Cover Image: The Gilded Ones

The Gilded Ones

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Member Reviews

The Gilded Ones was my most anticipated books of the year and since it wouldn’t be released until March 2021 I didn’t think I’d get to read it this year. But I did! Although I won’t be adding it to my best books of this year I am glad I got to read it. I loved that this novel discusses the oppression of women in such a new and unique way. It’s grade appropriate for middle and high school, and I’m sure my fantasy kiddos will be lined up to read this book.
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The Gilded Ones is such an incredible and unique feminist fantasy. And look at that gorgeous cover!!  The story includes an inspiring group of strong female characters, great representation, romance, and everything readers could ask for in an epic fantasy. The one downfall is the brutal sexual content. While it didn't bother me as an adult, I do see how this could be too much for some younger readers. Aside from that, this book is fantastic. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House Children's for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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Oh. My. God. This book was amazing! As an avid reader of YA fantasy, this book is very refreshing and new! Perfect for the fans of Rebel of the Sands! I can't hardly wait for the next book in the series to be released! #TheGildedOnes #NetGalley
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Thank you to Delacorte Press for a Netgalley copy of this upcoming title.

The Gilded Ones packs a lot of adventure, character growth, and plot all into one book. I assume there will be a follow-up because the ending left me with so many questions.

All Deka wants is to be welcomed by the village she has lived her whole life in. The Ritual Purity test will prove to the people she belongs, but when the results are not what she expects, she is cast out of town and disowned by her father.

She travels with a group of impure girls to a walled city. Inside they are trained to fight the Deathshrieks, monsters who attack the villages of their country, killing men and capturing women and girls. Deka has finally found a group of friends she trusts and a warrior who would give his very life for her.

Will it be enough to heal her past hurts, and will the secrets yet to be revealed cause her new life to crumble.

Forna creates a believable world and deep characters. Some of the characters are a little all or nothing, but it doesn't detract from the story. My only critique of the book is I wished the author had paced the ending differently. It felt like an all-out sprint with all that happened and all that was revealed.

Definitely added as one of my favorite books of the year. Fans of the Hunger Games series will appreciate the tough demeanor and friendship the warriors forge despite being pitted against each other. Readers of fantasy will enjoy the world-building, and Forna adds a much-needed voice to the YA fantasy genre.
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A gorgeous and wholly original debut fantasy that I can see becoming a cult favorite in the YA world. 

Namina Forna is a force to be reckoned with with this story. Can’t wait to see where the sequel takes us. Will update this feedback with a link to my full blog review closer to publication! 

Thank you for the opportunity.
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Huge thanks to NetGalley, and the Delacorte for the chance to review this title.

At the start, this book goes the way of many popular YA books-a girl enters some sort of ceremony to adulthood and discovers she is not who she thinks she is. Boy howdy, this book took a brutal and unique turn. Enter the deathshrieks. Enter golden blood and gilded death and an army of girls. THE GILDED ONES does not let you take a breath. it assaults you in the face with fascinating writing and unbelievably story-telling. I am kicking myself for waiting so long to read this, but also happy that I am ending 2020 (almost) with such a book.

Deka enters her purity test for excitement. She will finally be recognized as part of society. But when monstrous creatures called death shrieks attack her people, she discovers that her blood does not run red, but gold. Now considered a demon, she's subjected to violent beatings, dismemberment, beheading, etc (most are off-page, but if you're easily triggered, you may want to skip chapter three and some of four.) in order to find her "true death".  Finally, a woman she dubs White Hands comes and takes her away, promising life at the capital training with others like her. There, she meets Britta whom she befriends right away, and together they learn how to fight alongsde the other "alaki". But Deka's past creeps up on her, and she soon learns that being a GIlded One means something else entirely. 

First off, this book has some violent imagary that should come with a content warning. I did not have a problem with it, but others might so here's your warning. I think NetGalley actually updated the synpopsis with a trigger warning. for violence and mentions of sexual abuse. I think that's the reason for most of the lower ratings I'm seeing, and maybe a reason for my higher rating. 

