Hi everyone! Today I’m hosting a book tour stop for The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna for Hear Our Voices Book Tours. This one made the list for my most anticipated reads for the first half of the year, so I definitely jumped on the opportunity to read this early and help promote its release.
Along with a review, I’m also sharing a spread from my reading journal and a curated playlist of songs that captured the mood of the story as I read.
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.
Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the upcoming epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina has an MFA in film and TV production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA from Spelman College. She works as a screenwriter in LA and loves telling stories with fierce female leads.
*Thanks to Delacorte Press and Hear Our Voices Book Tours for this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes included may change in final publication.*
The Gilded Ones caught my attention immediately from both the beautiful cover and the pitch of Black Panther meets The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve always been drawn to fantasy and was excited to add this to the growing list of stories in the genre that revolved around people who looked like me. I admittedly had some tiny reservations at first, given certain aspects of the content, but I was completely absorbed in the story from the first few pages and couldn’t wait to see what happened next.
The world of Otera is such a beautifully interesting place to get sucked into. Everything from the way people in the community were dressed to the details of the various creatures walking among them were painted so vividly that I could picture them in my head off of the page. I loved being plopped into the middle of a big event like the Ritual of Purity and getting a feel for the different rules and traditions that governed how these people lived and how it would all piece Deka’s story together.
One of my favorite aspects of any story is character development and this one didn’t let me down one bit. Forna created such beautiful characters here with Deka and the rest of the alaki and I found myself invested in them immediately. I have a soft spot for stories of found families and the bond between the girls was beautifully done – especially when it came to Deka’s relationships with Britta and Belcalis. Though what they’d gone through in their own individual journeys to becoming members of the emperor’s army was painfully exposed, it was great to follow them in smaller moments of joy, whether it be just a joke between blood sisters or exploring their abilities to their fullest potential. I also appreciated the development of the camaraderie between the alaki and the boys chosen to be their uruni. Given the fear and hatred thrown in the girls’ directions from the beginning, it was great to see them being seen as human from once and have someone to place their trust in, even in the slightest bit.
Overall, I really enjoyed this read and my time spent in Otera. There were so many interesting topics woven in that hopefully lead to needed conversations on patriarchal systems and trauma, especially when it comes to young girls. Although a little triggering and tough to read at points given the content, I’m looking forward to the next installment and more adventures with Deka and the other alaki.
⚠️ TRIGGER WARNING: Violence, body horror, gore & torture and sexual assault towards children ⚠️
Playlists for fantasy stories are always fun because pretty much anything goes. I had so many references to pull from – even before I started reading, so it was really just a matter of narrowing my choices down to what I felt conveyed the path of the story without being too long ( though I really could have found a song for almost every moment!).
Most of my final choices reminded me of either a particular character, a moment in the story, or a combination of the two. I initially had a few instrumental tracks, but in the end I went with the songs that grabbed my attention from lyrics and song titles.
Is The Gilded Ones on your TBR?
Make sure to check out stops from the rest of the tour here!