Tour Stop: Review/Playlist for THE GILDED ONES, by Namina Forna
THE GILDED ONES, by Namina Forna
Imprint: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Page Count: 432 pages
*I received an ARC from Delacorte Press free of charge, and my opinions are completely my own.*
“Remember this well,” the karmoko warns, “because you are here for one purpose and one purpose only. In seven months precisely, the emperor will go on campaign against the deathshrieks, and he has chosen the alaki who will lead the charge.”
She glances around the room, her eyes deadly serious.
“You will be at the forefront of the emperor’s armies,” she declares. “You will ride into battle and fight for the glory of Otera, and you will win the war against the deathshrieks or you will die trying - however many times that may take.”
In an intensely patriarchal society, young girls are forced to partake in a Ritual of Purity - a ceremony where once they turn fifteen, they are cut to determine whether their blood is pure. If the girl bleeds red, she is safe. If she bleeds gold, she is a demon and must be killed. Deka is already an outsider in her village due to her Southern heritage, and just wants to fit in. However, when deathshrieks attack her village on the day of the ceremony, Deka is able to exert some sort of power over them and drive them away, revealing her to be impure of blood and declared an alaki. When a mysterious woman shows up and offers her a choice between fighting for the emperor or dying. Deka goes with the woman to the capital in search of absolution and through training, fighting supernatural creatures, and making friends, learns just what her purpose is in Otera.
I adore The Gilded Ones - this high-powered feminist fantasy makes me crave more books written by Namina Forna. There is no veering away from social issues - in fact, the reader is forced headfirst into the issues of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and inequality. It literally deals with women being subjected to a purity test and if failed, are either killed or forced into an extremely-likely-to-die-trying war. Furthermore, the diversity of the characters is far from forced - the alaki are made from girls from various races and backgrounds (though centralizing in Africa). The alaki also are of various sexualities; some of the girls are lesbians and I squealed when they showed up.
The plot itself was so awe-inspiring. While it maintained some familiar elements, such as battle sequences and secret snooping for answers, Forna also allowed for the plot to have some twists and turns. I constantly was trying to figure out how Deka was so powerful and whether it was through family or special circumstances. When I finally learned about Deka, I legitimately put down the book, threw my head back and uttered a minor scream in the back of my workplace. When I eventually had to go back, I was so dazed and lost in my bemusing about Deka and her fellow alaki, my coworkers had to guide me back to work topics and away from The Gilded Ones. It was almost too hypnotic to bear.
For the playlist, I decided to focus mainly on fight songs, as the book focuses on battle sequences and training. Of course, Deka is shown through the songs as a strong independent woman. There are some “I now know” songs and “what if” songs thrown in too - you can check out the full playlist here: The Gilded Ones Book Playlist.
Are you still not sure about reading The Gilded Ones? Well, if you like these books:
Raybearer, by Jordan Ifueko
Star Daughter, by Shveta Thakrar
Forest of Lies, by Lori M. Lee
A Song of Wraiths and Ruins, by Roseanne A. Brown
Then you’d definitely want to grab a copy of The Gilded Ones!
The good thing, The Gilded Ones is officially out now! You can get a copy from your local bookstore or library, or you can get a copy online. Click on these buy links and you can get your own copy: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | Indigo | IndieBound | Underlined.
Many thanks to Terminal Tours for allowing me to join the The Gilded Ones book tour! You can check out the rest of the tour stops on their Tour Schedule webpage.
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 loves telling stories with fierce female leads and works as a screenwriter in LA.