues a short warning that the book can be quite violent and graphic. It deals with trauma, abuse and rape and that is not exactly easy on the stomach. If rape triggers you I would advise you skip pages 277 and 278, which is the only instance where the topic is discussed in more detail. I read an UK advance copy but I will update the page numbers should they change in the finished book.

So, loved the message, loved the representation, but I also loved the story and the characters. It was simply a really good book. Characters with depth that made you curious to know more about them but didn't deliver every information on a silver platter. You had to hold out and be patient to deserve the answer to the riddle. The plot was exciting and came with lots of twists. I was so emotionally involved and totally lost my cool at times...I had an inkling what was going on and it filled me with so much dread. I also feared for all these characters that I adored. Deka is lovely, Britta is loyal and funny (she's my favourite character just fyi), Adwapa is fierce, Belcalis is tough, White Hands is mysterious, Karmoko Huon is honestly so cool...I could go on. And even though it was such a big cast of characters, they were all fleshed out and distinguishable, which is not an easy task. I must admit that I didn't care for the main characters and the romance subplot fell flat for me. It wasn't the most well-developed. I didn't feel it at all and couldn't make myself care for the love interest. I honestly think it wouldn't have hurt the story at all if the romance had been left out.
The world-building was great, too, although I always have difficulties trying to picture new, complex and fantastical concepts of city-layouts. It's often too much to take it all in at once and form an image that makes sense. I also loved the language introduced in the novel. My guess is that it's inspired by the author's mother country, Sierra Leone. It might be Krio, but I'm honestly clueless and would love to find out how the author created terms like jatu (soldiers), alaki (demons), karkomo (teacher/master), Warthu Bera (the training grounds) and Otera (the empire).

I sometimes struggled with the pacing. Especially in the beginning, when Deka and the other girls start their training, the story occasionally skips a few weeks or months and I would have loved to see the specifics of how they were honed to become warriors and killers. And while I really enjoyed the finale, I didn't expect for what happened to happen so soon. I thought there would be bigger obstacles that would delay the events until at least the end of book two (yes I know it's all very cryptic but spoilers) Anyway, what do I know! This is one of my favourite books of 2020 and I'm sure Namina has big plans for the sequels.

I honestly wish this book all the best. I would love for it to become a bestseller, would love for it to receive wide-spread attention and praise. This series has so much promise and potential and Namina Forna is an incredibly talented writer. I will praise this book until all of you have pre-ordered a copy, so you better set up your order now. Best call your local independent bookstore. They can use all the support during this crisis and at the same time it will show them that readers are already extremely excited about this upcoming release, which will resulted in more order from bookstores and more visibility for the book.

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Profile Image for jessica.
2,477 reviews29.7k followers
April 7, 2021
this is definitely a commendable debut, but im not too impressed. some positives, some negatives, so im stuck in the middle with my feelings on this one.

the overall message of the book is a great one, but utilises many generic YA tropes. the writing is a bit simple, yet easy to read. the world-building is definitely unique, but feels incomplete in some areas. and the romantic interest is cute, but there is too much telling and not enough showing.

i also like this wraps up nicely and could be left as a standalone, in case i decide not to continue the series. but for those readers who find themselves loving the story more than i did, i have a feeling the next book will be worth picking up.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
376 reviews2,792 followers
January 13, 2023
The Gilded Ones focuses on a young girl named Deka as she is about to enter a Purity Ceremony. If her blood bleeds red, she is pure. However, things don’t go well for Deka as she bleeds gold. She has to make a decision to join an army of girls fighting for the Emperor or live not as part of the village, never to be accepted. As Deka moves to the Capital, she joins other girls and has to come to to terms with herself and truths she discovers.

First, I want to say that this book was okay, but it just wasn’t for me. The reason is that I am just not a visual person. I just can’t imagine these worlds. My style is much more aligned with realistic fantasy like Pullman’s His Dark Materials. When I was reading The Gilded Ones, I kept thinking, “This will be really wonderful as a movie.” On the last page, I discovered that the author is actually a screenwriter so that would make perfect sense.

The main character Deka spends much of the book talking about how she wants to be pure and accepted as part of the village. However, this was not particularly moving. She wasn’t trying to fight for a greater cause other than her own self -interest, and it wasn’t written in a way that moved me. I am trying to think back to The Kite Runner, and that book had me bawling. But I didn’t cry a single tear on this one. Again, I really think this book will translate better to film. Additionally, the characters were really very one dimensional (all good or all bad with very few exceptions) and some things were spelled out which were so obvious that I felt almost insulted as a reader when they were explained.

All of that sounds really negative but I thought it was better than Tolkien.

2023 Reading Schedule
Jan Alice in Wonderland
Feb Notes from a Small Island
Mar Cloud Atlas
Apr On the Road
May The Color Purple
Jun Bleak House
Jul Bridget Jones’s Diary
Aug Anna Karenina
Sep The Secret History
Oct Brave New World
Nov A Confederacy of Dunces
Dec The Count of Monte Cristo

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Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,367 reviews9,433 followers
March 1, 2021
Git the Feb Owlcrate today. Not real impressed. I know I was getting this book in hardback but I like my paperback with sprayed edges I got from FairyLoot June 2020! You can see that under the FairyLoot link. To see the goodies from Owlcrate, click on the spoiler link under the pic. I’m kissed my Owlcrate Winterbox is sitting around the post office and this one came right away. I’m still thinking about canceling them all as they’ve went up and some charging tax etc. I have to decide it I would prefer to but my own fandom stuff and more books for the prices of these boxes. I like the surprises but... and I’m not a booktuber to get every damn thing free


June FairyLoot! We got two books and this one has beautiful sprayed edges to go with the beautiful over! Click link under the pic for the goodies!


4.5 Stars!

Damn! I found a gem!

When I first started the book I was like oh no, not another same ole thing book. THEN! I was like what in the hell is this girl. Wait... what the hell are these bastards doing to this girl!! We have a touch of grimdark in the ya book. What?!

The magic is awesome, the creatures are awesome, the girl-uh-things are awesome! This is a female empowerment book and I liked that. There is some torture and rapes, which are mostly just mentioned but it’s enough to want to kill some bastards and feel super bad for these people.

I’m looking forward to the next book. Okay, no I’m not. Let’s just leave it like it is in case something extremely bad happens to my peeps 😳 Well, more extremely bad. Just read it and you’ll know what I’m taking about!!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

BLOG: https://melissa413readsalot.blogspot....
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,066 reviews38.1k followers
July 12, 2022
More banging head against the wall! More screaming and cursing are coming up! Why the hell I waited too long or hesitated to request an arc for this book?

It’s not good! It’s not great! It’s freaking fantastic! It’s checking my entire how a book makes Nilufer extremely happy boxes which are:

Perfect, remarkable world building ✅
Intriguing, captivating pacing ( it has 400 pages and I achieved to finish in one sit. I cannot feel my legs, moving around the house by rolling myself on carpet but it’s still worth it!)✅
Powerful, thought provoking, inspirational plot line with strong feminism, girl power vibes ✅
Complex and various diverse cast of character choices with heart wrenching, effective back stories ✅
Realistic approach to the sensitive triggering subjects including xenophobia, abuse, inequality, racism ✅
Great LGBTQ representation ✅

Overall: Gripping, intense, exciting start of brand new, fascinating installment which makes you more excited to read the sequels ASAP!

