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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 s 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.


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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 s 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.

30 review for The Gilded Ones

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kai

    "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 "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. Find more of my books on Instagram

  2. 4 out of 5

    Miranda Reads

    Just finished my Feburary OwlCrate Unboxing & Review Video ! SUCH an incredible book!! YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads Just finished my Feburary OwlCrate Unboxing & Review Video ! SUCH an incredible book!! YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    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 p 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 (view spoiler)[1. We got a brush 2. We got some bath salts that I don’t use. 3. We got a keychain (I do love keychains) inspired by Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Karou’s favorite restaurant 4. Cute pin of the month 5. A zipper pouch that are always handy 6. A Darker Shade of Magic - 1st in four part series - tin 7. The book & note from author Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾 (hide spoiler)] ********* 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! https://melissa413readsalot.blogspot.... 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....

  4. 5 out of 5

    jessica

    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 le 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

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    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 revi 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. It 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. 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    MischaS_

    That Cover? Stunning! (Yeah, maybe not that font but other than that? Gorgeous.) February 9th 2021!! That Cover? Stunning! (Yeah, maybe not that font but other than that? Gorgeous.) February 9th 2021!!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bookishrealm

    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 t 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    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 the 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!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest 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- Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest 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

  10. 5 out of 5

    Irena BookDustMagic

    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 a 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    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 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!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    West-African fantasy with a blurb that seems to suggest subversion of eugenics and girl badasses. aka my BRAND.

  13. 4 out of 5

    ☀︎El In Oz☀︎

    4.5/5 “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 i 4.5/5 “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.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Nuckles

    This was sooooooo good! Love love loved!!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    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 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.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Acqua

    That's A Cover That's A Cover

  17. 5 out of 5

    Vee

    Wordpress Blog | Twitter 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 bondin Wordpress Blog | Twitter 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!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ari

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Blog | Instagram | Twitter Thank you NetGalley and Delacorte Press for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine. "Legend is what humans call the things that they do not understand." The Gilded Ones is not only a coming-of-age story, but also a perfect example that just because you're female and different to the “norm,” does not mean you are less than what is expected. If anything, it gives you the opportunity to show the world that you are not just more than they thought, you are exemplary. Blog | Instagram | Twitter Thank you NetGalley and Delacorte Press for this ARC. All thoughts and opinions are mine. "Legend is what humans call the things that they do not understand." The Gilded Ones is not only a coming-of-age story, but also a perfect example that just because you're female and different to the “norm,” does not mean you are less than what is expected. If anything, it gives you the opportunity to show the world that you are not just more than they thought, you are exemplary. Taken from the life that she has known since birth, our lead Deka is thrust into a class of warriors meant to rid the land of Otera from their enemies, the deathshrieks. Deka is just like her counterpart female soldiers, girls who bleed gold thanks to the legacy of four banned goddesses from which they hail. And while this makes them monsters to others, it also makes them invaluable to the emperor, as Deka and her bloodsisters—all known as alaki—are the only ones able to withstand a chance against deathshrieks and conquer them. The central cast of this story is extremely pleasing to read. The girls are so strong and bright, they are so resilient despite the horrible things that many of them have had to withstand. And while all of them have suffered in their own ways, I was drawn to both Britta and Belcalis, especially the latter. She exudes strength born from years' worth of pain, and against herself sometimes she shows the loyalty and bravery that's undeniable to who she is as a person. She makes a great contrast to Britta, always warm, always attempting to find the silver lining despite the harsh situations in which they find themselves. Both of these girls are great complements to Deka as sidekicks and best friends. Deka herself is very likable, very driven. There's immense growth to her by the end of the novel compared to the pious and deeply afraid person that she is at the beginning. If there is one thing that I disliked about her is the fact that her growth happens too swiftly. Not just in personality, but in the rendition of her powers. I would have liked to see this progress maybe even within the span of two books, as impressive as she turns out to be, just to make it come about a little at a time. That's true throughout the story, however. The Gilded Ones is very easy to read, it goes by so fast, and it's very enjoyable. But there are times when decisions, and the beliefs/thoughts/alliances of characters change far too easily. It takes away sometimes from the struggle of the moment and the steady—and much more believable—pace that could be set. I would have also liked for the alaki training to last more than it does in as far as us, the reader, witnessing it. Yes, it might have made the novel longer, but again this is part of the grappling for existence that these young women have to acclimate themselves to. We begin so strong, and while there are times when it's really rough to read the violence and pain that these alaki-in-training have to resist, it eventually lags and by the time they're going on raids there's no longer that strict sense of livelihood that they apparently had to hold themselves up to when they enter the Warthu Bera where they train. This aside, the plot is compelling, and there are enough twists and big reveals—the origin of the deathshrieks and their connection to the alaki was my favorite of these—that not only are you kept entertained but it promises future growth for the other book(s) that are coming next. I would have liked more fanfare given to the awakening of the Gilded Ones considering the big occasion, but I cannot wait to get to know them more and see how they shape this world and the lives of the characters. And I have such affection for the bond between Deka and Keita, while being appreciative that the novel did not go by the way of many stories which make “the” romance central to the plot, rather than giving everything else its due importance. I very much look forward to others enjoying this book and getting to know this bunch of courageous young women and their male partners-in-arms.

