2021 releases · YA

Book Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Amazon.com: The Gilded Ones (9781984848697): Forna, Namina: BooksGoodreads blurb: 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.

Release Date: February 9th; Delacorte Press
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It’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that YA Fantasy in general does not work for me. There are very few YA Fantasy novels that I truly enjoy, and despite me always falling prey to their premises which I always love. However, I find that the genre rarely delivers when it comes to the things I look for in a Fantasy. Which is fine! I am not its intended audience, and it’s important to acknowledge that first.

This book was off to a great start, with an interesting premise and a relatively fast moving plot, that was intriguing and page-turning. The overall themes this story explores were something I also really enjoyed and were truly the highlight of the novel. The story really celebrates sisterhood and found families and being different and finding your people even when your family rejected you. I really liked that aspect, and I think this book did a fantastic job of portraying female friendships in all their glory. I think that this will work really well as an introduction to the genre and it’s usual beats, with a diverse cast and a West-African mythology inspired world.  

However, on all other accounts, this book failed to grip me. I found the characters and their arcs really uncompelling and I think they were all too one-dimensional. I also felt like the character development was lackluster, with a lot being told instead of shown.

My biggest grievance was with the world building, because I really do not think that there was a lot there. I think the premise was interesting and there was a lot of potential, but I just do not think that the book ever really explored the world or gave it all that much context. I never felt grounded in the story and I was just frustrated with how certain aspects of the story were handled. For example, Deka’s ability was constantly something else and it kept being fickle and changing to better fit the plot point that were unraveling, but without any semblance of a structure or reason to the powers’ fickleness. And just in general, the book was non nonsensical at a lot of points, with characters showing up places without that actually being possible or making sense, with characters suddenly forgetting everything that was previously well established both in terms of their capabilities but also their personalities. The book just contradicts itself on every corner and if you are a big Fantasy fan, and someone who reads into fantasy worlds and set ups, you will definitely be frustrated with this one. 

This book is also quite long, and yet it glosses over both plot and characters, with a lot of show instead of tell, which means that I was basically really disconnected at almost all points of this story, except in the very beginning. I just feel like there was potential and moreover room to explore and give depth to every aspect of the story, but that opportunity was never used. 

verdict

Overall, this was not the book for me, but I would still definitely recommend if you are looking for a Fantasy that really focuses on female friendships and sisterhood.

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In the meantime, happy reading

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8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

  1. What a great review! I’m in the same position of finding that YA Fantasy often doesn’t work for me anymore, but when something gets a lot of buzz like this I always wonder if it’s the rare exception that I’ll love. I think I can now safely say that this won’t be it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I felt about the same way about this one. I think the formulaic nature of YA fantasy is starting to get on my nerves how that i’ve ventured into adult fantasy. There are some gems (like raybearer) but i find most lacking nowadays, which is a shame because it used to be my favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly it – I think I read too much Adult Fantasy and then go in with too high expectations into all Fantasy books (especially after reading for example N.K. Jemisin who breaks the mould even for traditional Adult Fantasy and does amazing stuff with world building). But I am sooo excited to pick up Raybearer, I keep hearing amazing things (and it’s why I stick with YA Fantasy, there are such gems in the genre)

      Like

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