Plot line: We’re introduced to one of the unique heroines we may genuinely resonate with. Her name is Deka. She’s raised to be pure obedient girl. She’s sixteen and as the blood ceremony approaches, she gets more agitated about her destiny because if her blood doesn’t run red as expected and turn into gold like the other impure girls community, not only her life is at stake, but she may also put her father’s life in danger. But unfortunately she never has the chance to make it to the stage at the ceremony day.
One of her kin already slices open her and the her blood starts running red at first but then... yes, her faith is sealed! She’s haunted!

Nine times they try to kill her but her impure blood has powers to heal her imminently. She’s immortal, locked in cellar, waiting for her tragic fate just like the other impure girls who are sold, suffer from torturing, brutal abusing.

But when a mysterious woman sets her free and takes her to a place surrounded by the other impure, talented girls like her, Deka’s life completely changes. They plan to turn those girls into warrior machines to fight against Deathshrieks -pale monsters who attack villagers all around the emperor.

The girls are incredibly strong, faster and their strong healing powers make them powerful assets to defeat the most dangerous emperor enemies but they need to be trained at first.

Especially the complex and various character compositions, their powerful, natural girl bounding, unique friendship, their heart wrenching past stories, traumas are realistically told and hurt you deeply.

I’m truly pissing off with myself to wait too long to read this remarkable journey which earned my five blazing, girl power stars! Let’s say better late than never!
Profile Image for Nicole.
708 reviews1,734 followers
September 22, 2021
The Gilded Ones is a very promising YA. It was one of my most anticipated books in this genre for this year. While I loved some of the topics it dealt with, I found it lacking in many aspects.

I should mention however that this has violent and gory content in a surprising amount for YA. There’s also rape off-screen and child abuse.

I won’t be rewriting the plot for this book because you can just read it by clicking on the title. Goodreads’ summary is better than mine and this will be a short review.

The pros:
✔ Fun and quick read. For 400 pages, the book didn’t take much time at all. I also found it fast-paced something I always prefer in this genre.
✔ I loved how Forna handled heavy topics like race, patriarchy, and feminism and build a world upon them. I found them well executed for a book in this genre.
✔ GIRL FRIENDS. Yes, no infamous girl on girl hate. The girls were very supportive and likable. No mean girls. Plus some secondary characters also had personality!!
✔ Women empowerment!
✔ I found Deka’s character development very believable because this is normal. And not the God knows how liberal girls who have only been told about a woman’s place since childhood yet always have been rebellious. So this was refreshing (I mean sure it can happen but we rarely see the change that is actually more realistic).

The cons:
Sadly while I liked the idea behind this book (and that note at the end), I did not connect with this book.
✘ I couldn’t connect with the characters and even when something bad happened I wasn’t emotionally affected by it. The author stuck to the important stuff which is nice. Yet. This affected the world-building, which wasn’t developed as much as I would’ve liked.
✘ Inconsistent narrative. There were some time jumps between chapters and it wasn’t very smooth. I appreciate however not wasting time on filler events.
✘ She met someone for the first time and this person had a particular feature, without even talking to them (yet), she was like I shall call you “Brown Eyes” in my head. What?! Do people do that at their first glance of someone?
✘ The romance was too rushed. It’s true that for them, months have passed but it was very painfully YA like. I did not feel the tension between the two nor the chemistry, there wasn’t enough build-up, especially since most of their relationship progressed off screen.
✘ Some things didn’t make sense. Like how all the girls mostly getting period after 16 with some very rare exceptions? Someone mentioned to me that in some periods of history the average age for menstruation was 16 because of malnutrition. While this makes the late timing for girls in this book more believable, it is still the average (meaning many get it before too but also after 16). This book made it sound like it has a timely manner and there were children who weren't poor (even if not the majority) so... also no one ever gets nose bleeds? Or gets itchy enough to draw blood say because of a mosquito bite? Or accidentally trip and hurt themselves?!
✘ the dialogue was sometimes very cheesy and it also took a very YA turn. I wasn’t convinced by the explanation the plot twist gave.

I would recommend this book to teens who would not be affected by such a violent plot. It’s very feminist and deals with real-life issues like racism and xenophobia all while having a fun plot and likable characters. The story was pretty much wrapped up, at least most questions were answered. It can be read as a standalone. But I can see why there’s a sequel. This is a nice book but sadly a bit generic and not a memorable one.
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,778 reviews4,484 followers
February 12, 2021
This book…where does one begin with such a powerful book? This was a successful YA debut that truly captures the power of all women. CW: sexual violence (off page), extreme physical violence, misogyny, abuse, xenophobia, possible PTSD. 4.5 Stars

The Gilded Ones was one my most anticipated release of 2020. I was heartbroken when I discovered that it was going to be pushed back to this year. HOWEVER, it was definitely worth the wait. This book isn’t for the faint of heart. Forna has said time and time again in interviews that it is loosely based on her experiences growing up in Sierra Leone during the civil war. It is a clear representation of the atrocities that Forna and so many others faced. Additionally, it is the representation of the ill treatment that so many young women are required to face and combat.

The premise of the book is quite simple. Deka, the main character, along with the other eligible young woman in the village must go through a “blood-letting” ceremony in which they must prove their purity. Red blood is the equivalence of purity while gold blood signifies something more sinister. The consequences for gold blood are beyond any level of gruesome that I have seen exhibited in a young adult novel. Forna does not hold back for the sake of her readers and quite frankly I respected her boldness in storytelling. As Deka is revealed to have gold blood, she is presented with the opportunity to serve in the emperor’s army with other young women branded as the gilded ones. The story is fast paced and through the course of the text readers learn the intentions not only of the emperor, but also of the other men in this world. As expected, Forna utilizes this opportunity to explore what it means to be a woman in a patriarchal society, what it means to defy those who demean your worth. And she does a brilliant job of creating and sustaining this narrative in each page. The commentary was spot on and brilliant. And while I enjoyed this aspect of the book, I so heavily connected to the respect and admiration for the strong bonds of friendship created amongst these young women. There is an element of romantic love, but Forna’s attendance at Spelman College gave her the perfect insight to creating these dynamic relationships between the young women forced to work for the emperor. They have this passion for each other that’s undeniable and remarkable to see develop. They respect each other, admire each other, are vulnerable with each other in a way that I’ve never seen done before in a YA novel. For this, I give many thanks to Forna as a writer.

Of course, as with most novels I read there were a few things that I did not enjoy about this book. The first is in regard to the pacing. The pacing of The Gilded Ones can be viewed as having two different components. The first component, the literal passing of time, did not work well for me as a reader. There were time jumps in which days or weeks would past by and it was structured in a way that did not flow with the rest of the novel. The second component which was centered around the level of intensity at which Forna would present the text worked very well. It was constructed in a way that allowed Forna to acknowledge that she was challenging readers with a lot of difficult content. The novel would move fast with hardcore, intense, and albeit graphic violent scenes and would then slow down giving the reader time to recover and “breathe.” The final aspect of this book that I struggled with as a reader was the ending. It was written in a way that allows for the continuation of the series; however, the tidiness of it caused plot holes for other elements described earlier in the book. I walked away with a few questions that I’m hoping will be addressed in the second book.