  19. 4 out of 5

    ATheReader

    February 24: THIS BOOK IS GETTING ADAPTED. I REPEAT THE GILDED ONES IS GETTING AN ADAPTATION!! 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 * (YOU'R February 24: THIS BOOK IS GETTING ADAPTED. I REPEAT THE GILDED ONES IS GETTING AN ADAPTATION!! 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 * (YOU'RE WELCOME. I AM DYING TO SAY SOME STUFF BUT I WILL ADD IT IN LATER.) 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): Plot: 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. Characters: 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. GIRL POWER: 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. Engagement: 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: Pacing: 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. Writing: 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... 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. __________________________ February 9th: I GOT IT IN THE MAIL AND I NEED TO READ IT BRB I AM GOING TO THROW MYSELF A FIESTA. 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

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lexi

    UPDATE FROM THIS YEAR: this book is still good. Amazing. It comes out in a few days. BUY IT If The Gilded Ones caught your eye because it had a beautiful cover, rest assured that the outside is just as good as the inside. Get ready to read your new favorite YA dystopian horror fantasy series. YA fantasy these days is a dime a dozen, and after awhile, you start to see certain trends that can feel like clone stamps- even when the story is inspired from non western cultures or tries something differ UPDATE FROM THIS YEAR: this book is still good. Amazing. It comes out in a few days. BUY IT If The Gilded Ones caught your eye because it had a beautiful cover, rest assured that the outside is just as good as the inside. Get ready to read your new favorite YA dystopian horror fantasy series. YA fantasy these days is a dime a dozen, and after awhile, you start to see certain trends that can feel like clone stamps- even when the story is inspired from non western cultures or tries something different. The Gilded Ones is a case study on how a story can use tropes effectively without downing in them, because this story is completely original, You have some things- Like Deka being a chosen one- a special person among the special, and training with her squad to become a warrior, but even these common themes are turned on their head and written with surprising originality. Deka lives in an incredibly, Handmaiden's Tale level sexist society that will shake you to your core within about 10 minutes into this book- and unlike many modern heroines, she actually buys into it completely. Deka is devoutly religious, meek, submissive, and gentle. She does not break the rules, speak up, or truly see anything wrong with the society she lives in. When she is discovered to have special powers and is accused of being a demon- even as the village turns on her, Deka feels as though the evil within her justifies their violence and cruelty- she does not become an independent "badass" overnight. Our lovely main character is the product of her environment, and her growth happens slowly as she begins to engage with the bigger world outside of her village. Her journey of self discovery is a beautiful character slow burn that explores how patriarchal society imprisons women in our own minds, and it's not until Deka meets other women and hears their stories that she finds herself becoming the warrior she was meant to be. The side characters are all beautifully written and woven into their oppressive world in a way that makes you instantly protective of them, while also being instantly mistrusting of the men in their lives. The world is beautifully crafted, dark, and biting. It's a violent world of blunt offering- decapitation, genocide, drowning, and full on body horror. This book is part of what I consider YA Grimdark. There are several moments in this story that will give you chills, even within the first few chapters of the book. Namina Forna's world is a ghastly nightmare that will leave a lasting impact on you. You won't be able to get the Deathless series out of your head.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Angus (Just Angus)

