By Author / Illustrator
Usborne Publishing Ltd
Paperback / softback
The must-read new bold and immersive West African-inspired fantasy series, as featured on Cosmo, Bustle, Book Riot and Refinery 29. In this world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice, perfect for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther.
16-year-old Deka lives in Otera, a deeply patriarchal ancient kingdom, where a woman's worth is tied to her purity, and she must bleed to prove it. But when Deka bleeds gold - the colour of impurity, of a demon - she faces a consequence worse than death. She is saved by a mysterious woman who tells Deka of her true nature: she is an Alaki, a near-immortal with exceptional gifts. The stranger offers her a choice: fight for the Emperor, with others just like her, or be destroyed...
The Gilded Ones is brilliant! Gripping, full of threat, peril and totally absorbing, this debut novel has been written by new author, Namina Forna, to represent heroic girls.
The Gilded Ones is a fantasy based in another world dominated by powerful men. The characters are really interesting and complex throughout and my emotional investment in Deka, the central character, was unavoidable.
Things change in dramatic and far reaching ways soon after the start of the book and as the story unfolds, Deka discovers things about herself and her community which turns everything she has previously believed in and trusted on its head.
This book is also a story about friendship, family, courage, love and acceptance. The climax is so riveting that it was difficult to put this book down and I am eager to hear about a follow up. I highly recommend The Gilded Ones and would suggest it is appropriate for upper school students.
416 pages / Reviewed by Ruth Cornish, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 14+
The Gilded Ones is an amazing debut novel by Namina Forna. I was fortunate to receive a limited-edition book proof from Usborne and it had a stunning golden cover!
This fantasy fiction is set in Otera, an ancient patriarchal empire. Women are forced to wear masks in public, they cannot go anywhere unaccompanied, and they are destined to be subservient wives if found pure. All girls (and you will note that it is only girls) must undergo 'The Ritual of Purity' at the age of 16 years. It is an offence to bleed beforehand. Golden blood is a sign that they are an Alaki and impure. Alaki are thought to be demons, each has only one way that she can die, and the Temple priests will do whatever it takes to find their final death.
Namina Forna has created a fantasy world that is VERY readable with a relatable heroine who fights for what she believes is right. This book is full of action and adventure with just a tiny sprinkling of romance thrown in. A tale where 16-year-old Deka is shocked to discover that she has golden blood and strives to find out who she is and where she came from. She is exceptionally talented, even amongst the Alaki, and to her surprise finds that she can command Deathshrieks; the tall, pale monsters that have terrorised her village, attacking and slaughtering the people there after paralysing their central nervous systems with their voices. Deka is in a fight to survive. She wishes to redeem herself and become pure...
I loved that the author explored a little of the back stories of some of the Alaki friends that Deka allies herself with. These snippets of personal history helped to explain some of the facets to their personality. A little empathy is a wonderful thing in any world!
This is a real page turner with plenty of surprises, and a book that raises deeper issues of feminism and patriarchy. It is set in an ancient West African-inspired world. It is the first of a series and I cannot wait to read the next instalment.
Contains scenes of violence. Rape is mentioned but not in detail.
416 pages / Reviwed by Clair Bossons, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 14+