I believe this book took a huge risk with the content it contained, and I for one am here for it. Deka's world is not cupcakes and rainbows. It's cruel, and brutal (I'm using that word a lot, I know. It's the only word that comes to mind), and she must claw her way out of it if she wants to protect her sisters. 

The author's goal in writing THE GILDED ONES was to examine the patriachry and how girls cannot thrive under it. The book covered a ton of themes, but it wasn't overwhelming or preachy. One theme that always gets me into a book is the bond of sisterhood. It's refreshing to see a group of girls rising each other up instead of breaking each other down. 

Minor issues which did not affect my rating: The romance was meh, and I think the story could have done without it. And the ending felt rushed. I get the word count deal and having it end at the right place to set itself up for a sequel, but I felt like I needed more. I mean, I'll get more with the second and third book so here's hoping the story keeps up momentum. 

Overall, this was a solid debut, and I think it's going to throw me into a book hangover. It was that good, you guys. I can't wait for you all to get a chance to read it next year.
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I didn’t know much about THE GILDED ONES before requesting it, but I’m glad I did so anyways.
THE GILDED ONES is the feminist fantasy tale of Deka, who discovers that she has the “impure” demon blood of the alaki, a species (of a sort) of girls who are faster and stronger than regular humans and can only be killed in one way, their “final death”. Unlike those before her, Deka and other alaki discovered are taken to be trained as (almost) immortal warriors for the emperor and used to kill deathshrieks, deadly beings that feed on those fearful of them.
This story was so incredible and unique. There was an amazing group of strong female characters, great representation, romance, and everything you want in a fantasy novel.
Despite a lot of the focus being on Deka learning more about herself and her family, there’s still action, and the story is filled with unpredictable twists and turns.
Above all, I appreciated that there was a HEALTHY romance that wasn’t too rushed, and the loyalty between Deka and the other alaki despite Deka being an unknown even among the others.
Seriously, put this on your 2021 TBR.
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Deep sisterhood bonds.  Brotherhood.  Family and a sense of belonging.  Fantasy.  Fulfilling your purpose.  I can’t even contain how well written and developed this book is!  This was my first YA book in YEARS but the cover attracted me so much that I just had to read it and to say it does not disappoint is the understatement of the year!  The characters, main and secondary, are SO well thought out and you see many facets of them, from physical appearance to their internal emotions and traumas.  

The author lays a foundation from what seems like a mid-way point of Deka, the main characters life, however, her childhood and background are uncovered later in the story.  But the action starts relatively early on and it does not let up.  You are held on the edge of your seat right up until the last because of the way the author has crafted the story and all I will say is that you close the book satisfied and elated!  There are mystical creatures and plenty of fantasy here but also very harsh realities that tie into our every day lives in a patriarchal society. 
 
I was afforded the exquisite opportunity to receive an advance readers copy of this book from the publisher, Random House Children’s and Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest opinion.  My pre-order has already been placed as I want to see this book shared and soar into many hands!
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“No matter my origins, there is worth in what I am.”

When Deka’s blood runs an impure gold rather than virtuous red at her coming of age ceremony she knows that a fate worse than death is awaiting her. Then Deka is given the first real choice of her life: stay to face the wrath of her village or leave with a strange woman to train to fight monsters that will likely kill her anyway. When Deka chooses the path to survival, she unknowingly sets the whole world on a new journey.


Y’all this book is an absolute must read. This book is feminist fury in a fantasy setting. It’s gorgeous, it’s heartfelt, and it’s surprising! Go in as blind as you can because you will not regret it. The Gilded Ones gets five big gold stars from me!
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Book Review for The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Full review for this title can be found at: @fyebooks on Instagram!
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Just... wow. I can't explain how much I love this book, with its female empowerment, its fight to make the world better, its coming-into-oneself story. I absolutely loved this book and cannot wait for the next one
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"The Gilded Ones" by Namina Forna- 4.5 out of 5 stars (rounded up to 5 stars)

