Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.
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.er.
I could not wait to start this after seeing a few reviews about the book before Christmas. Just the cover alone makes you want to read it but after reading the description, I knew that this would be right up my street.
The Gilded Ones is a story of tragedy, loss, loyalty, belonging, discovering who you are and empowering women. As you progress through the story, you very quickly uncover the multiple layers that lie beneath and how deep it truly goes. This isn't just another fantasy story about girls with powers, there is so much more to it and I love how Forna addressed some big issues like inequality amongst the sexes and more in a way that is really accessible and illustrative. She clearly shows that in any world, be it fantasy or real, women have been suppressed for far too long and should be allowed their rightful place in society and beyond. The atrocities that some of the girls in this book must endure goes beyond imagining and clearly showcases the fear that men had. The lack of understanding they had of the role and power of women resulted in a world bent on suppressing and punishing women for being what they are. And the scary thing is that there are many similarities with our world today.
MY favourite part of the story is the characters. They are so strong and you could nearly picture your own friends playing their roles. From Deka with her strength of character and infinite layers of mystery, to Britta with her endless love and loyalty to Deka, to the enigmatic White Hands, to the dark and troubled Bercalis. They were all really distinctive and each played their own unique part in this epic story. Their friendships felt really authentic and true and you could so clearly picture them becoming sisters. The level of emotion that flows throughout the book is so raw and real and it makes you connect with the characters even more. I did find Deka's relationship with Keita a little bit forced however.
I also loved that nearly all of the characters from a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities. It gave a much needed spotlight that didn't focus on the many white heroines and heroes already out there. Deka was the perfect person to play a strong Black female character and really own the spotlight.
I found the ending was really quick and would have liked it to go on a little longer. I guess it's clever because I definitely want to the read the next book (assuming there is a next one!), but I still felt that it was over before it really began.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and flew through it! It is such a fresh and unique fantasy story and I can only assume we will be seeing it on the big screens soon. It is beautifully visual and totally immerses you in the world of Deka and the other alaki. A big thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read this pre-publication and I can't wait to see what comes next!
IN 3 WORDS/PHRASES:
'The truth is, girls have to wear smiling masks, contort themselves into all kinds of knots to please others, and then, when the deathshrieks come, girls die. They die...the way I see it, we all have a choice right now. Are we girls, or are we demons? Are we going to die, or are we going to survive?'
White Hands, there was so much secrecy and complexity about her. I just found her so interesting and wanted to find out more about her.