    JUST WOW. This book was written to be adapted I can already see it on the big screen. I usually can't stand YA fantasy but this... was something else.Such an epic interesting set up to what promises to be a groundbreaking new YA series. I can't wait to see where this goes. JUST WOW. This book was written to be adapted I can already see it on the big screen. I usually can't stand YA fantasy but this... was something else.Such an epic interesting set up to what promises to be a groundbreaking new YA series. I can't wait to see where this goes.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    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! 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!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sabrina

    This was a gritty, vivid, West African-inspired high fantasy debut that lives up to its absolutely GORGEOUS cover. 'The Gilded Ones' has a lot of refreshing elements that were fun to see - I've read quite a lot of YA high fantasy over the years and this didn't feel like anything I'd come across before. By far my favourite thing about 'The Gilded Ones' is the sisterhood and found family themes that ground it. I absolutely adored that the friendship is treasured just as much if not more than the r This was a gritty, vivid, West African-inspired high fantasy debut that lives up to its absolutely GORGEOUS cover. 'The Gilded Ones' has a lot of refreshing elements that were fun to see - I've read quite a lot of YA high fantasy over the years and this didn't feel like anything I'd come across before. By far my favourite thing about 'The Gilded Ones' is the sisterhood and found family themes that ground it. I absolutely adored that the friendship is treasured just as much if not more than the romance. This is not just an interpretation but stated outright by the protagonist Deka herself. Not something you see in a lot of YA (or any?) books and it was heartwarming - I almost teared up a few times! In a book with so many strong female characters, I really appreciated that all of them felt distinct, and bonus points for no girl-on-girl hate or trope-y mean girl figure. The older women are also quite varied, complex and significant - I feel like one of the 'good' mentor-role characters definitely has something up her sleeve and I'm definitely keeping an eye on her in the sequel... Do I trust you? Do I not? I also really liked this small scene where they're talking about sex lives and how neither having sex nor virginity are ridiculed or promoted over the other. Small but quite nice to read, and illustrates the diversity of characters in this book.All talk of 'new' stuff aside, there are definitely some YA hallmarks in this. The love interest was so obvious, and while I initially found it cliché, ultimately it was really quite sweet. There was also THE CLASSIC 'let out the breath she didn't know she was holding'-type line in this and I cackled when I saw it! I kinda love spotting them, sort of like YA Easter eggs.The first half of the book felt a lot longer than the second - it was good, I liked Deka and the other girls, yet while it was interesting I didn't feel compelled to read the book over doing other things. And then! We hit the 50%-ish mark! Suddenly I'm 10x more invested and the mystery behind the monsters attacking the empire became far more intriguing. Me after a pivotal clue is revealed! I had my theories and it didn't turn out quite as I'd expected, so that was fun. At times it could get a little info-dumpy, but somehow I'm still confused about parts of the backstory. (Hoping that the sequel will clear that up for me.)I also think that my spike in emotional investment is because I'm an absolute sucker for magical creature-human bonding. It was done so adorably here and a beautiful ray of light amidst quite a lot of darkness in Deka's life/past. Overall, I really enjoyed this distinctive and feminist new fantasy with messages of endurance, hope and self-love - check it out if you haven't already! Thank you to NetGalley and Usborne Publishing for an eARC in exchange for an honest review. [Content warnings: violence, blood and gore; injury, death and murder; memories of and references to torture and child sexual abuse; cutting self (ritual/performance); light sexual references; heavy misogyny (challenged)]

