ARC Review | The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

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Title: The Gilded Ones

Author: Namina Forna

Publisher/Publish date: Delacorte Press/February 9, 2021

Edition/Pages: Ebook/432 pages

Genre: YA Fantasy

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.

First of all, the cover is just beautiful. I was never one to pay attention to cover art much, but for the past year or so, I’ve been noticing them more and more. So when I saw the cover for The Gilded Ones a few months back, I fell in love. The golds and the greens really popped out and, not to mention, a beautiful depiction of a fierce black girl is a cherry on top.

I enjoyed The Gilded Ones a lot. This story covers sexism and patriarchal systems and how female empowerment overcomes those obstacles.

The Gilded Ones is a good young adult fantasy book. The fantasy aspect was something I’ve never seen before. There were different animal mixes, monsters, and a magic system that was extremely creative and original. I also liked the diversity of the people who lived in Otera. The characters aren’t strictly dark-skinned. Depending on what region they were from, their skin color ranged from pale pink to dark cocoa.  

The characters were likable. Deka was a strong main character who refused to be limited to what she thought she knew. I liked witnessing her growth throughout the story. I liked the side characters as well. I loved the female friendships between Deka and the other girls at the alaki camp. They were so motivating and supportive of one another. I thought it was a nice touch to the story.

The Gilded Ones surprised me in many ways. As a young adult book, I was not expecting the amount of violence and themes that were covered. It was shocking to read what some of the girls had to endure.

The mystery surrounding Deka was intriguing. I followed the breadcrumbs and started to piece together the clues as the story went on, but I was still surprised when everything was revealed.

As much as I enjoyed reading The Gilded Ones, there were a few things that bothered me. There was a romance included that was nice, but not necessary. I think it would’ve been better if it wasn’t introduced at all. I believe that fantasy books don’t need a romance subplot and I think The Gilded Ones would’ve been a great read without it.

I like fast-paced books, but this book hit the ground running and didn’t slow down. I felt like the plot was rushed, which left me confused at some parts. Along with that, the time passed by too quickly. We barely get time witnessing Deka and her training as an alaki. She and her friends are progressing so rapidly that we miss out on that WOW factor. It was hard to believe that Deka went from timid village girl with zero fighting background to this badass warrior in a matter of a few chapters. I would’ve liked to see the progression, see more of the training she went through. I would’ve liked to see her try and fail before succeeding in the way that she did. 

I feel like we got A LOT for one book. I honestly feel like we didn’t need everything that we got right now. Part of this plot could’ve been saved for book two and then there would’ve been more room for other aspects to be fleshed out. It makes me wonder what Namina Forna has planned for book two.

All in all, I had fun with The Gilded Ones. It was creative, it had mystery and it was very action-packed. I’ll be looking out for book two, whenever that’ll be released. Be sure to get your copy of The Gilded Ones on February 9, 2021.



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