Overall, I thought this was a great novel. The character development, plot development, and overall thematic explorations were AMAZING. It is clear that Forna put her heart and soul into the development of this book. Her experiences and her story are beautifully woven into this and I couldn’t have been more honored to read her work. I’m glad that she created this world for us to see into and get lost into while rooting on Deka and her friends/family. I highly recommend this book.
November 18, 2020

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High key obsessed with the cover. Low key disappointed with what was inside it. The first 100 or so pages had me thinking that this was going to be a four or five star book and then it loses steam. I think that part of that is because the opening made it seem like this was going to be sort of a YA Handmaid's Tale sort of tale, about subversion within the patriarchy, and while this is partially that, it becomes more of a journey/military-style of fantasy, which is fine, but took some adjusting since it wasn't what I was mentally prepared for.

I like how colorism and racism and sexism are tackled in this book and the female friendships that develop within Deka's ranks are heartwarming and positive to see in YA, a genre which is often criticized for the girl-on-girl hate that runs rampant in the books. Looking at some of the other ARC reviews, I have to say that I agree that the narrative is a bit weak and unstructured. It starts out strong in the beginning of the book but then peters out, and I ended up skimming pretty heavily in the second half. Especially because of a forced love interest that, in my opinion, became too intense, too quickly and wasn't even really that convincing.

I think a lot of kids are going to love this book when it comes out, because of the surprisingly gritty battle scenes and, yes, the romance. But I wish the world had been developed a bit more and the narrative more compelling. I'm not sure this needed to be 400-plus pages. I think the first half is four stars-worthy and the last half is two-stars worthy, so I'm averaging those two together and giving this a three, even though I'm feeling that this is more of a solid two in terms of final execution. I'd read more from this author but I probably wouldn't read more from this series.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Melody Boggs.
166 reviews80 followers
February 7, 2021
Thank you, to NetGalley and the publisher, for offering this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Well, what happened here? I’m flabbergasted.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna was easily one of my most anticipated books since it was supposed to be released in 2020, its publication date pushed back due to the pandemic. Finally reading it, however, has been a bizarre, disturbing, and deeply unenjoyable experience.

Synopsis time. Sixteen-year-old Deka waits anxiously for the Ritual of Purity—for her blood to run red, so she can be accepted as a pure woman by her village at last. In the country of Otera, women must wear masks and defer to the men in their lives at all times, and all Deka wants is to be accepted enough to be considered marriageable. When her blood turns out to run gold, she is deemed impure, a demon, and must face the Death Mandate all her kind go through. Except she doesn’t die. Before the male elders can find her true death, 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. These girls—alaki—are near-immortals with strength and speed men don’t possess, and they are the key to stopping the deathshrieks that plague the empire.

To start, I will say that this book is a quick read, though I was certainly reading it for the sole purpose of finishing it. If you read it fast enough, it’s likely that you won’t notice the glaring errors that I did, but unfortunately, I couldn’t turn that part of my brain off. The deathshrieks—the threat the characters fight—are also interesting in both design and as a monstrous force to be reckoned with. I saw the plot twist about them coming a mile away, though, and I wanted to continuously shake Deka (and the use of the first-person perspective) for repeatedly noticing things about them and then completely forgetting about it. I know the praise here is mixed, but it’s all I can manage to give this book because I frankly didn’t enjoy it.

Oh, wait, I can say one more thing. Remember how everyone got mad at Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education because of the passage that specified dreadlocks as being targets for magical infestation, so the characters all keep their heads shaved? A similar event happens here, except done more tastefully. Upon arriving at the training grounds, all the girls have their heads shaved regardless of hair type because the matron wants no cases of lice to occur. Same idea as in A Deadly Education but Forna wrote a better application of it because the writing doesn’t specify a particular hair type and avoids tripping over a racist stereotype. Forna handled that subject matter very well, and sure, everyone’s hair grew back overnight, thereby instantly eliminating the drama and heartbreak of the scene but whatever.

The main problem with this book is three-fold. First, its characters are wooden. Second, it features graphic content that is far too descriptive for a YA book that has a particular audience in mind. Finally, it lacks all manner of logic, its world-building hanging by a very thin thread of “women are oppressed but make it feminist” that frays with every new burst of contradictory information readers receive.

Even its cover is deceptive. It’s beautiful, absolutely stunning—yet it presents an extremely different aesthetic from what’s inside it. From the beginning, I was thrown by the overly formal language, the backward ideas of female purity, the quaintness of the farm girl milking cows. Is that the image the cover conveys to you of what to expect from this book, I wonder? I’ve seen some reviews compare much of the opening and the world-building in general to be reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale, a book I largely dislike and a comparison I tend to hate making, but they aren’t wrong. Before I could fully adjust to how the book actually presented itself, the violence started—the extreme, dark violence, something I don’t tend to mind but which was jarring up against characters speaking like they’re from Little House on the Prairie. Part of me just couldn’t fully believe and commit to what I was reading.

Before the violent upheaval, however, the book is tragically YA in some of the worst ways. Our protagonist, Deka, already knows she’s different and special in some way, but she wants to hide it until she passes the Ritual of Purity. She has exactly one female friend who is less conventionally attractive than her, but Deka doesn’t know she’s pretty until an important village boy tells her so. There is a mean rich girl who bullies her and her friend, with the mean girl’s mom even joining in. It was almost a relief when the deathshrieks showed up to put an end to this.

The saving grace of these tropes, of course, is that Deka is biracial, her skin darker than that of the other villagers. Her internalized feelings of being considered unattractive are born from colorism and racism. However, her being a target for bullying is seemingly caused by another narrative reason: a member of her family was once considered impure, ostracized, and put to death—a fate Deka prays she doesn’t share. I’d hesitate to call this a good example of showing these issues. As soon as Deka arrives at the capital, where plenty of other people are with a range of skin tones, the colorism and racism all but vanish, including internally, because the narrative now only has room for sexism, misogyny, and ham-fisted feminism.

Let’s step back to the violence a bit. It’s unsettling and disturbing how much there is—primarily aimed at women—and yet how little weight it has. It’s gratuitous and draining to read about constantly, yet I know there is supposed to be a larger message behind me reading about characters getting dismembered, getting their spines ripped out, and being raped—to name but a few. I just couldn’t connect enough to the book or the characters to determine what this message could be. “Life sucks if you’re a woman in a domineering, patriarchal society, so look at all the terrible things that can happen to you once your power is all stripped away,” perhaps? Yeah, no kidding. I, too, live in a society.

What I would like to know is why a book with near-constant graphic violence and mentions of minors being raped repeatedly off-screen is being marketed toward younger teens. The grimdark content in this book is easily made for much older teens, and yet the writing—and even the story itself—clearly has younger teens in mind, and I would absolutely not recommend this book to them, even if they do read the trigger warnings. I personally don’t feel like giving warnings is enough, and I like dark and gritty stuff, even grimdark stuff. I had no problem reading The Poppy War, for instance, which is a grimdark adult fantasy novel with heavy influences from the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanking.