Wow! This book was so unique and different but also so timely. It is the perfect read for the world we live in.
I was very impressed by this debut book- the characters, the mythology, the world-building- all of it was so well done. 
Deka and Britta were probably my two favorite characters but it is so hard to pick favorites from all the well-written characters! Deka, being the main character, was the one the reader got to know the most. We knew her thoughts, her feelings, her everything. She was so brave and strong- I was constantly impressed by her and her fellow alaki warriors- they never let themselves give up even when the world around them- everything that they ever thought they knew- was turned upside down. Britta, too, was strong- she was kind and the perfect friend/sister for Deka and the rest of their crew. Belcalis, Katya, White Hands, and Kieta were great to read too- especially White Hands- you just never knew her whole story and it kept me guessing for sure!
The world and the religion/myths that Forna created for this story were so intriguing that I loved learning more about them as the book continued. The religion and world also had a lot of ties to our own world- one where patriarchies rule and women are seen as weaker. This story turns that narrative upside down and presents so many strong and independent and awesome female warriors- the alaki. I wish I could be an alaki! They were just so awesome!
Overall, I really liked this book. I only had a few nitpicky complaints so that it why I gave it a 4.5 but mainly, the story was wonderful and I cannot wait to read more books by Namina Forna. I recommend this book to fantasy fans and those who love to see incredible female warriors in their books.
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I absolutely loved Deka's journey. Her journey of self discovery as well as her journey across her realm was expansive and fraught with danger, adventure, and discovery. The relationships she loses and gains, as well as her personal development from a girl into a warrior and into a woman was moving and touching - she is fierce. This is a fantastic YA fantasy that verges on an epic scale I wouldn't normally equivocate with YA. I think readers of all ages will enjoy this story. I am eagerly awaiting the next installment into this diverse and mystical world of goddesses, men, and demons.
***
This is the review I will publish to Goodreads in February of 2021, preserved here until then, at which time I will edit and remove it from Netgalley:
Deka is a descendant of demons. Her blood runs gold, and she only has one true death - which means she can suffer through many false deaths as devouts attempt to enact The Death Warrant on her. The Death Warrant says that no impure shall live, i.e. Kill Them Until They Stay Dead. So girls from all over the world go through a purity ritual at a certain age to see if they are pure or impure, and then they are either married off or killed off. Different regions have slightly different cultures, but in the aspect of religious patriarchy, they are all the same. Zealous men in power control pretty much everything, and zealous men in power tend to abuse that power. 

Deka's personal journey across this book is as expansive as her physical trek from the Northern lands to the Southern. She leaves behind the only village she ever knew, the remainder of her family, her friends, enemies (such as a child may have), her concept of self identity that she knew from all of her socialization. Her wrongness, her otherness, and finally the impurity which branded her a demon to be blooded again and again by her village leaders - the priests. 

As she journeys towards the Emperor's city in the Southern provinces, other Alaki, the impure girls like herself, are also driven from around the world. The emperor wants to make an army of the impure to fight his war against the deathshrike monsters. Better that the alaki die fighting, or if they survive they are promised purification by the priests after 20 years of service. The journey for these girls is horrible. They are tortured, beaten, and starved by everyone they encounter from the moment their blood runs gold. What happened to you ... what happened to me - these things, they alter us... They change us in the most fundamental ways. The emperor and his men, they can... make us into warriors - they can even give us absolution- but they can never take back the horrors that have already been inflicted on us." and boy did the men come up with colorful ways to torture the descendants of demons...

But this story is really about the growth of Deka and her friends, her comrades and warriors, teachers and soldiers. These girls become women under harsh circumstances. Although they are reminded constantly of their wrongness, they manage to find solace and strength in one another.

The rest of the story is about them fighting. Their war against the Deathshrikes, strange bird-like creatures with debilitating shrieks and razor sharp claws. Deka learns things about herself as she learns about killing the deathsrikes, and this is a huge part of the storyline and character growth that I can't really divulge. Suffice it to say that you will not be bored reading this book and buy the end you will wish the rest of the series were out - although! you will not be left on a cliffhanger. There is a satisfying ending to this book, but I am eagerly awaiting book 2.

Would absolutely recommend to fans of Mercedes Lackey and Sabaa Tahir, idk, Xena, fierce fighting femmes, mythology and multi-cultural, YA fantasy.

