Monday 8 March 2021

The Gilded Ones

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna (HarperCollins) PB RRP $17.99 ISBN: 9781474959575

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

In Otera, ‘being a girl means perpetual submission’. Those who bleed red during the Ritual of Purity may marry and serve their husband. However, as 16-year-old Deka discovers, those who bleed gold are deemed demons and sentenced to death. A strange woman with white armoured gloves rescues Deka and whisks her away to the capital city, Hemaira, where Deka and other demon girls like her with exceptional skills – alaki – are trained to go into battle against the murderous deathshrieks that are marching on the capital. Why is Deka the only alaki who can control the creatures with her voice? And why is she the only one who can hear them speak?

Namina Forna’s debut novel packs a punch from the first page. Traversing an astounding array of complex yet critical themes for the modern age – from misogyny, religion and oppression to feminism, love and empowerment – The Gilded Ones is an enthralling YA fantasy. It weaves elements of Asian, African, and European mythology with breathtakingly original characters and circumstances, creating a rich literary tapestry from which it is difficult to drag your eyes.

Utilising present tense to ensure that the reader is living every moment alongside Deka, Namina’s writing style is immediate and intense. The audience feels every soul-shattering sword slice and hears each ear-splitting deathshriek scream. Although the violence in the book is such that it warrants the warning placed on the title page, older teens will cope with the bloodshed and come away from the book with a healthy respect for those who fight for freedom, justice and truth. 

Featuring a fierce protagonist, thrilling action sequences and an enigma that unfolds like a flower – who is Deka? – The Gilded Ones cries out to be read by all young adults who seek to break free from suppression. It balances hardship with hope, inspiring the reader to become the warrior in their own story.

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