On a certain level, the way this book’s content has been handled feels incredibly careless given who their market audience is—younger, POC readers of YA—and this knowledge is part of the reason why I became more and more disturbed as I read. Obviously, people can do as they please, but am I seriously supposed to believe that a 13/14-year-old girl would be fine reading this book? I guess in the world of providing content warnings this somehow absolves all sense of responsibility from the author and publishing house. Personally, I don’t think so. You don’t write multiple scenes of descriptive, horrific violence and multiple mentions that minor girls were raped—which increasingly felt like I was just reading torture porn so that feminism could swoop in and save me—and still slap a PG or PG-13 rating on it. This is easily an R-rated book. While I don’t think Forna or Delacorte should be attacked by this or anything, these are still some interesting thoughts to consider about how creators are responsible for the content they create and who they direct it towards.

The violence being addressed, we can move onto the characters and the narrative inconsistencies. Much of my problems with both are interwoven with each other.

I’ll admit it. Despite the terrible things that happened to Deka, I couldn’t care about her. Nothing about her character arc is written as a natural progression, yet somehow it went exactly where I expected it to. The steps Deka took to get there just so happened to be on an Escherian stairwell, impossible to keep track of. She admits she’s not too intelligent; I just wish the book could have proven her wrong. She is very much not like the other girls, but at least not in a vanity, mean girl way. She is just the only character who is special and who actually matters to the plot.

I like Britta, but it’s a shame that her dialogue is written with a dialect (my guess is it equates to an Irish or Scottish dialect), so whenever she talks, it takes some adjustment to read, instantly taking me out of the story again. She is the only character who is written with a dialect, so I wondered why this choice was made constantly.

I really wish White Hands had been given an actual name, or perhaps I should say, a better name. And just more interesting characterization over all, something that would truly surprise me. I’m also super weirded out and confused about her being the Lady of the Equus, because the book never explains what that means. The equus are centaur-like beings—for lack of a better word, because I can’t tell from the writing if these creatures are supposed to be considered sentient or not. They talk, but it’s in a bizarre way, always saying each other’s names or referring to others by nickname or speaking in unison, which could be a writing flaw or it could just be how they communicate. Since so many writing flaws persisted in this ARC, I couldn’t tell. Despite being able to talk—which this book establishes as a signature of humanity—these equus are treated as beasts of burden, pulling carriages and such. So yeah, I have no idea how to feel about them. Should they be considered people, and if so, are they people who are enslaved? Are they actually just animals who can talk? I have no clue, so this is really weird and I hated whenever they showed up.

As for female friendships, that is a tad difficult to claim this book has when only its main character has characterization, a character arc, and wants of her own. Pretty much all the characters from Britta to Belcalis are there for one reason, and that is to support Deka. Britta is actually told that’s why she’s chosen, because she’s loyal and will protect Deka when she’s vulnerable, not for her own abilities. Beyond that, I know nothing about Britta other than she’s bubbly almost all the time and Deka considers her her new best friend. Literally everyone is a sidekick compared to Deka. Whenever Deka is sad, or freezes on the battlefield, or is physically harmed, one of the girls (or Keita) instantly pops to her side, seeing to her every need like they’re on rotation. This is unfortunate because so many of these characters had great potential, and I somehow liked them better than Deka. Maybe because I wasn’t stuck in their heads, hearing their every circular thought.

As soon as White Hands enters the picture, masks—and the fact that women must wear them to be considered pure—completely disappear with no explanation given as to why. Was this a village superstition? No, the narrative keeps enforcing it as truth even though no one is actually doing it. Huh, baffling. Is it a status issue? Obviously, the alaki don’t need to wear them anymore because they are considered impure, but what about White Hands, the matrons, the instructors? Why are they all exempt? No idea. It becomes a meaningless bit of world-building. It’s funny because I’m reading a Dragon Age book right now where masks are a fashion statement tied to social status in the country of Orlais, and this book manages to establish the world-building around masks—who can wear them, how they are worn, what it means if you can’t or choose not to, what exemptions are made and how the nobility views these exceptions—in two pages. Something The Gilded Ones failed to do for an entire book.

In fact, many things that are introduced as key world-building elements soon become meaningless to the plot. Even the supposedly formidable (and female) Karmoko teachers don’t enrich the narrative in any way in the end because they are barely shown. Any time they would’ve trained the girls to be warriors, we skip right over it and barely spend time on it. We don’t get to know these diverse teachers or how they came to be in their roles at all. One Karmoko is even notable for fashioning armor for the alaki—and sure, despite how hyped up each armor class is, they’re all narratively as useful as paper for some reason. Yet all I get about this Karmoko is Deka thinking, “It’s a shame she was born a woman because she would’ve been an incredible smith.” Is that not… what she’s doing? She doesn’t have “aspiring smith” on her fantasy resume; she is a smith, that’s what she is doing for the alaki regiment.

Then, there are the okai—the elite female assassins for the emperor—who are also never explained as to how they are possible in a world that is supposedly built on female oppression and keeping women jobless, pure, and solely dependent on men. They are a literal impossibility that needed to be explained but for some reason never were—even though Deka’s mother was an okai. How do you qualify to be one? What are the rules? Are these women considered impure or not? Why does the emperor trust and rely on them? How were they formed? No answers given. This is the kind of poor writing I cannot give a pass to for anyone for any reason.

Unfortunately, Goodread's character limit has nerfed me, so if you want to read this review in full, my blog Where the Words Take Me has it all. You can pick up right where you left off. Cheers.
Profile Image for Elle.
584 reviews1,252 followers
December 1, 2021
Now a Goodreads Choice finalist in Debut Novel AND Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction!

Wow, this was incredible. If the pub date hadn’t been pushed back a year, it would have easily been one of my top YA fantasies in 2020. But maybe it’ll end up being a good thing, having The Gilded Ones debut in 2021. There will be time to build excitement and get the word out on this brilliant start to a series. That’s going to be the biggest drawback to this book, waiting for it to officially come out next February. Maybe Namina Forna will have the next book in the Deathless series ready by then? Possibly? Please??

I’ve read a loooot of fantasy books starring young female heroines, ones who fight against an oppressive system. This story still feels new even in the face of all of those. It follows Deka, a young woman from a small, religious village in the northern province of the country Otera. Every year a new crop of 16-year-old girls has their blood let to prove “purity”; if they bleed gold they are sentenced to death. Deka ‘fails’ this test and is given a choice: subject herself to further torture at the hands of her former community or leave to fight for the empire. It’s not a particularly difficult decision.

“Never forget: the same gift they praise you for now they will kill you for later.”

The Gilded Ones grapples with a lot, colorism, tribalism, religion, racism, etc. But the greatest struggle the young women in this book face isn’t the monsters they have to fight, the Deathshrieks, but an overwhelming amount of misogyny. Women are forced to wear masks in public, they cannot go anywhere unaccompanied. Girls are the only ones who are tested for ‘purity’ and have little to no options for their lives besides marriage and children....and those are the ones with non-magical blood. The alaki are little more than fodder for the Empire, a government that instituted the blood ceremony and Death Mandate that condemned them to this fate.

The author, Namina Forna, writes in a letter before the start of the novel how both her experiences in Sierra Leone and the United States informed her depiction of Otera. I’ve grown tired of excusing “dEePlY pAtRiArChAl” societies as anything other than ingrained sexist bullshit seeking cover under the guise of tradition, both in the US and abroad. Forna does an excellent job writing within one of those societies, while expertly critiquing it. Sometimes it can be exhausting having to read about institutional trauma over and over again, but here it’s handled in a way that doesn’t feel gratuitous or glossed-over.

“Legend is what humans call the things that they do not understand.”