Thank you to publisher for providing me an e-copy via Netgalley.
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"Are we girls, or are we demons? Are we going to die, or are we going to survive?"

The Gilded Ones is an incredible novel set in a deeply patriarchal world were women are seen as unholy and those who bleed impure are sentenced to death. Deka bleeds gold on the day of the ceremony and is sentenced to the Mandate of Death. Then, a mysterious women comes, bringing with her an invitation to join an army of army of girls just like her, alaki.

"The truth is, girls have to wear smiling masks, contort themselves into all kinds of knots to please others, and then, when deathshrieks come, girls die. They die."

I loved all the topics this book addressed, including sexism, racism, and trauma. I loved Deka's strength and determination to protect her blood sisters. The romance was perhaps a bit unnecessary, but it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book and I respect the love interest. I appreciate that this book felt complete, instead of ending on a cliffhanger, and I'm not sure where the sequel will go, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

I'm typically not a fan of the "chosen one" trope, but this one occurred late enough in the book, but was sufficiently hinted at so it didn't come completely out of nowhere, that it didn't bother me too much. 

4.25 stars
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Thank you so much for the opportunity to read this book. I'll be posting my review on Goodreads and Amazon
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I can’t believe I finished this! I did NOT expect to with the slump and all...but anyways let’s move on to the review. EXPECT POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW!!!!

The Gilded Ones was a rather quick, light read that took me by surprise. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. But I think it was exactly what I needed despite the fact that I took 2 breaks from it 😭.

Deka is a wonderful protagonist. She questions literally everything instead of being a gullible child who takes everyone’s word for it. She’s strong, but emotional and even vulnerable at times, and she’s so caring. It was easy to root for her 🖤. 

As for the rest of the cast, I liked them a lot. Britta and Belcalis being my favorites because of how much they stood out to me . Britta because of her fun, wary personality and Belcalis for her strength. Whitehands was enjoyable too, but I was quite watchful of her because I didn’t trust her one bit. 

The plot was quite intriguing and refreshing. I dare say unique. Some elements of it reminded me of Shadow and Bone, with the whole “Nuri” prophecy situation, but besides that The Gilded Ones felt quite original. 

The romance was the one thing lacking to me, as someone who wants as much romance as I do plot, Keita and Deka weren’t as well flushed out as I had hoped. There were plenty of time skips in this novel, and I just wished Namina would have touched on more moments during those time skips to give us a better sense of relationship developments of the coarse of ten months. Especially with the romance. 

Needless to say it was still great and I cannot wait for the sequel 🖤
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First of all, thank you NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read and honestly review this book.

Actual star rating: 3.75 
Here we have 15 year old Deka around the time of her Purity Ritual which will determine if she is a pure human or a cursed one. The Ritual finds her as a cursed being and is sentenced to die by the Death Mandate of her village. She is eventually rescued and swiftly taken to a place that recruits cursed beings lile her called Alaki. It is here Deka begins her journey to discover who she is as a woman and her place in the coming war.

While the story's premise concerning the deathshrieks and the Gilded Ones being perceived as demons, the story passed too quickly to fully grasp proper character development and decision making on behalf of the characters. For most of the story, as Deka begins to discover her powers, she spends most of the time passing out and then we immediately jump back to her consciousness a few days later instead of gradually grasping what exactly she goes through from her perspective. It seems more distant than personal, like someone else is telling her story through her voice. I would've liked to have read more on her progress with her training with the other girls instead of skimming past it to move on with the story's main plot

Deka is likable, very driven. There's immense growth (a little too much growth) to her by the end of the novel compared to the mousy and deeply reverent person that she is at the beginning, so focused on feminine roles and habits, which is an added bonus to this story is the focus of feminine culture and that being different doesnt equate to evil. If there is one thing that I disliked about her is the fact that her growth happens too swiftly. Not just in personality, but in the rendition of her powers. I would have liked to see this progress maybe even within the span of two books, as impressive as she turns out to be, just to make it come about a little at a time. It's much easier to digest than have her power growth thrown out quickly then a rushed explanation afterwards.

