Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Hello everyone! Today I am super excited to share my review of The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna! I’ve been very excited for this book ever since an early paperback copy was included in a Fairyloot box last summer. The premise immediately

I’m participating in a blog tour with the absolutely wonderful Terminal Tours, who graciously included me on this very exciting tour. Thank you for including me!


About the Book

Title: The Gilded Ones

Author: Namina Forna

Publisher: Delacorte

POV: 1st Person

Genre: YA Fantasy

Release Date: 2/9/2021

Page Count: 432 pages

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |IndieBound

Synopsis: 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.


About the Author

Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina loves building fantastical worlds and telling stories with fierce female leads.


Review & Ownvoices Reflection

Pros

  • Black Representation
  • Unique Magic System
  • Female Empowerment to the Max!
  • Tackles tough issues like racism, sexism
  • Fast Paced and Quick Read
  • Great Character Development
  • Beautiful Cover (I love it when covers have beautiful Black girls on the covers! Representation matters so much!)

Cons

  • Violent/Graphic/Difficult content (Didn’t take away from my experience, but very important to note!)
  • Falls into the “coming of age” trope that a lot of fantasy/scifi books use (not necessarily bad, but a bit… overused in my opinion.)

I first heard of The Gilded Ones last year when Fairyloot included the book as a second pick in their June Box. It had an exclusive cover with shiny gold foiling and teal sprayed edges. I immediately went on the hunt to try to find a secondhand copy of my own, but the Buy/Sell/Trade groups of Facebook were a difficult battlefield to navigate. It actually took MONTHS for me to a find a decently priced copy, so I treated myself to the book as a Christmas present. I started reading it on Christmas day and I instantly fell in love and flew through the book! The premise is already quite interesting, but the writing style, plot twists, and the amazing action scenes kept me engaged and interested the entire way through. The writing style itself was very vibrant and vivid, which really helped me imagine everything well. There were some more graphic scenes,

The world of The Gilded Ones is a deeply patriarchal, religious, and superstitious one, and I really appreciated the worldbuilding elements in the story that helped to solidify that cultural fact. The religious themes of purity and duty were quite interesting, and I liked how borderline-cultish it felt. (I love learning about religious cults, so this was right up my alley!)

To speak of the characters, I obviously loved Deka, our protagonist. Her character growth from an weak indoctrinated member of society to a warrior member of the Alaki, capable of taking down the Deathshrieks (the enemy creatures of the story,) was great! I also loved seeing her (and the other girls) realize the deep-rooted misogyny and sexism they had been raised to think was true. Additionally, her strong bonds with her new fellow warrior friends are wonderful to see! We need more strong female protagonists, especially Black ones, for young girls to look up to! I also loved that the romances in the novel (no details about who’s involved!) was very subtle and didn’t overshadow the larger conflicts in the novel.

All-in-all, I really enjoyed reading the Gilded Ones! It was full of action, strong female friendships, and amazing writing. I can’t wait for the sequel to come out! 4.5 star read!

Now, it’s time for my #ownvoices reflection about this novel, which I love to do whenever I read an #ownvoices novel that lines up with my identity as a reader. While this novel is definitely West-African inspired (which I am not – I’m a Black American) I could still deeply relate to the themes of racism and colorism in the novel. Furthermore, just seeing a beautiful Black girl depicted proudly on the cover in all of her gilded glory is just so empowering to see on bookstore shelves (and all over bookstagram!) I didn’t see many book covers with people who looked like me on them as a child, so it’s great to see this now, and I’m glad that a ton of teen girls will get to see this cover and pick up this story!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Thanks for reading! Are you planning on reading this book soon? Let me know in the comments below!


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