The world-building in the Otera is exceptional, and this is a great foundation for the Deathless series. It was easy to read and almost impossible to put down. I honestly don’t know how I got approved for an eARC before the quarantine forced the release date back, but I’m incredibly grateful that I did! The characters are vivid and both their triumphs and pain is palpable. It’s an amazing story and I’m calling it now—in eight months The Gilded Ones will be published and it will be a revelation.

*Thanks to Random House Children’s & Netgalley for an advance copy!
Profile Image for Irena BookDustMagic.
603 reviews471 followers
September 3, 2021
I feel like the cover for The Gilded Ones is everywhere lately. Every day I see it on my Goodreads feed, booktubers and bookstagrammers promote it, twitter, blogs, you name it...so... I also wanted to be part of that train gang.

I can proudly say that the hype surrounding this novel is well deserved. This was really good story, with good representation and message, that was also very enjoyable and entertaining.

If you know me, you know that the most important things to me, when it comes to books and stories, are characters.
The Gilded Ones has variety of interesting characters that I got to know through a story and by the end of the novel, I found myself truly caring about them, so I am really looking forward to read about them in future installments.

The world building was done great. It was so easy for me to imagine all the palces, jungles and deserts in the story.
I like to read fantasy from time to time, but I don't consider myself an expert in this genre, however, I do feel like I can say that the author did a good job introducing this world, with all the history and present events.

The story was easy to read, thanks to a good, simple but rich writing style.

The end was good, and even better introduction to next book in the series.

I was really fascinated with one event that was mentioned closer to the end of the book, when one character described what happened in the past. I won't say more about it bc it would be a spoiler, but I will stress out that it impacted me the most, because I never came across to something similar in my reading life.

I also want to quickly mention how the main event or purpose in the story passed so quickly and after so much preparation surrounding it, it was resolved so easily and I expected more obstacles.

The Gilded Ones is good book about feminism, impacted by author's own experience and authenticity.
It also represented diversity, the are POC characters, lqbtq+ characters (I should stress out that for now only sapphic relationship was mentioned, but I feel there's space for more representations in sequels).

There are also some references and mentions of sexual abuse, so be aware of that.

I also want to emphasize how The Gilded Ones can provoke great discussion, so I encourage you to reading in book clubs.
Of course, reading it in your own company has it's benefits too.

To make it short, I recommend you to read it.
Profile Image for Sofia.
294 reviews5,922 followers
April 19, 2022
In a world where girls who bleed gold are called impure demons and girls who bleed red are only valued for marriage, Deka has always felt like she doesn’t belong. In her small-minded village, she faces racism wherever she shows her face. When she turns sixteen, she learns that her blood is gold, and she prepares for her death. But instead, she is taken to join an army of alaki, girls like her who cannot die. They are the only hope the empire has to stop the threat of the deathshrieks.

The Gilded Ones left me disappointed and unimpressed. I really appreciated the ideas behind this book—taking a stand against senseless hatred, banding with other victims to stop the heavily oppressive system—but the execution felt so flat.

The themes were laid out so simply without any subtlety, and they were often exaggerated to get the point across. Characters had dialogue that stated the problem, different characters had dialogue that stated the message. You don’t need to read between the lines for anything.

There is barely any worldbuilding. There’s an empire called Otera, which is roughly split between north, south, east, and west. Guess what the people of these four different cultures are called! Northerners, Southerners, Easterners, and Westerners.

I find it difficult to believe that almost all people in a giant empire are genuinely faithful to a single religion. Yes, it is mandated, but practically everyone truly believes in it anyway. Don’t you think someone would have noticed a problem with this system at some point? How do you get people of separate cultures with differing ideologies and ways of life to wholeheartedly agree with each other about something like “let’s kill all women with gold blood”? This aspect felt unrealistic to me.

Women are not allowed to do strenuous work because they can’t shed any blood before they turn sixteen, but I don’t think this is possible in any setting. For one thing, periods don’t always wait until the day of your sixteenth birthday. And then there are the given dangers of simply existing: tripping, brushing your hand against something jagged, biting your tongue, getting a nose bleed, etc. You can’t just not bleed for years. It’s bound to happen at some point.

None of the side characters were interesting to me. They lacked dimension. Either I couldn’t tell them apart or they were described in such a generic way that there was nothing for me to become attached to:
I miss her so much, miss her voice, her smell, the way she always used to smile whenever she saw me.

What have we learned here? She had a voice. She had a smell. She smiled at Deka. But what did her voice sound like? What was her smell? What did her smiles make Deka feel? This is a common problem that I noticed in the writing. I never felt engrossed in the world.

The side characters were static, with little to no development from the beginning to the end of the book. They were the minor moons and Deka was the planet. (I’m not comparing them to planets and Deka to the sun because they weren’t even that important.) The alaki formed a bond with each other that could have been special and inspirational if the other girls besides Deka had gotten any meaningful page time. I really did like how there was barely any girl-on-girl hate that seems to be so common in YA fantasy, though.

Keita changed his mind about the alaki immediately. He had a few deep conversations with Deka that weren’t even written out, just described with very little detail. Then suddenly, she was the most important person to him. I wish we could have seen their relationship build. Watching Keita slowly move past his prejudices would have been really meaningful. But instead we got a romance subplot that came out of nowhere and left no mark on me whatsoever.

The writing could be very juvenile at times, especially with the extremely grating repetition:

Please let me be pure, please let me be pure.
Please let mine be red, please let mine be red.
This isn’t the cellar… This isn’t the cellar…
Please, please, please let me be able to endure what’s next.
Please don’t match me with a cruel boy, or one who hates alaki… Please, please, please…
Please, please, please don’t punish us for this.
Please don’t ask me about what happened with the deathshrieks, please don’t ask me about what happened with the deathshrieks.

There are much better ways to get these points across than repeating the same word or phrase over and over again. I tolerated it the first time. I laughed the second time. And then I just got really annoyed.

This book was missing a spark, the breathless moment that I look for while reading, the attachment I form to the story or the characters. I liked the concept, but I saw the twist from a mile away. I didn’t end up caring about any of the characters or the romance. Eventually, I was just forcing myself to read it so I could finish it and move on. It wasn’t offensively bad and I see why people enjoy it, but The Gilded Ones didn’t hit the mark for me.

2 stars
Profile Image for MischaS_.
785 reviews1,331 followers
Want to read
July 4, 2020
That Cover? Stunning! (Yeah, maybe not that font but other than that? Gorgeous.)

February 9th 2021!!

sad puppy
Profile Image for Ayman.
180 reviews66.7k followers
July 29, 2021
i really enjoyed this book. literally the way my heart was pounding scene after scene…
this story is so refreshing and strong and just overall a page turner.
if was a bit slow for my liking but it picked up after the middle and once i was in the thick of it i couldn’t stop. i need the sequel!!!
Profile Image for Talkincloud.
148 reviews3,094 followers
November 30, 2021
Wow. Nie spodziewałem się, że to będzie tak dobre! TAK DOBRE! Ten styl pisania, ta zaskakująca, choć powoli rozwijająca się akcja, te ZDROWE relacje między bohaterami! A to tylko część atutów tej historii. No i obalanie patriarchatu, podkreślmy to, czego chcieć więcej od dobrej powieści YA? Jestem bardzo na tak. Nie mogę się doczekać II tomu.
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
514 reviews34.4k followers
March 5, 2022
I’m on BookTube now! =)

”The truth is, girls have to wear smiling masks, contort themselves into all kinds of knots to please others, and then, when the deathshrieks come, girls die. They die.” I glance from one bloodsister to the other. “The way I see it, 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?”

