**4.5-stars rounded up**
The Gilded Ones follows 16-year old, Deka, a girl who has never felt like she belonged in her Northern community. She looks different than everyone else, due to her Mother’s Southern ancestry, but it’s more than that.
Deka also has elevated intuition that sets her apart. On the day of the blood ceremony, she is filled with fear and dread. Will her blood run red like it is supposed to?
If her blood runs red, she will finally be an accepted part of her community. If not, the end result could be deadly.
Unfortunately, luck is not on her side. Deka’s blood runs gold, the color of impurity and everyone sees. There is no hiding now. Subjected to torturous consequences after the ceremony, Deka feels helpless and more alone than ever.
At the height of her despair, a mysterious woman offers her the opportunity to change her life; to join an army of girls with gold blood, just like her.
She will be trained and ultimately will fight for the emperor with this group, the alaki. It’s an enticing offer and honestly, she has no choice. It’s not like she has other offers coming in. It’s this, or continued pain and torture…
Traveling to the walled city, Deka’s eyes are opened to a whole new world. There’s a lot to learn, but Deka feels up to the task. She’s encouraged by having others around her who may be considered her equals.
She begins to make friends and to understand more about her powers and history. As Deka grows in strength and confidence, the danger she faces grows as well, but not all is as it appears and Deka is determined to get to the truth.
I purchased this book when it was released and then never picked it up. I’m so glad that I finally took the time to read it. It is an incredible YA Fantasy story.
The reason I didn’t pick it up initially is because I was intimidated. It sounded complex and I was concerned that I wouldn’t understand the world, or magic system.
Now having experienced Forna’s skilled writing, those thoughts seem silly. I loved this world and it is complex, not going to lie about that, but it unfolds on the page in a stunning and accessible manner.
Deka is a character that you can easily empathize with from the start. The emotions she is feeling as she enters her blood-letting ceremony, it was so easy to feel that and subsequently, to feel for her. What she goes through in the aftermath of that ceremony, my word.
Forna does not pull punches. This story is violent and unapologetically-so, which I respect. Deka goes through so much and it really shapes her character, her strength and determination are hard-earned.
I loved how quickly the events in this book kick off. There’s not a ton of build-up, you’re dropped into Deka’s life and it’s off to the races from there.
The world is harsh, but so intriguing. Watching Deka and other strong women navigate the patriarchy was impressive. The political aspects of this were quite interesting as well. It’s more than magic and action, there’s plotting and planning; something I tend to enjoy.
The highlight of this story for me though was the relationships that Deka was able to develop. Her friend, Britta, is a fantastic character. She’s the perfect companion for Deka. Their love and support of one another was so pure.
There are many other things I loved about this, I could literally go on for paragraphs and paragraphs, but I won’t. I will say though, that Deathshrieks and White Hands are two of the most interesting things/characters that I have read about this year. Fascinating.
This story felt dangerous, intense and high-stakes, while also being emotional and gut-wrenching in its unflinching look at violence and the horrors of war/conflict zones. Two thumbs way up.
In summation, LOL, this book is BADASS!! I am so excited to continue on with the series. I am hoping to pick up the sequel next month!