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  • Writer's pictureTabitha Tomala

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna Book Review

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The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna book cover
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

The Gilded Ones Book Review

In Deka’s village, young girls must abide by strict rules or else risk becoming impure. And to be impure means enacting the death mandate. Deka lives in a near-constant state of anxiety, fearing she will be impure. Having a mother from outside the village, she already stands out from the rest. When the day of the bloodletting ritual comes, disaster strikes the village and it is discovered Deka’s blood runs gold. Deka is continually subjected to horrors from the elders as they try to enforce the death mandate. Until a woman arrives at the village, offering Deka a way to leave the village behind. Deka is offered a way to use her near-immortal powers as an alaki to fight for the empire and earn purity as a reward.

The Gilded Ones is not a book for those for the faint of heart. While Namina Forna wrote about Deka's time with the village elders in a way to avoid diving into details, it is still a traumatic experience. One Deka relives throughout her time at the training grounds. However she never fully processes what occurred in the village. She buries it and the anxiety she once held. Ingrained into her mind are the beliefs of her village, and it will take Deka a while to unwind the untruths she lived.

This novel didn’t quite dwell on the emotional side of the alaki and their situation. There was a detachment when Deka was reliving the actions of the elders. Taking an almost disassociated approach to the trauma Deka endured. When a fellow alaki named Belclis shares her story, it is steeped in emotion and the pain her past caused her is quite evident. Taking the same approach to Deka’s trauma would have made her a character easier to connect with and more realistic.

Building the lore and beliefs of the world was well done. From the start, readers are shown how quickly loved ones will turn on their family if they are found to be alaki. However, the smaller details were sometimes lost within the narration. Certain aspects of the alaki, such as the signs of a true death were glossed over during action sequences. This could make it easy to miss and later on when the same situation is brought up, but no explanation is given, it’s hard to connect the dots and see the conclusions characters are coming to.

The Gilded Ones was a quick and easy read. It has wonderful battle sequences and lore. It’s a unique storyline and the abilities of the alaki are just beginning to be discovered by the end of the novel. Readers who enjoy darker young adult fantasy may enjoy this novel.

To Purchase: Bookshop | Author's Website

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