A review by plumpaperbacks
The Gilded Ones, by Namina Forna

adventurous challenging emotional mysterious tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


I went into The Gilded Ones expecting a fun fantasy story, and was surprised not only by its heavier themes but also by just how good it was from the very beginning.

This is one of the most unique, immersive stories I’ve read in some time. Forna created a brilliantly intricate world that, despite a few basic similarities to other fictional worlds, is overall unlike any I’ve read about before. The mythology is so vivid it nearly seems real, the creatures and setting so impressively creative, yet none of it is confusing or difficult to understand.

Forna outdid herself writing a complex, diverse and lovable cast of characters. Deka is a protagonist I rooted for as soon as I met her, and it took very little time for me to be equally charmed by her friends, Britta, Belcalis, and Adwapa. These girls have endured so many hardships and gotten stronger because of them, without losing their vulnerability or the best parts of their personalities. Not only were they all great on their own, but their friendship was phenomenal and so heartwarming. One of the best girl squads I’ve ever read about, undeniably.

I would say the romance was one of the best parts, but honestly, every part of this book could be described the same way. The romance is subtle until the final third of the book, when it becomes clear that Deka and Keita have feelings for each other that go beyond friendship. Their slow-burn romance is memorable because it’s written differently than those in so many other books. It’s focused not on passion and lust but a deep connection between two people, a tender, unwavering affection. I love them so much, more than I can express.

Although the ending was emotional in numerous ways, it wasn’t a cliffhanger, and I appreciate that very much. Even without one, I’m extremely eager for the second book. I’ll be eagerly awaiting any scrap of news I can find.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s spectacular in every aspect, and the fact that it’s Forna’s debut novel is mind-blowing. I can definitely see the Deathless trilogy becoming an all-time favorite, since the first book is already there. Highly, highly recommended for those who can handle the content.

  • Black protagonist
  • side characters of color (includes Black rep)
  • sapphic side characters
  • minor sapphic side romance (f/f)

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