ARC Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Title: The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1)
Author: Namina Forna
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Delacorte Press via NetGalley
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 
May 26th 2020
The start of a bold and immersive West African-inspired, feminist fantasy series for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther. In this world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice. 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.
I've been excited about The Gilded Ones since the moment I heard about it and the moment they revealed the cover and my excitement only increased. Look at that beautiful cover, the colors, the art it all captures the feel of this book beautifully. Forna created a cast of characters you couldn't help but love, a world you can't help but want to know more about and a story that will leave you longing for more.

Deka has been looked down upon all her life because of the color of her skin and she believes that proving she is pure at the blood ceremony she would finally fit into her village. But when Deathshrieks, creatures that are reeking havoc on the kingdom launch an attack, leaving several members of her Deka's village dead. Deka stops these creatures but at the price of unknowingly revealing that she bleeds gold. Bleeding gold means she is impure and will be sentenced to death. When a mysterious woman comes to town, she saves Deka from a series of horrible deaths and gives her a choice: go capital where she will fight for the emperor in the war against the Deathshrieks and learn how to use her abilities an Alaki to defeat them or stay in her village and suffer until the village Elders find what will bring her to her True Death. The choice is an obvious one. But when Deka arrives at the capital the secrets of her life and that of the Alaki begin to unravel before her, no one is safe and nothing is what it seems. 

I love Deka's character and her evolution through out this novel. She goes from being a meek, head down and quiet village girl to their fierce warrior who will do anything to protect the ones she cares about. Through out the novel we see the hard decisions that Deka has to make and the things she has to sacrifice. But we also get to watch as she learns shocking and life changing revelations about herself and who she truly is. 

The world building in The Gilded Ones is beautiful and amazingly done. Forna managed to create a complex world with monsters, a corrupt kingdom and a detailed history of the Alaki and the culture of several different regions of the world. Though the world is complex, it isn't hard to understand it and grasp it. Forna doesn't give readers that dreaded info dump but gives information through out the novel on this world. The second half of the book is a wild ride. Secret after secret comes to light, one more shocking than the other. There is a huge plot twist, one that I never saw coming and I am so excited to see more of this in the next book. 

Overall I can't give The Gilded One enough praise. It's beautiful, heart breaking and powerful all in one. I can't wait to read more from Forna in the future and I am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series. 

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