Falling Head Over Heels for The Gilded Ones


The Gilded Ones

By Namina Forna

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Speculative Fiction/Fantasy

QUILTBAG Main Character: No

QUILTBAG Minor Character: Yes

Main Character of Color: Yes

Bechdel Test: Yes

Summary: Deka has been waiting her whole life for this day, the ceremony that will prove her blood pure and rid her father of speculations from the village. But everything goes wrong and now Deka is faced with the punishment for all those who bleed gold: death. Faced with endless tortures and her own eventual end, Deka is offered an out. In exchange for twenty years of service to the empire, she will be made pure. Deka accepts and, in doing so, changes the course of the entire world.

Let’s Get A Little Deep:

Picture this: I am sitting in my living room, finishing the last pages of this book. As I wrap it up, I lay down, put my hands over my face, and scream. When I tell you this book absolutely consumed me, I mean I spent the entire twenty minute car ride with my spouse absolutely word vomiting about it. I read this book in two days, but that was only because I had to work which, I regret, does not actually pay me to read books. (That’s the dream, though.) The Gilded Ones is as epic as it is heartfelt and an easy five-star read for me. Let’s get into why.

The Gilded Ones tells the story of a young woman whose life is upended when her blood turns out not to be pure enough. The result of this tainted blood is vicious and savage assault on her by everyone she has ever known from her best friend to her father. In her darkest time, a woman comes and whisks her away to a new home, a new family, and a new mission.

From the start, this book draws readers in. Even as we know that Deka is walking into her own violent torture at the purity ritual, the reader is on the edge of their seat, anxious and eager in equal measure. This mix of extactice anxiety sticks with the reader on every page. It drives the story, pushing the characters as much as it does us. 

Forna accomplishes this with a tight, perfectly paced plot that guides the story without ever revealing too much or too little. The result is that the reader learns things with the characters, unable to guess what the author has planned for the next scene. 

It helps that the characters are vivid, beautiful, and complex people. Every side character feels like a friend or foe that might exist in the real world. The romance is excellently paced to make it both realistic and heart-felt.

The Gilded Ones focuses on themes of gender equality and racism, showing a world where women with power are killed in order for the ruling patriarchy to continue to thrive. Internalized sexism and racism means that women and girls like Deka have spent their entire lives believing they have no chance at real power, at a life beyond birthing children. What is refreshing is that it is not just women unlearning self-hate. We also see the men realizing the system is flawed and acting to change it.

What I’m trying to say here is that there is absolutely nothing to dislike about this book. It is, for all intents and purposes, flawless. It is fast-paced but not so much that the reader is exhausted. It has well crafted, beautiful porse. I am going to be counting down the days until the sequel and you will be, too, once you’ve read it. The Gilded Ones is well worth the buy.

Thanks for going a little deep with me! I post reviews every other Thursday. Did you love The Gilded Ones? Leave a comment telling me your favorite minor character. You can also find me on Twitter @gwasserst and on Instagram @booked.with.grace! Special thanks to Yasi (@yasaminnb) for editing my posts.

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