The addition of Ixa was cute, the line about a girl needing a pet rings true and adds to Deka having more support and the emphasis on her divine blood. 

The aforementioned rings true throughout the story, however. The Gilded Ones is very easy to read, it goes by so fast, and it's very enjoyable. But there are times when decisions, and the beliefs/thoughts/alliances of characters changed far too easily. It takes away sometimes from the struggle of the moment and the steady—and much more believable—pace that could be set. I truly would have also liked for the alaki training to last more than it does in as far as us, the reader, witnessing it. Seeing a character's struggle and grapple with their weaknesses really makes the story that much more impactful. It doesn't help if the main character is automatically or magically well gifted at controlling their powers with little effort. It's just not realistic enough. This book could have benefited from more school time and even to help forge the bonds between Deka and the other alaki, not just with Britta.
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We at Afrinomenon are thankful to receive the Gilded Ones as an eARC so here’s our honest review!
Themes: Feminism, equality, Human rights, Religion, Girl Power, Take down Patriarchy

We were attracted to the cover of The Gilded Ones. Here’s a black woman, in braids with a determined look in her eyes and gold speckled across her face. What’s going on?
Our approach has always been to stay away from as much buzz about the book as we can and just immerse in the story that Namina Forna before us.

And what an incredible ride.
From the first chapter, Deka’s fear and worry captivated us. Here was a girl who all her life never felt like she belonged. Her main protector, her mother was no longer present in her life so she relied on her father and her best friend to make it through. It was very obvious from the first chapter that our main character was about to face challenges, rejection and trauma in her coming of age story. Poor girl.

However this was where Namina surprised us - this wasn’t a Woe-is-me kind of story as a matter of fact it was a “take the trauma in - take the pain in - take the grief in but don’t let it define your story” Some serious Dora-Milaje-like fierce action moments here. And what we especially loved about this perspective was that Deka didn’t suddenly become this strong character. She was human in a world that saw her as a demon and she kept fighting to assert that humanity in a very humane way. She was afraid, made mistakes, acted strong, loved and fought, oh we loved seeing her fight.

We highly recommend this book if you love rooting for the underdog and staying engaged throughout - while slowly absorbing your character’s emotions and hoping for their wellbeing but knowing that you have to let them make their own decisions. Deka was truly a character brought to life.

Within this story, you will be reminded of your own vulnerable moments - moments where you wanted a hug, someone on your side or feeling seen. You’ll also get to see other characters. You’ll see their vulnerable and powerful moments as well. So if you love soft boys, sad mean girls and tough love teachers - you’ll find them all here. You’ll leave this story with your favorites - we don’t promise that they’ll be fine in the book but you’ll cherish them.

The pacing was great but at some point towards the end of the last chapters, the story seemed to speed up but then again that was how we felt about Children of Blood and Bone so? We might just have trouble saying goodbye to awesome stories with incredible world building. But don’t worry, this won’t be a goodbye, at least not just yet! This story is a three-part series so we’re excited!

Thank you Namina for making such a powerful story exist! Not just for Black girls but for everyone!!!
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Thank you to netgalley for a free copy of the book, all options are my own.

This was such an interesting story, I loved the mythology behind it, the world building is so detailed and I loved it! At the age of 16 everyone goes through this ceremony that will show if you're a human (if you have red blood) or a demon (if your blood runs good) and our main character discovers that she is not human and things go to hell from there. Warning! This book is really really violent and it was honestly really hard to read some parts because of all the gore.

My only issue was the romance part, as all ya novels it's very rushed and unrealistic but other than that I'm really intrigued by the world and Deka's story
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The Gilded Ones was captivating and adventurous! I was hooked from the first chapter and couldn't put it down. The characters were complex and interesting; I couldn't choose a favorite if I tried. Deka was an amazing protagonist because she had a lot of internal conflict. And all the side characters were so well developed that it almost feels like an insult to call them side characters. The only thing I didn't like was that it was sometimes predictable, and I guessed some of the plot twists long before they happened. I'd recommend this to anyone that wants to read an amazing African-inspired YA fantasy with a feminist message. Namina Forna is a spectacular writer, and I can't wait for the sequel!
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