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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.
From the enthralling cover to the writing style, The Gilded Ones, an easy read, was undoubetedly one of the most anticipated February releases. The book lies at the intersection of race, feminism and young adult fantasy; making it one of the more unique books in the genre that you may pick up this month . The African-inspired setting warmed my spirit and I was drawn in by the heroine’s (Deka) fight for survival in a world that wasn’t always kind to her.
The damaging impact of patriarchy and misogyny are quickly established in the book. Whether it was the male priests sentencing them to death or physical and sexual assualt, men justified their abuse of the Alaki because they viewed them as impure and inferior. The Gilded Ones was not afraid to explore the cruelty that can exist in a world where women have little choice.
Is “history is written by the victors”? In the Gilded Ones it is. We learn that much of what we were told about the 4 women who ruled was false. Lies and the manipulation of history were used as tools by rulers to maintain power.
Unfortunately, about 70% into the book it began to lose steam. The hype I felt in the initial portion started to wane. I never felt like our heroine and her friends were in any real danger and as such the twist that occurred towards the end of the book and resulting battle fell flat for me.
I did, however, enjoy the friendships among the Alaki and appreciated the exploration of finding your destiny and fighting for your place in the world.
While I was ultimately let down by the ending, I think The Gilded Ones is a good addition for persons looking to read more diverse YA fantasy.