Trigger warnings:

So this is one of those rare books that caused me to have really mixed feelings about it. I guess everyone who followed my updates knows that I wasn’t all too happy about how the first half of “The Gilded Ones” played out. Maybe it’s just one of those “it’s me not the book” cases because I read way too many YA books and notice the similarities between them. A lot of YA books have the same tropes and start out the same way so I wasn’t really surprised about the initial plot line of the book.

”Every girl knows it by heart. We recite it whenever we enter a temple – a constant reminder that women were created to be helpmeets to men, subservient to their desires and commands.”

I mean we have a patriarchal system and girls aren’t even allowed to walk on the streets if they don’t have a man with them. The women wear masks in order to hide their faces and it’s seen as an honour to wear them after they went through the blood rite and became full members of society. Their only goal in life is to get through the blood rite and to serve their men and they are devoutly religious. So yeah, this was nothing new for me and I’ve seen this particular kind of trope in a lot of books. Truth be told after everything Deka went through at the beginning of the book I had a hard time to comprehend how she could still hold on to the beliefs of her people.

”Even some of the little girls here wear half masks, visible representations of their family’s wealth moulded in gold and silver. A pang of sadness passes over me whenever I see them. I’ll never wear a mask now, never be able to adorn myself in the sacred coverings of purity.”

Then again, change comes slowly and I think this was portrayed really well in here. Because the longer Deka stays with her fellow alaki, the more she finds out about their world and why they are shunned from society. And the more she knows the easier it becomes to let go of the cultural beliefs that have been indoctrinated into her ever since she was a little girl. This said I really liked the friendships in this book and the fact that those girls became true warriors and didn’t take any bullshit anymore. XD I absolutely loved Deka’s friendship with Britta and those two were amazing together!

”I’ve learned many things these past months, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s this: Britta is my dearest friend, and my kinship with her is the foundation I stand on.”

As for the love interest: I saw this one coming from miles away and I was not surprised that they became a couple in the end. Still, even though I knew they would end up together I really liked that this was a fairly slow burn and that they started out as enemies that became friends and then developed into something stronger and more. I know some people said that it was insta-lovey for them but I guess that’s just because the time line and the world building weren’t all too elaborate. I knew there must have passed quite some time between their training and missions but some pointers as to how much exactly would have been very welcome. XD

His eyes seem to glow as he glances sideways at me. “Am I your friend, Deka?”
“Do you want to be?” I say this part so softly, I don’t think he hears it.
But then he whispers in my ear, his breath stirring the short mop of curly hair above it. “I think I’m something much better. I’m your uruni, now until the day of our deaths.”

Another thing I liked was that the trauma of the girls and how they were coping with it was addressed. A lot of them were abused, raped and hurt in the worst way possible and this just because their blood ran gold and they were considered to be impure. It was good to see that they grew into their strength, that they didn’t succumb to their horrible experiences and fought their way back into life instead. They remembered and they got out of it even stronger than before.

”The physical body – it heals. The scars fade. But the memories are for ever. Even when you forget, they remain inside, taunting you, resurfacing when you least expect.”

White Hands made for a very intriguing character and I kinda liked that we were left in the dark for so long. (Even though I’ve to admit that I still could anticipate a lot of the plot twists. XD) And last but not least I’ve to mention the addition of Ixa to the team! I loved Ixa so much and I hope he’ll be an even bigger part in the next book. As for the ending: I have no idea where the second book is going to head. I mean yes, I know the general direction but there are so many different ways in which it could play out. There’s - quite literally - a world of possibilities.

This said I really liked “The Gilded Ones”! Yes, at first I was very skeptical when I started to read this book but in the end the book surprised me and I started to enjoy it more and more. Despite the rocky start Namina Forna eventually persuaded me to pick up the second book as well and I’m already very curious if I’ll enjoy it even more than the first one. I guess I’ll just have to find out. ;-)


Not gonna lie, I was very skeptical if I’d end up enjoying this or not.
Everyone who read my updates until the halfway mark might have noticed. XD
So I’m glad to say that this book surprised me in the end. Sure there were some things I saw coming but in general this was nice to read.

Full RTC soon! Stay tuned! ;-)


I put “The Gilded Ones” on my January TBR and today is already the 24th so I better start to read this. XD The idea of people with golden blood that have special gifts kind of reminds me of “Red Queen” but I guess we’ll have to see in which kind of direction this will head.
I’m very intrigued by the concept and high goodreads rating.

Have you read this one already? And if yes, did you like it? =)
Profile Image for ☀︎El In Oz☀︎.
498 reviews292 followers
May 10, 2021

“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?”

Wow. This is definitely one of my favourite debut novels ever - right up there with Throne of Glass , Where Dreams Descend and Raybearer.
This novel is bursting with life and so, soooo good.

I could gush about the world building for hours. It’s done so naturally with zero info dumping. It’s easy to understand and super well though out and realistic. The premise of this book is already super cool, and it pays off.
Basically we are in a world where blood decides the purity of someone. Red blood indicates purity, gold blood indicating impurity. Those with gold blood are demons, descendants of The Gilded Ones, the four demons who created their world.
Our main character, Deka, is horrified when she spills gold blood on the purification ceremony day, and is soon subjected to the Death Mandate- essentially where the gold blood people, called Alaki, are killed over and over again until their true death.
Essentially all Alaki have one true death, all other deaths are false almost deaths, that they are able to come back from with the help of the gilded sleep.

Deka is forced to go through nine deaths before she is rescued by a woman she names White Hands, who takes her to the capital city to train to become part of the emperor’s army. She becomes close friends with another girl named Britta along the way.

The emphasis on friendship in this book is so amazing. The friendship between Deka and Britta is super heartwarming and sweet.
The friends to lovers romance between Deka and Keita is also super perfect. They’re super sweet and fluffy together <3

All this time, I've been afraid of my ability, when instead I should have been regarding it as a treasured weapon.

The plot is good. I can’t say it’s the most shocking plot once ever read, because I predicted everything. That being said, it’s still very well thought out and I really enjoyed it. It’s fast paced and super easy to follow.

There is something really good about the writing. I can’t place my finger on why I loved it so much, but I did. It’s not lyrical or anything, it’s super factual 1st POV, but I loved it so much. It’s really vibrant with the perfect mix of description, inner thoughts, and dialogue.

“The physical body—it heals. The scars fade. But the memories are forever. Even when you forget, they remain inside, taunting you, resurfacing when you least expect.”

The characters are super amazing too. Deka is one of the best MCs in a debut I’ve ever read. She isn’t annoying, and has just a really cool personality.
The other characters aren’t as well fleshed out, but they still have significant depth to them.

Overall this was an amazing debut, and I’m super excited to see how the sequels will be!

“No matter my origins, there is worth in what I am.”
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
1,966 reviews1,383 followers
April 15, 2021
This is the first instalment in the Deathless series.

