The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1)
by Namina Forna
Book Trigger Warning (where available) and sometimes from Trigger Warning Database from now on. This saves me a lot of time having to take notes when reading, and allows me to simply enjoy the books more.
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.
What a book to read after a reading slump. I devoured this story. Reading the whole book in under 3 days.
The story actually made me mad, it was so misogynistic, so full of a toxic religion that I HAD to keep reading. I had to find out where this story could go with such a background AND a female lead character. If you are going to put so much wicked abuse and injustice in the ruling culture you better take it somewhere good.
Several other interesting things kept my reading too. There were a lot of parallels to the Forth Element series by Kat Ross, which I have raved and raved and raved about. There was the whole, we-think-you-are-a-demon-but-as-long-as-you-fight-for-us-its-okay thing and the we-must-bond-the-demon-with-a-normal-warrior-we-trust. I don’t know if these count as troupes, but I found the commonality between the two series’ interesting. Alaki and daēva are nearly cut from the same cloth.
The world building left me wanting to see more of the world. I really wanted to learn more about the unique creatures that live there. (And I kinda want to try riding a giant tamed lizard.) The mystery surrounding the Deathshrieks builds throughout the first two-thirds of the book. I wanted to know where that was going. Also Ixa 😍 (read it and you’ll find out.)
It all builds up to an impressive battle and revelations about why the ruling culture is the way it is.
However it becomes too heavy handed on the whole gender warfare thing. We got it. The bad men are really bad and they’ve created a culture in which they flourish.
I hope the second book doesn’t try to up-the-ante by creating more disparity and animosity between genders. I can only handle so much of that.
I loved the story, despite the gender war thing getting a little old by the end. It’s a fast moving fantasy story with great world building. Reviewers seem to be split on it, but I’d say look at the trigger warning closely. If this book might be triggering for you skip it. If not give it a try you might find a new fantasy world you love.
“The physical body—it heals. The scars fade. But the memories are forever. Even when you forget, they remain inside, taunting you, resurfacing when you least expect.” The Gilded Ones