All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

on April 12, 2021

The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1)
Namina Forna
Usborne Publishing Ltd
2021, 400p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: 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.

I cannot remember how I heard about this book now – maybe one of Goodreads’ highlight posts, maybe a blog, maybe a newsletter but I knew that I wanted to read it well before it was published. The cover is so eye-catching and it feels like it’s been a while since I’ve found a new, interesting series to read. I’ve been reading a lot of stand-alone books lately.

Deka lives in a small village where she’s borderline ostracised due to the taint of her father’s family a generation or two back and also the fact that her mother was from another part of the world. In her land, girls undergo a ritual at fifteen or sixteen to determine their ‘purity’ and if they can become part of the village. If they bleed red, all is well but if they do not…..horrors await. To Deka’s devastation her blood runs gold, the colour of impurity and she endures horrific torture before a woman intervenes and gives Deka a choice: join an army for the Emperor, killing the deathshrieks that terrorise the lands or stay and suffer continued torture before they determine her Final Death. For Deka, it’s not much of a choice but the promise of purity after 20 years of service sways her. She is desperate to escape the taint of being declared impure, of the look in her father’s eyes when he realised what she was.

The training is brutal and Deka is different from the others rounded up and herded to the capital to undergo training to go on raids. She has different gifts and it makes her valuable but it also makes her a target. The more she learns about her gifts, the more she also begins to wonder about what it is she’s doing and whether or not what she’s always believed is the truth.

This was so interesting! The story has a huge amount of depth to it in regards to the treatment of women and the role they play in society. In this world they are veiled, forced to undergo a ritual in public to determine their ‘purity’ and those that do not pass are subjected to the most horrific of treatment by men in the name of a God who demands it. They are blamed for many things, shoehorned into roles of subservience and demure behaviour, allowing men to shine. When Deka and the others deemed to be ‘impure’ are trained as warriors and sent to fight creatures they face disrespect from the male soldiers until they earn it and are attacked, belittled and abused by men in the streets when they ride out. They are considered useful enough to train, fight and die, probably because they’re seen as expendable, not necessarily valuable to society as a whole. To outsiders, they are worthy only of criticism from those not brave enough to step into their shoes.

I enjoyed the way the story developed – some of the developments, it was quite easy to guess in what direction the story was going, others were a little more of a surprise. Despite the patriarchal society that dominates this book, by going on her journey, Deka becomes exposed to strong women and is able to develop true friendships for the first time in her life. She is exposed to people of a variety of different backgrounds, she learns more about her mother and the mysterious White Hands guides her along developing her power/skill and creating an awareness within her that means she seeks answers to questions, learns that all is not how it seems. She’s also created a strong sense of loyalty within her group of friends, which means that when the time comes for them to make a choice, the choice they make, is Deka.

There’s so much in this – an intriguing world ripe for overthrow, a story that makes you want to know more, a main character that’s learning and growing and assuming a most important role, a group of offsides that are as appealing as they are different and the tiniest hint of romance. I really liked this and I can’t wait to read the second book.

8/10

Book #53 of 2021


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