Deka has spent the first sixteen years of her life attempting to master the docility and obedience expected from a pure girl and can only hope it will be enough - enough to allow her to pass the purity ceremony, enough to allow her blood to run the expected red instead of the cursed gold of impure girls, and enough to save her father from his certain death if she were to be found wanting in any way. The ceremony arrives but Deka never makes it to the stage before she is savagely sliced open by one of her kin and her blood spilled for all around to see. It runs red then gold and, from that moment, Deka is doomed.

Quite honestly, this book sounded interesting but was first on my radar for that gorgeous cover alone. I am so glad what lay behind it lived up to everything I was anticipating. Hell yeah for unique and female-centred fantasy creations!

Deka's story was one marred with tragedy, which made this a very emotional piece. The reader was never provided with much time to grieve for Deka's losses nor feel the pain for the wrongs inflicted upon her, however, before a new setting was travelled to, a new enemy faced upon the battle field, or a new discovery laboriously unearthed. These entire 400 bloody and brutal pages flew by at break-neck speed and yet, somehow, Forna never sacrificed the creation of this world or the construction of her characters to deliver such a fast-paced story-line.

One of my favourite aspects was the female friendships this centred upon. Deka and her bloodsisters were an impenetrable group of allies and a savage force to be reckoned with. Their shared message about inclusivity and inner-strength proved, yet again, to make this a poignant story. I finished this already longing for book two in my hands and can't wait for their adventures to continue, the power they so rightfully deserved to be delivered, and to journey along with them as they grasp it for their own. The Patriarchy has had its day and now its time for the demon girls, and their golden blood, to shine.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Namina Forna, and the publisher, Delacorte, for this opportunity.
Profile Image for JustJJ.
85 reviews119 followers
July 14, 2021
Full review now up @ https://bookerification.com/the-gilde...

Rating: 4.5 stars

As someone who is utterly shameless about her love for books with pretty covers, I must first mention that this book looks beautiful! The melanin POPPING on the cover plus the gold accents and the green edges have me completely mesmerised.

To make things even better, this book proves to be far more than a pretty cover as it delivers great content. Namina Forna’s writing is both engaging and effortless. The world-building is skilfully incorporated into the fast-paced storyline with no noticeable information overloads. This is especially praise-worthy as Namina introduces a number of original and interesting concepts.


Full review to come @ https://bookerification.com/

4.5 stars! Loved this!
“All this time, I've been afraid of my ability, when instead I should have been regarding it as a treasured weapon.”
Profile Image for Vee_Bookish.
1,204 reviews267 followers
July 7, 2022
This was such a bloody, violent, harrowing, brilliant book. It was a really anticipated release in 2020, the year that all my anticipated releases disappointed me, and it felt so, so good to finally break the cycle with the beautifully written feminist fantasy.

While this is a fantasy story with some romance, this manages to not feel like any YA fantasy I have ever read, and does not focus on the romance while still being a great romance. The bigger focus is on Deka bonding with her sister warriors, and discovering more about herself and her strange ability to control the deathshrieks, the enemy.

This is an incredibly violent book. Demon girls can heal, only dying when they experience their final death - be it dismemberment, drowning, or stabbed in the stomach, their final death seems to be randomly chosen. When Deka is found out to be a demon, her village tries everything to find it, beheading, dismembering, she survives this for months before being rescued and sent to train as a warrior.

This entire story is quite fast paced, but months go by as Deka trains and becomes stronger. I did feel that the story was completely told in this one book, but there appears to be a sequel of sequels. I sense that there may be a POV switch for the next book, but we'll see!
Profile Image for Unknown Reviews.
45 reviews116 followers
August 16, 2021

I'm not going to lie, this was one of the weirdest YA books I've read in a while...but it was still pretty good?

Review to Come!
Profile Image for ATheReader- check my bio.
199 reviews62 followers
February 24, 2021
February 24:

February 13th: (Final Review)

Now, I set myself up for slight disappointment. I have been waiting for this book for the entire time I've known about booktube (aka a LONG TIME) which set me up for a lot of expectations. I did enjoy this book but I do have some commentary on some aspects of the book that I've noticed and wasn't satisfied by. * THERE WON'T BE SPOILERS BECAUSE THIS IS A NEW RELEASE *


A quick summary of the premise of the book:

The Gilded Ones follows Deka, a sixteen-year-old girl who has always been an outcast in her village for her looks and is hoping to be proven as pure in the blood ceremony. When the day finally comes she is shown to have the golden blood of the impure instead of the sought-after red blood. She is punished for this by the elders of the town until an unnamed messenger of the emperor comes to recruit her to an army of girls like her, alaki. You follow her journey training to be in this army to fight against the empire's biggest threat, learning about herself and about the empire around her.

Positive aspects (that I want to mention because positive aspects aren't scarce in this book):


The plot of The Gilded Ones stands out to me. I LOVED how this book had the constantly used blood trope and turned it into such an interesting concept. You see what it is like to be oppressed because of your ancestors and the blood that runs in your veins. You see Deka learn more about how society has treated her and how she can fight back against those stereotypes. You see her gaining these abilities, learning about her heritage, and becoming powerful herself. I thought it was wonderfully done in this way and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


I thought all of the different characters in this book, their backstories, and their interactions were extremely interesting and enjoyable. The characters didn't blend into each other and I really enjoyed their connections.


YES. One of my favorite parts of this book was how full of girl power it was. They were strong, they were trained by other women, they defied the confines that were put on them in this society and THEY WERE EPIC. I think that is enough said.


AKA I was reading this with a finger already flipping the next page. I savored the experience of reading this and I just wanted to bathe in the golden glow that this book emits. I was constantly interested in what the next plot point would be.

Did I write the positive aspects right? Because usually, I SUCK at writing the good things about a book.

Room for improvement:


I will say that the book did improve at some points because of the pacing. BUT in general, it was way TOO FAST. Months went by in 50 pages. I felt the time flying in front of me and I couldn't catch my breath. We missed out on certain moments because of a rush to get other moments.


The writing could get a little repetitive and some things were explained in really quick and dismissive ways. It was overall okay but, like the main character, we were constantly asking the same questions that could've 1. enriched the plot and caused more internal dialogue, and 2. WOULD STOP BOTHERING ME WITH THE SAME QUESTIONS.


Insta-friendship AND insta-love. The friendship made more sense because the girls were bonding over the hardships that they had and they decided to help each other, but even then they trusted each other way more quickly than a normal friendship sequence. I won't talk much about the insta-love but just know that it was pretty ridiculous. (Luckily I wasn't expecting or wanting a romance so it wasn't disappointing just underwhelming.)

Overall I had some issues with aspects of The Gilded Ones but the positive aspects outweighed the negative.

Jk. but I am SO excited for this I can't even put it into words.
January 18th: I swear I've been anticipating this for more than a year. UGH I JUST WANT IT
Profile Image for cherelle.
178 reviews155 followers
October 3, 2021
OH MY GOODNESS THIS WAS SO DANG GOOD. I AM STILL CRYING GOODNESS, packed with so much soul and EMOTIONS and ACTION and all the HOPE, DREAMS, PURPOSE, PRIDE, BRUTALITY, LONGING AND LOVE. (edit: ok i was suffering mass hangover but seriously this book is good)

Full Review of The Gilded Ones on my blog

Are we girls or are we demons? Are we going to die or are we going to survive?”

I had an inkling I would like The Gilded Ones but I didn’t anticipate falling completely head over heels for it.