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    Actual rating: 4.5 stars The Gilded Ones is an ambitious YA debut that verges on dark fantasy as it takes on war, violence, trauma and xenophobia from within a deeply patriarchal, oppressively religious society. This is a book I've been anticipating for a very long time and while it wasn't perfect, it was very, very good. Deka is awaiting a ritual ceremony that will determine whether her blood is pure. If it runs red, she will become a full-fledged woman and begin covering her face. If it runs gol Actual rating: 4.5 stars The Gilded Ones is an ambitious YA debut that verges on dark fantasy as it takes on war, violence, trauma and xenophobia from within a deeply patriarchal, oppressively religious society. This is a book I've been anticipating for a very long time and while it wasn't perfect, it was very, very good. Deka is awaiting a ritual ceremony that will determine whether her blood is pure. If it runs red, she will become a full-fledged woman and begin covering her face. If it runs gold, she has demon blood and will be subjected to execution or joining the emperors army. (hint: it's not red) I don't want to say too much about what happens because this is a book that really sucks you in and is quite fast paced. However, you should know that this book contains a great deal of violence and can be quite disturbing at times. Death, torture, dismemberment, sexual assault, war violence, etc. is throughout. (although most of the sexual assault occurs off page, we see a lot of the ptsd that results from it) The world is interesting, the magic is interesting, and there are great characters with strong bonds of sisterhood. It grapples with difficult subjects and explores topics including how children can be drawn into battle, the trauma and coping mechanisms we see in those exposed to such brutality, and the ways that oppressive teachings can enable violence against women and self-hatred. Thematically this is incredibly rich and does not flinch from difficult experiences. However, I did struggle a bit with the ending. Though to be fair it's got to be tough to really nail the landing in such an ambitious project for a first time author. That said, some of the twists at the end weren't fully explained, nor were all of their ramifications adequately dealt with. Characters accepted things too easily and there weren't enough obstacles before things wrapped up in a relatively tidy bow. I don't want to get more specific than that because of spoilers, but suffice to say that most of this book was SO good, I had very high expectations of what the ending was going to do. And while the ending was fine, it was a bit of a letdown. Otherwise, this probably would have been a favorite of the year. That said, I still think this is well worth your time and Namina Forna is an author to keep an eye on! I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Athena (OneReadingNurse)

    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 So... 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. The women are relegated to male servants  until Deka is brought t 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 So... 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. The women are relegated to male servants  until Deka is brought to the Capitol city to train in the emperor's army of demons, alaki, which will defeat these Deathshrieks.  There is a huge reverse info dump at the end of the book but we don't learn much about them, or the history of the empire until that time. There is the most excellent use of first person present tense, I didn't spot any crossing of tenses which is an anomaly. 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 – 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), why so much land grabbing? The scale of land required to produce four separate races like that 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 they were fair/awesome rulers and take it at face value? The jatu did manage to unite an entire hemisphere though, the goddesses might have created a women’s world with oppressed men for all we know, and they could have been 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. 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 at least 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 at times. Could be a standalone but there’s at least one more book coming. It releases 2/9, and I am pretty neutral on recommending it as the good story and the lack of world building make it a wash. I’ll read the next one though.

