Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 1012
The Gilded Ones
Overall rating
Writing Style
THE GILDED ONES by Namina Forna is a YA fantasy novel and the first book in the Deathless series. The story follows sixteen-year-old Deka on the brink of her purity ceremony— one that all young ladies must go through to prove they don’t have demon blood in their veins. Deka, with her brown skin in a Northern province, is used to being different. That’s why she’s hoping to prove once and for all that she fits in— only her blood runs gold instead of red. When the Elders imprison her, she’s rescued by a strange lady who brings her to a warrior training ground with secretive plans of her own. There, Deka begins to learn the truth of who she really is, and more importantly, starts to decide who she wants to be.

Racism, colorism, sexism, and feminism are some of the themes covered in this book. Forna tackles them in such a way to evoke not only empathy but also empowerment. It doesn’t feel political. It feels human. The refrain from the story, “Are we girls or are we demons?” echoed in my ears for days after reading it. Along those lines, I love the female friendships that are formed among the “demon” girls. They are fierce, protective, and compassionate— and so are their male counterparts. While the powers that be are oppressive, the male partners to the female warriors grow to be supportive and kind. It shows what is possible when people work together.

The pacing occasionally took me out of the story as it revved up and slowed down in parts, but beyond that, I’m very excited for the sequels. I want to see how the romance between Deka and her partner continues to develop, and if the “human” girls are liberated in the coming books.

THE GILDED ONES is a mashup of the blood magic from RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard, the patriarchal society in THE GRACE YEAR by Kim Liggett, the threatening monsters in DEFIANCE by C.J. Redwine, and the training grounds in DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth. It encompasses the fantasy elements that we’ve come to love and expect while infusing the genre with a fresh perspective and tons of diversity. The cover alone is reason enough to read this book. It is absolutely gorgeous. That being said, if you are triggered by abuse, rape, or violence, this may be a book you want to skip.
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