The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1)
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.
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.