It did feel like a typical YA fantasy, filled with the familiar tropes such as the “badass girl as the main character”, “tragic past”, “pain pain pain”… but it was the execution, infused with emotions, as well as incredibly salient messages of feminism, empowerment etc that turned this into such a brilliant read. As did the characters, oh my Deka and the other alaki (girls with demonic blood) have strung themselves to my heart and are there to stay. Found family fans, Y’ALL COME OVER HERE.

Add on all that action with the great amount of foreshadowing and subversion of expectations (rip the nail which was being peeled of in excitement and anticipation), plus some intricate lore and history towards the end, and there you have it, a potential candidate for my top 10 books of 2021!

A million thanks to TBR and Beyond Tours, as well as the publisher and Netgalley for a review copy of The Gilded Ones in an exchange for a sincere review.

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Profile Image for Ms. Woc Reader.
457 reviews626 followers
October 12, 2022
Writing wise it definitely reads different than most YA fantasies I've read before. It starts off strong with eerie details of a purity ceremony where protagonist Deka is discovered to cursed blood. Those who have cursed blood are put to death. During her ceremony monsters called deathshrieks also attack causing chaos and death. Believing she brought this plague upon them, she is sentenced to death. However despite how many times they kill Deka she doesn't stay dead. She is then finally given a choice to leave and fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her.

I thought this book did a great job portraying the PTSD Deka is feeling from her trauma. There are a lot of violent and gory scenes in this book that are described with just the right amount of detail. I also felt the closeness of the girls and knowing Namina is an AKA and Spelman grad I could see where she used her personal experiences to shape the sisterhood between the girls.

The world in this was just not very fleshed out for me to fully be immersed. I really couldn't picture the setting well. In an epic fantasy I love the little details about the food and terrain and I feel like this had the page count to describe those things. The way ethnicities are coded in this world reminded me of other books I've read this past year. For much of the middle we saw the girls training with their male partners however I didn't find the training scenes descriptive enough. And we moved from event to event at a rapid pace but at the same time it felt like we were trudging along. The tell more than show style writing just didn't work for me.

I received an arc from Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Maria V. Snyder.
Author 64 books16.8k followers
May 27, 2021
Well...what to say. I read the book because I was excited to be a part of a virtual YA international panel with Namina last week. You can find the video on Facebook on the Dymocks page. https://www.facebook.com/dymocksbooks... This is part 1 - we were interrupted by technology so the rest is in Part 2. She's a lovely lady.

I certainly have a better understanding of this book once Namina explained why she created this very patriarchal world. It's based on her experiences growing up in Sierra Leone and Atlanta, GA. When I first started it - I just had to sigh - here's yet another book where woman are so very repressed. I found out that was done deliberately. And it helped to know that (I wish I knew before I started reading this book).

Deka, the main character, who doesn't know any different, eventually realizes that the society is wrong. That she and her "sisters" aren't the monster everyone believes she is. She goes from victim to victor - it's quite the character arc. She's brutalized, and others of her kind, called alaki are raped and killed or just bleed so their golden blood can be harvested. This isn't for the faint of heart. I wanted to punch every single male character - or throttle them - or slap them with a heavy book...er I digress.

I had a hard time finishing this story. The writing is basic - the arc for the main character is heavy-handed I'm also a writing teacher, so I'm more tuned in to the technical problems, plot holes, gaps in logic. My daughter just told me that most readers don't notice the things I do and, if the do, they don't care.

However the ending was unexpected.

I thought the gold blood was an unique element and it's perfect for how Namina wanted to represent the women - they're a commodity and considered possessions - so what's valued the most? Gold.
Profile Image for Katie T .
904 reviews61 followers
May 30, 2022
Such a good fantasy debut!!! This was brutal, blood was shed at every turn! I don't think I've read a character with as much power as Deka. Very creative history, cannot wait for more!
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
650 reviews90 followers
January 11, 2022
Thank you so much to the publisher for my ARC of The Gilded Ones in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own

This is a nicely brutal tale about girls with demon heritage being tortured and bled for their Golden blood, then eventually murdered via the religious Death Mandate for their kind.  I was really excited to see religious purity in a book until I quickly realized it was an oppressive, not pious set of laws.

Here is an itemized list of the issues I had with the world building, in no particular order:

1) The book started in a cold weather climate, but everyone is wearing delicate ceremonial dresses. Finally on the journey to the capitol the author remembers that it's cold and they need furs

2)once the girls are brought to the Warthu Beta (training house) - things happen SUPER fast in the weapons and martial arts training. I'm supposed to believe that in two weeks they go from clueless to clever swordsmasters? Come on, show us some of that training. It's like a ridiculous fast forward and magically they are all warriors.

3) so the Jatu recruits and female Alaki are supposed to pair up and be battle/life buddies. The whole book focuses on male to female/demon animosity - but- there is really no bonding at all shown between the pair, they just kind of become trusting fireside bffs one night after those mysterious training weeks pass

4) instalove – oh my gosh the kid back home called her pretty, ONE TIME, and later looking back she said she loved him 😂😂😂 I can almost ship Keita and Deka but we needed that bonding time that wasn’t shown

5) the plot and twists read VERY closely to Skyhunter which came out earlier this year – oh yes very monstrous monster bad guys, very inhuman indeed

6) dumb animal names (bad world building) – Ex: leopardan – it’s a fantasy world, either come up with fantasy names or call it a stupid blue leopard. I did like Ixa the shapeshifting not-cat though

7) if the One Nation is literally an entire hemisphere (I’m guessing Russia, Asia, irish&etc, and Africa), so why do they do so much land grabbing? The scale of land required to produce four separate races like in the book is essentially an entire hemisphere, now within one nation, and that should be shown on the map

8) feeding off #7 – I would have liked a brief explanation of life during the rule of The Gilded Ones – is Forna omitting it because the entire history is a lie and life was terrible back then? Or are we supposed to just believe that the women were fair/awesome rulers and take it at face value? The jatu managed to unite ****an entire hemisphere**** though, so for all we know, the goddesses might have created a women’s world with oppressed men and they could have been totally right to fight back. Either way, uniting a whole hemisphere under one nation is pretty impressive and not addressing this is a HUGE plot hole, even with the massive info dump at the end

9) lack of setting – I get that describing sand dunes is stupid but most of the descriptions were of people and animals. What about the jungle, the common areas, even the food? Some scenes had scents described. Setting is what connects to the atmosphere…of which there wasn’t much of one.

I mean it’s not even a bad story, or a story you read every day. I like the idea of torturing someone to death nine times and teaching them to survive, but these YA authors aren’t thinking their worlds through very well and I don’t think that ‘character driven’ OR that it’s a Young Adult book is a good excuse not to cover world building basics.

Everything I addressed up there could have been fixed without much extra page space.

The good things included female friendships, teachers (whose potential were mostly wasted as no lessons were really shown), shapeshifting pets, snarky horse-people, and… A not really happy ending. It’s an ending fitting for the story even though it got a little sappy for the tone leading up to it.

I did like the main group of girls too, Britta and Belcalis were about as different as two people can get and they still made a fast group of allies, friends with Deka. There’s an unconventional amount of grimdark suffering and it’s kind of terrific.

Overall? Honestly not a bad read just poorly executed. Could be a standalone but there’s at least one more book coming. I am pretty neutral on recommending it as the good story vs the lack of world building make it a wash for me
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