Hello! Hello! I hope everyone is doing well! This was actually the last book I did for book club before I left for Scotland. So like, what a year ago now? Wow. Time flies.
I will say that my analysis of what I liked in the book is a bit sparse. It’s been forever since I read this, so I really can’t expand on my small notes that I did have. I was going to come back, and expand. I never did. Forgive me, for how little there is. Hopefully with my upcoming reviews for books I’ve read recently, I’ll be able to say a lot more.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Synopsis From The Book
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.
Fantasy | YA – M | Violence, War, Graphic Images, Depictions of War | Love, identity, Friendship, Manipulate Histories, Religious Persecution
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Book club is the only reason this book is skipping in line. No other reason. I have zero expectations so lets go.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
This was a lot of fun! I like how a lot of this goes down and the training arcs, are fun. I’m excited to read on. Too bad the sequel isn’t out yet. But soon! Soon I will.
I hesitated on the rating here, because I don’t think that the content itself was that bad, however then I thought of younger audiences and because of the depictions of war, and that it is kinda graphic (nightmare worthy scenes at times too). I put M, but I think there is a pretty good argument for PW. I’m just trying to cover my bases.
Deka is 16 and is preparing for the day of her Purity Ritual. The Purity Ritual is the way of her people to tell who bleeds red or gold. Gold is the mark of the demons. Women who bleed pure, red, are allowed them to mask themselves so only their families may see their faces. On the day of her ceremony, she and the others are attacked by Deathshrieks, who are monsters that attack their people. Deka commands them to stop, she bleeds gold and her eyes turn gold. She turns to her father and he renounces her. She is taken to jail and given the death mandate that she is to be killed. Her father beheads her and she wakes up again with her head reconnected. For weeks she is tortured, and brutalized until a woman she calls White Hands takes her away to be a soldier.
The king is amassing an army of the demon girls, alaki, to fight and eradicate the deathshrieks. With White Hands, Deka meets a girl named Britta. Britta and Deka become friends over the journey and Deka’s nightmares and when she sleeps like the dead for a month (Britta eats all her food to pretend that Deka is just sick). When they arrive at the capital, they meet the boy recruits who are to be their partners, and all the other girls that were collected. Deka is paired with a boy named Keita, and Deka meets new girls to be allies with. After a rough start the girls bond together. The girls learn to run, and love running. When the boys join their practices, they learn not to hold themselves back. The partnerships come together. Deka finds out that her mother was a Shadow (an elite spy and also the group that are training the girls).
One day after training, Deka finds four deathshrieks hopping across the wall. Her group goes to run and the Deathshrieks attack. Katya, one of the girls with her, dies. Deka commands them to leave and passes out. Keita convinces Deka to start working her gift. White Hands returns and reveals she is the leader of the Shadow training hall. She says she’s going to train Deka, Britta, and some others.
The girls start training and Deka is given private training for her power. They start their raids and Deka is able to expertly control the Deathshrieks. She is also changing, like her eyes and skin. She is then able to control the other alaki. In order to stop this, she and the rest of her elite team make circlets to cover their ears, armor made from Deka’s blood. (Britta was the one who discovered this). Deka learns that she loves both Keita and Britta so very much. They are given an audience to the king, which is how Deka finds out that White Hands is his cousin. In an outing, Deka gets a shapeshifter blue serpent like creature, that can turn into a cat, named Ixa. No one trusts him at first but White Hands tells her to keep him.
In a raid, Ixa is forced to protect Deka after her face is smashed in when the Deathshrieks begin to become more innovative. He is exposed, but she is allowed to keep him. In the next raid, Deka hears the Deathshrieks talking, real words in their own language and hesitates. She tells Keita who tells her not to tell anyone else, to protect herself. The day of the grand campaign arrives, and they go out to war with the king. Deka, once again, uses her power to stop the deathshrieks and hears them call her traitor. She is at a loss and talks to other alaki, and they tell her to be quiet about it. It is when a Deathshrieks claiming to be Katya arrives, that Deka realizes what has happened. Her leathering is seen, and the emperor commands her death. Keita says he’ll do it, and he dismembers her, knowing that she can not die from it. When she awakens, she is not fully healed and he tells her that he did it to protect her, but that no one say him collect her pieces. The Deathshrieks and other alaki arrive, with White Hands, who tells Deka and Keita that their people have been hated by men. The men imprissoned their goddesses, who were not demons, in a way to control the world and that Deka was born to bring them back. Deka and Keita kiss and Deka goes out to the war front. She calls all the alaki back to her, and they then raid the sacred ground to kill the king. Deka finds the king with Britta and Keita. She then begins to fight with him asking him why he has done the stuff that he has. She over powers him and makes him kneel before having him call off his armies. The deathshrieks and alaki take over, and Deka awakens the goddesses.
Deka and Keita talk about how they will still be united and that they will help reunite and liberate the people of their world. Keita is trusted by the goddesses, and the novel ends on a positive note.
What I Liked:
Deka; I liked her a lot. I think that she makes some silly decisions considering her situation, but I do like her a lot.
Britta; Love, love, loveeee. I love myself a good sweet innocent girl who is dead set on protecting others.
Keita; I actually like him a lot. I want to see how he helps Deka in the future. I really hope he doesn’t become a problem for her in the next book. But like, that would be expected.
Belacis; Love her too.
Adwapa and Asha; They were really entertaining, although I wish we got more banter with them. (I wish I got more banter from everyone tbh)
White Hands; We love ourselves a strong woman mentor. I loved her. I love what she stood for, I love her arc in general.
Magic, Alaki, and Deathshrieks; I really love this connection, not going to lie. Was it relatively obvious? In hindsight yes, but in the moment? I don’t think so. All the same I loved it.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
“Are we girls, or are we demons? Are we going to die, or are we going to survive?”- pg 155