Sarah Reviews… The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Good morning! I was lucky enough to be sent an advanced reader copy of The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna and what a treat it was! If you’re reading this the same day it hit my blog, you’ll be reading it during release week, but I’m actually writing this on a chilly Sunday afternoon in the middle of January. So, I hope you’re all keeping well, who knows what will have happened between now and you reading this hopefully things are still on the up but if you have pre-ordered this and are now sitting with your own copy you are in for such a treat.

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Title: The Gilded Ones

Author: Namina Forna

Publisher: Usborne

Publication Date: 4th February 2021

Format: ARC

This book was received from the publisher in return for an honest review

About The Book…

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in Otera, a deeply patriarchal ancient kingdom, where a woman’s worth is tied to her purity, and she must bleed to prove it. But when Deka bleeds gold – the colour of impurity, of a demon – she faces a consequence worse than death. She is saved by a mysterious woman who tells Deka of her true nature: she is an Alaki, a near-immortal with exceptional gifts. The stranger offers her a choice: fight for the Emperor, with others just like her, or be destroyed…

Today is the Ritual of Purity

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

It would be so easy for this review to become an incoherent rambling mess where I just ramble on and on about how much I loved this book, and while that would be entirely true it perhaps wouldn’t be the most helpful of reviews for all of you…

The Gilded Ones follows Deka as she discovers she is not a pure human and manages to escape the Death Mandate by being enlisted in the Emperor’s new army. Friendships are formed and new truths are learned as Deka battles for the empire of Otera.

Namina’s introduction to both Otera and the characters is superb. She gives the reader a wonderful understanding of the world Deka inhabits in Irfut, and the patriarchal religion that strictly guides her life. At the same time, the story never feels slow to begin and as a reader I really enjoyed discovering more about both Otera and Deka as she did.

The Gilded Ones is set in an ancient West-African inspired world, and I found it so intriguing! I must confess that West African culture is not something that I’m particularly familiar with. I feel it’s something I should read more about as although my paternal grandparents moved to the UK from the Caribbean you probably wouldn’t need to go back too many generations to find some sort of African heritage in my background.

The plot of The Gilded Ones moves with such a wonderful pace throughout but really picks up in the second half of the book as Namina drops little hints that there are more revelations to come, and they certainly didn’t leave me disappointed! I had to force myself to put the book down and go to sleep as the time ticked past midnight, the first thing I did when I got up the next morning was to pick it up again as I needed to discover the truth!

The Gilded Ones reaches a really satisfying conclusion; most, if not all, of my questions were answered and it we reached a definite resolution. At the same time, it was left in a way that I can see how a second book could follow on. The back of the ARC does refer to The Gilded Ones as an epic YA fantasy series so I’m hopeful for more!

One of my favourite things about The Gilded Ones is the wonderful cast of characters. I think what makes The Gilded Ones so special is the number of strong female characters within the story.  I think that these days having such a strong female lead is perhaps not quite the novelty it once was. There are more and more authors who are writing books centred around strong female leads, they may not be perfect, but they don’t spend all of their time waiting to be rescued by a boy.

Deka is the absolute star of the show, I felt every once of her betrayal as her father turned on her that first day but absolutely adored following her story as she began to really embrace her heritage and become a fierce warrior. Then we have Britta, from the moment we’re introduced to her she has Deka’s back, even when facing some tough decisions. I really liked White Hands, she’s kind of mysterious and kept me guessing all the way through. Then we get to the rest of the Alaki, there’s a lot of other girls that Deka meets as she arrives at the training camp, it was really interesting to see the girls from the different regions of the Empire and how they all adapted to their new situations. Finally, I’m going to give a quick mention to Keita, he’s the main male character that stood out for me, I think he’s another character we saw grow a lot throughout the book, it was interesting to see how his opinions developed as he learned more about the Alaki.

While there is the slightest hint of romance within the story, I loved the fact that relationship wasn’t the key relationship within the story. For me, the key relationship was the strong bond that formed between Deka and Britta. I thought it was an example of a really positive female relationship, I know these relationships exist in real life, I have a friend who has proven so many times throughout the shit-show that the past year has been that she would be there throughout thick or thin. It was fantastic to see this in print rather than the more stereotypical bitchy, backstabbing relationships sometimes portrayed.

Final Thoughts…

I absolutely adored The Gilded Ones it was a fantastic fantasy tale filled with epic world building, intriguing plot development and surprising revelations. A story filled with Incredible, powerful female characters there is no doubt in my mind that I will be shouting my recommendation for The Gilded Ones from the rooftops!

*Last minute addition – my final copy of the book arrived and it confirms a sequel for next year! So excited!

More Namina Forna on SWB

About The Author…



Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the upcoming 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 telling stories with fierce female leads and works as a screenwriter in LA.

Connect With Namina

Website // Twitter // Instagram

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As always if you’ve read the book let me know what you thought! If you’ve not read it yet will my review convince you to pick it up?

5 thoughts on “Sarah Reviews… The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

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