Synopsis from Goodreads – 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.
Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina loves building fantastical worlds and telling stories with fierce female leads.


Published on February 9, 2021 by Delacorte. Classified as fantasy for young adult readers.


Author’s of Color, Black Author, Black Lead, Ownvoices, link text, link text


Feminism, link text, link text, link text, link text

Trigger Warnings

Blood, cutting (due to ritual performance), gore, graphic murder, misogyny, racism, sexual assault, xenophobia.

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The Recap

  • This book is about Deka and her banishment from her village for having golden blood runs in her, proving her to be impure.
  • Read this book if you're a fan of a fast-paced high fantasy featuring strong heroines and female friendships while discussing woman empowerment in a patriarchal society.
  • You might want to consider it because several scenes are way too graphic to be featured in a YA book.

The Review

The Gilded Ones is most likely going to be my favorite read last year if it's not for the delayed publication. The book started off with strong introductory chapters, bringing us closer to the world of Otera, and of course to our main character, Deka, from her past to the way she perceived her future. Living her entire life in a heavily patriarch-oriented society, I find it to be believable that all Deka longing for is to be a pure and normal woman and eventually live in a society that will accept her existence. Unfortunately, on the ceremonial day, her blood runs golden and the entire village witnessed her impurity.

Legend is what humans call the things that they do not understand.

I very much enjoyed Deka's journey since then. The hard truth that she had to face about her true self and the backlash coming from one of the people that she trusts the most are more than enough reasons for her to leave the only life she knew. This is also the moment where I know that I'm going to love this book because I really am a trash for 'die as a human or live as a monster' trope. It immediately reminds me of Cha Hyun-su from Sweet Home (2020), which also happened to be one of my favorites (yes, both the comic and series) from last year.  

The other aspect that I loved from The Gilded Ones is the characters and the relationships among them, from the found family, supportive sisterhood, to the romance. However, few things that prevent me from rewarding this book with a whole five-star rating, are the inconsistent pacing and the worldbuilding that seems just almost perfect. I'm a huge fan of a fast-paced story, but The Gilded Ones feels too rushed at few points. And though the worldbuilding was extraordinary and full of exciting details, the way the characters communicated with each other feels a bit too modern.

We all have a choice right now. Are we girls or are we demons? Are we going to die or are we going to survive?

In conclusion, The Gilded Ones is a gripping high fantasy debut that will excite you with its uncanny universe. If you're looking for a fast-paced high fantasy featuring strong heroines and female friendships while discussing woman empowerment in a patriarchal society., then be sure to add this book to your next reading list!

The Verdict

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thank you to the author and Hear Our Voices Book Tours for providing me with a review copy for joining The Gilded Ones Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review. The quotes above were taken from an advanced review copy and are subject to change upon publication. About the Author

Are you thinking about adding the gilded ones to your next reading list?

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