  26. 5 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    Trigger Warning: Graphic murder (on page), sexual assault (off page), racism, xenophobia Deka is a young woman coming of age in Otera, a kingdom that values the purity of its women. Pure women bleed red, and young women are forbidden to bleed from fifteen until they are proven by the Ritual of Purity. When Deka bleeds gold—the color of demons—she is given a choice: die over and over at the hands of greedy, frightened men who want the cursed gold of her blood, or join the Emperor's new army of wom Trigger Warning: Graphic murder (on page), sexual assault (off page), racism, xenophobia Deka is a young woman coming of age in Otera, a kingdom that values the purity of its women. Pure women bleed red, and young women are forbidden to bleed from fifteen until they are proven by the Ritual of Purity. When Deka bleeds gold—the color of demons—she is given a choice: die over and over at the hands of greedy, frightened men who want the cursed gold of her blood, or join the Emperor's new army of women like her. Cursed. Evil. Deathless. Never forget: the same gift they praise you for now, they will kill you for later. HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT The HYPE IS REAL and I am disgusted with myself for stepping into it with such low expectations and so many reservations. I almost didn't pick it up, particularly after the release date was pushed back nearly a year due to the pandemic (for shame, publishers! this could have been in so many girls' hands for almost a fucking year!), but as soon as I read the first sentence, I was entranced, and by the end of the first chapter, I was hooked. I absolutely loved this book. This is an insightful take-down of the patriarchy (although the solution was a little too...trade one thing for another, but we'll see what book 2 is like) while also being a really, really solid military fantasy! "You will be at the forefront of the emperor's armies," she declares. "You will ride into battle and fight for the glory of Otera, and you will win the war against the deathshrieks or you will die trying—however many times that may take." I was not expecting to love the military aspect of this as much as I did, particularly since a lot of YA fantasy or YA with military aspects have um, cursory research into how militaries work but this was...wow. From the bureaucracy to how people interacted within the system to the shaving of hair (and what that meant in this society where women are either pure or sullied) to how leaders were addressed to the movements of the women throughout the patrols, it was damn well done. Okay, the whole brother bonding thing was weird, but it made sense within the world. If I ever had any doubts of my new status, they were erased the moment my hair was tossed into the furnace like it was nothing. The Infinite Wisdoms state that a woman's hair is her greatest pride, the source of her beauty and womanliness. Deka's unpacking of her upbringing—of being the only Black woman in a village of whyte people, of being deemed unpure before she was even tested, and then subjected to horrifying deaths and torture—was very well done. This is a hard book that does not shy away what it means to be an unpure woman in an overtly religious, patriarchal world—it means that the woman is worthless, or worth only what fleeting pleasures her body can be used for in terms of men. She is an object, and that objectification translated throughout the book as the Deathless rose to prominence in their devastating ability to murder the scourge of Otera—the deathshrieks. Even Deka's status as different from the other Deathless due to her ability to sense the deathshrieks was well done. She is the Chosen One, but chosen for what? Her abilities continue to expand and evolve, as does her growing understanding of her enemy. And the concept of The Enemy was well done too. No spoilers here, though, but there are enough hints scattered through early enough that suspicions get raised. As for Deka's friends—I really, really loved reading how this group of women, who had been cast aside from their societies, who had been limited their entire lives, began to flourish and lean on each other for support, and began to create bonds of sisterhood and find worth outside of the constrictions and imposed limitations of their upbringing. The joy of learning to run and fully use their bodies when they had been literally fettered, was tearfully amazing. YA fantasy has burned me in the past, but this one has lit my fire, watered my crops and made me dinner. If you're feeling a little jaded by YA, give this one a try. You won't be disappointed. I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

