Book Review – The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Genre: Fantasy; Young Adult

Note: There are NO spoilers in this review. When discussing in the comments, please provide a spoiler warning if needed.

I purchased The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna months ago and it sat on my shelves (and then in boxes as my family moved from Virginia to Alabama at the start of the summer). I knew I loved the cover and the synopsis, but for some reason each time I went to select my next read, this one never grabbed my attention.

Then the buddy read – an engagement group I’m in selected this novel for July. I picked it up and didn’t put it down until I reached the last page.

I devoured this novel in two days, while on a family vacation. Before my husband left town for training (he’s in the military), we wanted to do something special with our daughter, so we headed off to Great Wolf Lodge. It’s Alice’s favorite place, and it was the perfect family getaway before my husband left for a couple of months. 

We played at the water park, arcade, and MagiQuest all day – while I read all night. I was so exhausted, but it was the happiest I have been in a while. The perfect weekend trip. 

The novel begins in Deka’s village as they prepare for the blood ceremony, where all 16-year-old girls are tested for impurity. If their blood runs red, they are pure, but if it runs gold they are deemed impure. This is where Deka’s story truly begins – when her blood runs gold.

As the priests in her village punish Deka time and time again, an unknown woman comes to give Deka the option to remain in her village or flee and chart a different course. Deka learns she isn’t alone and that there are other girls like her – the Alaki.  

The transformation we see in Deka as she begins to accept who she is and discover her real purpose is powerful and inspiring. As women, whether in fiction or reality, we are often labeled and judged, here it is no different. This story captures the struggle and journey to self-acceptance in a way I have rarely seen in the novels I read. 

And FINALLY we have a story where our female protagonist has a love interest but this is not the main driver of her transformation, journey, or anything else – it just simply is an element that enhances the story. Deka does not change or grow because a man believes in her – she does all of these things because she learns to believe in herself. It’s refreshing. 

It’s not a man who holds Deka up and makes her stronger – it’s her friends and the sisterhood with her fellow Alaki standing beside her, guiding her, and helping her as they discover the truth and fight for what is right. 

If you haven’t already, please pick up The Gilded Ones whether at your local bookstore or online. You will not regret it. I loved every moment of this novel. 

We also have a date for the sequel, so you have until April 5, 2022, to catch up before The Merciless Ones is released. 

Buy The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna here at Thank You Books (Birmingham, AL) or at your local bookstore!

Have you read The Gilded Ones? Let’s talk about it here in the comments or on Instagram.

  1. I just read this one, and I’m definitely in the minority because I didn’t like it…it hit on too many of my pet peeves in writing. However, I can appreciate the things it does, like focusing on Deka’s growth and self-acceptance, friendship over romance, etc. I’ll be adding it to my classroom library, so hopefully some of my students will enjoy it.

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    1. I wasn’t a fan of the dialogue or writing style. The dialogue was oddly formal, and I hated the way the author wrote Britta’s speech. In contrast to what’s going on in this society, it felt really jarring. I also didn’t like how the thematic messaging was in your face. I felt like it was more tell than show.

      I didn’t like the time jumps; I felt like it took away from character, world, and plot development (part of the reason I couldn’t buy into Deka’s sudden character growth or the relationships).

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