A review by pagethatreads
The Gilded Ones, by Namina Forna

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


“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?”


Sixteen year old Deka lives in fear of the Ritual of Purity that determines whether she will be allowed to remain in her village. If she bleeds red, she will truly belong. 
But when the day comes, she bleeds gold - the colour of impurity, a demon. 
It’s a fate worse than death. 

Until a mysterious woman appears, retrieving girls like Deka to join the emperor's army and face the empire’s greatest threat. 

This is Namina Forna’s debut novel and considering that fact, it did not disappoint.

Deka starts off as a meek, sweet natured farm girl living in a tiny village in the country's far north. She is deeply religious, but suffers from being considered an outcast for the colour of her skin. As the story progresses and Deka is exposed to new circumstances and situations, she begins having revelations about the way that she was raised and who she is as a person. Seeing her perspective gradually change as she grows into herself through her experiences was definitely a highlight for me.

Another thing I really appreciated with this story are the bonds that Deka forms with other women. It is very much a story of female empowerment, women lifting other women up and taking back their power from their past traumas. Sadly, despite being portrayed as a strong, tight knit group of women, some of their characters did feel a little underdeveloped, although I’m hoping that will be rectified as the series continues. 

There was a romantic aspect to the story that came across as endearing, but vague. 
This aspect was touched on lightly throughout the story, but never fully embraced.

The Gilded Ones suffers for its use of common YA tropes and a general feeling of predictability. There are scenes of graphic violence, racism,  internalised misogyny and female oppression. Overall though, it held a solid story that is definitely worth the read. 


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