Friday, May 14, 2021

The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1) - Namina Forna

Summary: 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. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)

My Review: Sometimes I like to start a book without refreshing myself why it was on my to-read list in the first place. I put a book on my to-read list or start reading a book because I’ve read the summary and am interested, but I don’t always remember what the book was about by the time I get it. Maybe my to-read list is too long? Is that a thing? I’m saying no.

Anyway, I started this book without reading the summary again. I had a general idea of what it would be about because of the title and the beautiful cover art, so when I started reading, I wasn’t completely in on the schtick yet. I really liked the way it started out—it dumps you straightaway into the stressful wake of a ceremony that will determine whether you are pure or not, and follows the protagonist in her feelings of outsiderness and inadequacy. It isn’t as “poor me” and annoying as some books that start out like this, which I liked. Now don’t get me wrong, some people are definitely allowed to feel “poor me” and like the world is against them, because the world is actually against them. However, I feel like some YA novels take this to the level that seems unrealistic and whiny and like an author is trying to create something instead of letting it organically happen and be discovered by the reader. Discovery is part of the process of reading, and when that is taken away by the author that is a missed opportunity.

This book is very descriptive and creates a visualization of people, costumes, and environmental regions that is really interesting and fun to read. I pretty much always prefer a book over a movie, but I would have to say that I would love to see these descriptions come to life in a movie. They were so rich and varied. There are also some great fantastical creatures involved as well, and that’s always a fun element.

The story itself is really interesting and I liked it a lot. It was fast-paced and exciting, and it actually reminded me in some ways of Raybearer, which I just reviewed and enjoyed a lot. They are different stories, obviously, and are both worthy of reading and appreciating separately, but if you loved the African-esque culture and influence of Raybearer, I think you should check this book out, and vice versa. I appreciated the bad-assery of the women in this book, and I’m totally digging these strong female protagonists of late, especially in YA literature. This is a book of girl power and also girls who are forced to make difficult decisions. They have often faced extreme difficulties in their lives and have had to overcome it. This book is also great in that it gives some spotlight to men who are adjacent and loyal to these powerful girls and women, and that is great as well. There is a love story, and it is sweet and tender.

If you’re into YA adventure stories, especially ones with cool fantastical creatures and rich culture, you should definitely check this book out.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some intense violence in this book, and most of it towards women.

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