  27. 4 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    Are we Girls or Are we Demons? In Namina Forna’s author’s note she said “At the heart, the book is an examination of patriarchy. How it does it form? What supports it? How do women survive under it? And what abut men, or people who don’t fall into the binary? Who thrives and who doesn’t?” After finishing this magical novel, I can say without a doubt the Author did an amazing job of answering all these questions...and more. In The Gilded Ones we meet Deka, who is from the snowy mountains of Are we Girls or Are we Demons? In Namina Forna’s author’s note she said “At the heart, the book is an examination of patriarchy. How it does it form? What supports it? How do women survive under it? And what abut men, or people who don’t fall into the binary? Who thrives and who doesn’t?” After finishing this magical novel, I can say without a doubt the Author did an amazing job of answering all these questions...and more. In The Gilded Ones we meet Deka, who is from the snowy mountains of the Northern part of Otera. Deka is still grieving the lost of her mother who recently died, her mother was originally from the Southern Provinces of Otera. Deka now lives alone with her father and is preparing for The Ritual of Purity, which happens across all the Provinces in Otera. The Ritual of Purity ensures that all teenage girls are “pure”, this is done under a religious ceremony where the girls are cut to see if they bleed red, or gold. This ceremony is a way for the Provinces to find out who are Alaki and who aren’t. Alaki are women who are “stronger, faster and hardier than regular humans and bleed golden blood.” On the day of the Ritual of Purity Deka bleeds golden and is proved to be an Alaki. She is taken by the religious leaders who bleeds her and sells her blood, and kills her…but she doesn’t die. Deka is held captive until a woman from the capital Hemaira recuses her and take her to be a part of the Emperor’s army. Deka is thrust from the only world she knows, she wonders how she is able to bleed golden, how can she recover from death, why this mysterious woman wants her to be a part of her army. She arrives in the capital to start training with hundreds of other Akai some who are like her, able to recover from death, others who have superhuman strength, speed, and power. They all train to be among the elite for the Emperor’s Army whose main goal is to rid Otera of Deathshrieks who have been plaguing them for decades. Deka stands out amongst the Alaki because of her special power, she must now bear responsibility of riding Otera of Deathshrieks, she must fight the battle of her life, one she could not prepare herself for. Everything about this book is beautiful as you can see from the cover. Forna did such a solid job of creating a world where Black Girls are seen as strong, fearless, as leaders and women who can hold their own. I love how she was about to able to show Deka transformation from a naive girl, not knowing her place in the world and sometimes ashamed of her skin color, to a strong fearless leader. Forna explored so many relevant topics and in such a nuanced way, particularly, patriarchy, religion, racism, colourism, classism, feminism, sisterhood and trauma. I particularly loved this plot because of how (black) female focused it was and how the author portrayed girls and women in positive light. Forna created a world unlike any I have visited before and I did not want to leave. I can see this one being a favourite for many once it is released in July 2020. I don’t see a lot of these YA novels on the shelf and we need more of them starting with this. This one is for the culture and it is well done, well executed and trust me, you are going to want to read it. Great job Namina Forna.

  28. 5 out of 5

    ♡ jules ♡

    *blows a kiss to the sky for namina forna*

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    The author begins the book with a lovely author's note that states that the purpose of this book was to examine the patriarchy and who does and doesn’t thrive under it, and also how it can hurt so many people. I'm not sure how successful this was in total but I am impressed with her attempt. This is definitely a dark and violent story and some of the ways that the deaths were described surprised me for a young adult book, but the author manages to do all this without making everything seem too g The author begins the book with a lovely author's note that states that the purpose of this book was to examine the patriarchy and who does and doesn’t thrive under it, and also how it can hurt so many people. I'm not sure how successful this was in total but I am impressed with her attempt. This is definitely a dark and violent story and some of the ways that the deaths were described surprised me for a young adult book, but the author manages to do all this without making everything seem too grimdark. The book isn’t about forgetting trauma, but finding acceptance with yourself and how that can help healing. My big complaint about the book is that some aspects at the end seemed too rushed, like the final showdown ended very quickly. And while this isn’t so much of a complaint as a minor quibble, I also thought that some of the romance aspect of the book I was more told than shown, although I liked the love interest. In general, the writing could be stilted and repetitive and definitely involved more telling than showing. As I told a friend, the writing was just kind of there and didn’t do it any favors but also didn’t hurt it any, it was the type of writing that could either be saved or ruined by the story. The true strength of this book was Deka’s relationship with her sisters, and just the richness of all the women in general. I am a sucker for found families and found plenty here.

  30. 5 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

    3/11/19 Look at that cover though! Hot damn!! 30/9/19 You had me at Ancient West-African inspired! You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website 3/11/19 Look at that cover though! Hot damn!! 30/9/19 You had me at Ancient West-African inspired! You can find me on Youtube | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Website

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