A review by miricles
The Gilded Ones, by Namina Forna

adventurous challenging emotional inspiring 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


This was wonderful! I enjoyed how the patriarchy and misogyny were explored because there were aspects of misogyny that I hadn't previously seen depicted.

The way women are pit against each other for social capital,
Spoilerthe erasure of their contributions to society, and eventual demonization as time passes...
These were all portrayed with great care, and I am still in awe of how Namina Forna was able to cover so many facets of misogyny without it feeling overwhelming or disjointed for me, the reader.

In particular, Forna's portrayal of how Deka, the protagonist, initially felt guilt for being divinely strong and physically/athletically gifted was so touching for me since a large part of why she felt that way was due to how her village elders weaponized religion against her, instilling an instinctive sort of guilt that would follow her even if she was fighting for her life. When she learned to let go of this guilt, I felt just as free as her, and I understood exactly how she felt because there was no point in hiding what made her stand out, what made her be ostracized from the rest of her peers when her life was on the line. I think plenty of women and minority groups in general understand how it feels to hold yourself back for the sake of someone else's comfort or because you feel guilt for being so unabashed in what you were once punished for. Even when it's viewed as an advantage, it's hard to unlearn all the shame you're meant to feel, and the moment Deka pushes past the shame and puts herself first, I can feel her exhilaration.

This book steers away from making "both sides" (men and women) seem equally terrible.
SpoilerWhile women are fighting back with physical force, it isn't as if men are being killed for being men, and I appreciate that Forna doesn't fall into the trap of trying to make it seem like there is a lesson in showing that women fighting against their oppressors is morally wrong because they've made it clear that they would not listen to reason. Women had their status and peace violently ripped from them, so they're now trying to gain their humanity back, and sometimes the main conflict being left described as that is fine.

In summary, this was a stellar critique of misogyny and the patriarchy. The world building is marvelous, and the way the plot unravels so elegantly to reveal things that I had suspected leading up to those moments is simply gorgeous. This is the feminist fairytale we all deserve.

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