Riveting Read: The Gilded Ones
Fierce and unflinching, heroic and powerful.
Perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi and Leigh Bardugo.
Her current read is The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna.
This instalment of Riveting Reads comes to you from Youth Assistant Librarian Linda Robertson.
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 Otera, a deeply patriarchal ancient kingdom, where a woman's worth is tied to her purity, and she must bleed to prove it. But when Deka bleeds gold - the colour of impurity, of a demon - she faces a consequence worse than death. She is saved by a mysterious woman who tells Deka of her true nature: she is an alaki, a near-immortal with exceptional gifts. The stranger offers her a choice: fight for the Emperor, with others just like her, or be destroyed.
Before the novel even begins, there is a warning that "The Gilded Ones includes scenes of violence, including graphic violence, which some readers may find distressing". This 400 page novel packs a punch, and author Namina Forna does not hold back on including themes such as exploitation, discrimination, xenophobia, racism, misogyny, abuse, trauma and inequality. From the beginning, the main heroine of the tale, Deka, is so conformed by Otera's patriarchal rules, that she is constantly on edge for looking different (she has inherited her Southern Mother's brown skin), trying to prove she is pure even with the fear that her blood may be gold, and being female in a town where the soldiers see women as objects. It isn't until she is sent to the capital to train as an Alaki warior, that she begins to see the true potential of her power, and discovers the truth as to why the Emperor sees girls who bleed gold are a threat. It was a joy to see the timid Deka transform into a powerful young woman.
The world of Otera is beautifully constructed, inspired by West African mythology. Otera is divided by Northern and Southern territories, the North being predominately "pale" skinned, with rituals that "demonise" girls who bleed gold at the annual blood letting ceremony. The Southern world of Otera however is bathed in mythology, with fantastical beasts and creatures that live side by side with man. The entire nation however is goverened by patriarchal rule, who have created a religion of purification, the bases behind their religion being that the four ancient Gilded Ones, demons who arrived in Otera, had ensalved the men to give birth to the formidable Deathshriek race that now threatens mankind and their existence. The Infinate Wisdoms of the Empire are instilled from birth to show the female citizens how to live happy and righteous lives, that no woman should show power over man, where even common activities are forbidden such as "running...and most things that don't prepare girls for marriage and families. Girls can't shout, drink, ride horses, go to school, learn a trade, learn to fight, move about without a male gaurdian - we can't do anything that doesn't somehow relate to having a husband and family or serving them". Over the course of her training, Deka uncovers a shocking secret about the truth of Otera's history, and why the Alaki race is subjected to such brutal laws, which leaves you in awe of all the events that unfold.
The Gilded Ones is a fantastic debut novel - inspiring, thrilling and empowering, one that I wish I had read while in my teenage years. I look forward to the next instalment.
You can find this book in the Young Adult section under FOR.