The Gilded Ones – Namina Forna

Do you know what it means to be pure, Deka?

Deka has always known she would bleed cursed, gold blood on the day of her Ritual.
No matter how many of the Infinite Wisdoms she’s memorized, or how often she’s prayed that she could be just like every other normal girl in the village, she’s know this would be the day she died. What does surprise her, is to learn that it would not be the only time she would die. Deka is horrified to learn that the priests have a habit of bleeding out the girls like her — after all, gold is gold, even if it came from a vein. After weeks of torture and death, Deka is offered a choice: stay, and die (again), or leave the only home she’s ever had to train to fight in a demonic army on behalf of the emperor.

Prepare to lose your minds, folks — this book is THAT good.

I was enthralled by the world Forna built deep in my mind as I read Deka’s story.
With every day Deka spent harnessing her powers and discovering her true purpose in the war she was training for, I could feel my feet rooting themselves on the same unsteady path upon which Deka treaded. I felt the weight of Deka’s shame as she coped with the fact that she was exactly what everyone accused her of being: unnatural. I felt her heart break as she lost friends in the trenches of a brutal fight against the deathshrieks, and I felt her heart strengthen with every obstacle she overcame. The land of Otera truly is breathtaking; it’s the stuff of dreams and of nightmares and everything in-between.

Like many YA stories, Deka’s fictional journey speaks to the evils we face every day.
It’s no secret that there is corruption in every facet of our broken world — we’re human. How can there not be? Forna sheds light on issues like the abuse of power by religious officials — priests and mentors whom we are meant to trust, rather than fear — and of power-hungry rulers who are quick to judge and conquer and slow to listen to the voices of their people. I loved the way Deka did not cower in fear, but she also recognized that she alone would not be the hero of this story. Britta, Keita, and all of the alalki and uruni who fought by her side made it possible for her to complete her mission. Deka knew from the beginning that she would not be an island, she just needed to believe that there could be people willing to love her for her, not for her unnatural abilities.

It’s rare that we see a protagonist like Deka — one who is so physically strong, yet so afraid that what sets her apart will be what stops anyone from being able to care for her. Readers are invited into Deka’s transition from self-hatred to self-acceptance, and let me tell you, it is one HECK of a ride. I challenge anyone to read The Gilded Ones and not feel something change within them. Something like hope. Not only will you be inspired by the characters you meet, you will genuinely want to mold even the tiniest part of yourself to be more like them, and isn’t that the best kind of feeling? To feel like we can somehow change the world we’re in just because we have this story inside of us? I think Forna says it best in her letter to the reader when she says:

To every person reading this book: Know that you are the hero of your own story. You can make things happen, and you can change the world.

You won’t be disappointed by this book, I can promise you that. My question for you, is what will you do once you’ve finished The Gilded Ones? What difference will you make?

If you enjoyed The Children of Blood and Bone , The Grace Year, or Diamond City, you will be sucked into Forna’s .

Content Warnings:
Violence: The training alaki endure is intense, to say the least. As soldiers who can push their bodies to the point of death over and over, there are scenes in which impalement, dismemberment, and beheading are described. These scenes serve a key purpose to the story, and they are not overly gruesome.

Recommended Age: 13+ due to violence.