Excerpt from The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Gilded Ones

Deathless #1

by Namina Forna

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna X
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2021, 432 pages

    Jan 2022, 432 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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Print Excerpt

"Fine. A bit startled is all," I manage to say.

"But not hurt." His eyes are on me now, and it's all I can do not to squirm under their sincerity.

"No." I shake my head.

He nods. "My apologies for what just happened. Men can be animals, especially around girls as pretty as you."

Girls as pretty as you ...

The words are so heady, it takes me a few moments to realize he's speaking again. "Where are you off to?" he asks.

"The baker," Elfriede replies, since I'm still tongue-tied. She nods at the small, cozy building just across the street from us.

"I'll watch you from here," he says. "Make sure you're safe."

Again his eyes remain on me.

My cheeks grow hotter.

"My thanks," I say, hurrying over to the bakery as Elfriede giggles.

True to his words, Ionas continues staring at me the entire way.

The bakery is already packed, just as Elfriede said it would be. Women crowd every corner of the tiny store, their masks gleaming in the low light as they buy delicate pink purity cakes and sun-shaped infinity loaves to celebrate the occasion. Usually, masks are plain things, made out of the thinnest bits of wood or parchment and painted with prayer symbols for good luck. On feast days like this, however, women wear their most extravagant ones, the ones modeled after the sun, moon, and stars and adorned with geometric precision in gold or silver. Oyomo is not only the god of the sun but also the god of mathematics. Most women's masks feature the divine symmetry to please His eye.

After today, I'll begin wearing a mask as well, a sturdy white half mask made out of heavy parchment and thin slivers of wood that will cover my face from forehead to nose. It's not much, but it's the best Father could afford. Maybe Ionas will ask to court me once I wear it.

I immediately dismiss the ridiculous thought.

No matter what I wear, I'll never be as pretty as the other girls in the village, with their willowy figures, silken blond hair, and pink cheeks. My own frame is much more sturdy, my skin a deep brown, and the only thing I have to my advantage is my soft black hair, which curls in clouds around my face.

Mother once told me that girls who look like me are considered pretty in the southern provinces, but she's the only one who's ever thought that. All everybody else ever sees is how different I look from them. I'll be lucky if I get a husband from one of the nearby villages, but I have to try. If anything should ever happen to Father, his relatives would find any reason they could to abandon me.

Excerpted from The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. Copyright © 2021 by Namina Forna. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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