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The Gilded Ones

"An exploration of what it is to be feminist in a deeply patriarchal kingdom"

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LoveReading4Kids Says

LoveReading4Kids Says

March 2021 Book of the Month

Forna has taken her own experiences of sexism and racism that she experienced as a woman from Sierra Leone living in the US on which to base this novel. This has created a powerful depiction of the oppression and cruelty meted out to women who are different from a society’s accepted roles.


Set in the patriarchal fantasy world of Otera, this is based in an ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is only as good as her proven purity. This purity is proven by the woman being made to bleed – in a brutal ceremony when they reach the age of 16.   When Deka bleeds gold this is deemed the colour of impurity, and she is declared a demon. Not only is she thrust out of the home and society she has known since birth, but she is also subjected to unspeakable acts of brutality and violence by the ruling priesthood.  


The fact Deka does not die from all the brutality gives one hope she is different and may have some role in the future of Otera.  This proves so – Deka is rescued and taken to a training ground for women where she finds a friendship and sisterhood amongst others also found to be impure. As they train the ‘impure’ girls are paired with soldiers from the Imperial jatu fighting force – and some form deep and lasting friendships with their partners.  The characters here are hugely diverse with Black, Asian and Brown main, and minor characters, with a recognition of diverse sexuality too.  


The power of this novel is in the strong, horrifying but ultimately hopeful end of this story. There is much violence – in both punitive killing and re-killings of demons by the priests, but also in the violent backstories of some of the girls (including an instance of rape.) The book explores themes of feminist possibility whilst being based in a fantasy world taking inspiration from ancient West African culture.  


A powerful read, not for the faint-hearted but very definitely giving hope for the future, showing that there is a place to be whatever you wish to be – homemaker or fighter. This is a strong start to what promises to be a trilogy. 


Read more about The Gilded Ones in a Q&A with Namina Forna.


Tricia Adams

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Reader Reviews

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Namina Forman has effectively written a story about loss and gain while spinning an engaging and beautiful story.

Deka has always stood out among her village, she doesn’t fit in, but on the day when she is meant to finally earn her place she is marked as impure. Her blood runs gold. Cast out by her family and friends and taken to the capital, she is now forced to use her new gifts to fight for her people, but which side is really the right one, and why is she so important to the war?

Namina Forman effectively captures the safety and danger of not fitting in and both the beautiful effect of found family and the misery or losing your own.... Read Full Review

Seren Daly

I would 100% recommend this book to young girls and boys from the age of 13 and up who have feminism close to their heart and love adventure stories.

Deka, a 16 year old Oteran girl lives in a society where a woman’s worth is depicted by the purity of her blood, Deka is not so fortunate. Throughout the book she finds herself questioning who she really is time and time again.

The Gilded Ones is one of those books that you just wish you could read for the first time over and over again. There is no knowing what's going to happen next and every page is a mystery.

My favourite characters were Britta and Keita. Britta is a strong and fierce, yet caring young woman who always sticks by Deka’s side no matter what the situation.... Read Full Review

Grace Phelan

Namika Forna wrote a masterpiece, and this book will go a long way! It’s all about that raw brutality and pure emotions dripping into every single page. My heart was breaking for Deka, Britta, Belcalis and the other girls! The Gilded Ones is a book that shows how to live past the stereotypes, and when oppressed, to fight for freedom! It shows in a brutal way what would happen if a certain behaviour becomes supported by the general public and becomes the new norm. It also shows that you can fight through it. And considering today’s world is not too far off from this fantasy, hopefully we’ll all learn a little bit more about important topics worth talking about!

Oh my goodness, what a book! The Gilded Ones is the first book in the 'Deathless' series, and it’s already much talked about! Get ready to dive into a YA Fantasy that will brutally show you what happens when society believes oppression is okay. And how one girl, who is deemed different and therefore, cast away from her village, will rise up and fight for her freedom!

The Gilded Ones is everything I expected it to be and more. From the very first page, I cared so much for Deka. As the chapters went on, I couldn’t peel my eyes off the book. Firstly, the world building is spectacular.... Read Full Review

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