Summary and book reviews of The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

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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  • Published:
    Feb 2021, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
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About this Book

Book Summary

The most anticipated fantasy of 2021. In this world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice. Get ready for battle.

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire's greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she's ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

The start of a bold and immersive fantasy series for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther.

1

Today is the Ritual of Purity.

The thought nervously circles in my head as I hurry toward the barn, gathering my cloak to ward off the cold. It's early morning, and the sun hasn't yet begun its climb above the snow-dusted trees encircling our small farmhouse. Shadows gather in the darkness, crowding the weak pool of light cast by my lamp. An ominous tingling builds under my skin. It's almost as if there's something there, at the edge of my vision... .

It's just nerves, I tell myself. I've felt the tingling many times before and never once seen anything strange.

The barn door is open when I arrive, a lantern hung at the post. Father is already inside, spreading hay. He's a frail figure in the darkness, his tall body sunken into itself. Just three months ago, he was hearty and robust, his blond hair untouched by gray. Then the red pox came, sickening him and Mother. Now he's stooped and faded, with the rheumy eyes and wispy hair of someone decades older.

"You're already awake," he says ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Forna's debut novel and first book in the Deathless series is a challenge to patriarchal norms across societies and cultures. As her characters find their own power and agency, and learn to love who they are in spite of what others have said about their worth, young readers will be inspired to recognize their own self-worth. The Gilded Ones is a strong opening to what promises to be a compelling series that is taking on as its focus an almost timeless subject: violence enacted against women to keep them in line and to punish those who dare to break boundaries and norms...continued

Full Review Members Only (538 words).

(Reviewed by Michelle Anya Anjirbag).

Media Reviews

Refinery 29
Namina Forna could be the Toni Morrison of YA fantasy.

Buzzfeed
Fans of Children of Blood and Bone, Mulan, and the Dora Milaje from Black Panther are going to adore this one.

Publishers Weekly
Formidable heroines and a thoughtful feminist mythology distinguish debut author Forna's West Africa–inspired fantasy trilogy launch. Abundant action drives the pace, while a nuanced plot advocates social change by illustrating the myriad ways in which society cages and commodifies women.

School Library Journal
Forna's debut novel is masterful in its world-building and character development. The setting is vast and full of wonders, while the protagonist is well-rounded, bold, and as real as any other 16-year-old who wants to be accepted and loved. Brutal, and occasionally graphic in its depiction of violence, this is nevertheless a must

Kirkus Reviews
With measured focus, debut author Forna creates a provocative world filled with fantastical creatures, centuries-old divine conflict, and overt feminist messaging around gender inequity and 'purity'...The plot-twist climax is hinted at throughout the book...Unfortunately, the energy then peters out for the falling action and epilogue. An adventurous and relevant fantasy that strives for gold but settles, in the end, for silver.

Author Blurb Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Caraval
An enthralling debut. The Gilded Ones redefines sisterhood and is sure to leave readers both inspired and ultimately hopeful.

Author Blurb Roseanne A. Brown, New York Times bestselling author of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin
Haunting, brutal, and oh-so-relevant. This book will suck you into a world where girls bleed gold, magic fills the air, and the real monsters hide behind words instead of claws.

Author Blurb Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of And I Darken
The Gilded Ones is a fierce, unflinching fantasy that marks Forna as a debut to watch.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Monstrously Powerful: Patriarchy and the Demonization of Women

Painting of Medusa, a monstrous woman with snakes for hair, by Arnold BöcklinIn a letter addressed to readers in The Gilded Ones, Namina Forna writes that the book is "at its heart…an examination of patriarchy. How does it form? What supports it? How do women survive under it? And what about people who don't fall into the binary? Who thrives and who doesn't?" Deka and all the women of Otera live in a society that considers them second-class citizens, and the women designated "alaki" are further stigmatized as impure monsters. Of course, as the narrative reveals, it is the power of these women, the potential of what they can become, that is feared.

This fear is a frequent theme in literature and media, often realized through the trope of the monstrous woman as a means of demonizing female power. Monstrous ...

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