Minda’s drunk review of The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1) by Namina Forna
What I drank prior: Margaritas! Like a full pitcher. Work has been a lot, but now we have a break so in the words of Bridesmaids’ Kristen Wigg character: “I’m ready to paaaartyyyy!”
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.
My Summary: In Deka’s world, to bleed gold is to be dead at best—at worst tortured for an unforeseeable future. But, when she’s given a chance at redemption by serving the emperor, Deka will do everything in her power to serve to the best of her ability and become a powerful weapon. As she learns more about the history of the empire, she finds there’s more than what she’s been taught.
Spoiler-free Thoughts: One word: cathartic. This is everything you wish The Handmaids Tale was, but isn’t. TBH this was so satisfying, I don’t even want to read any of the other books in the series (but I probably will anyway because the author is great).
Characters: Deka is our main character and POV—she has a lot of self-doubt but is also a strong badass. I think her characterization was a little all over the place at times, but I get it and wasn’t that upset about it. Britta, her BFF, was maybe my favorite character, but also wish she had a bit more personality than just loyal to a fault. Keita, Deka’s uruni, was adorbs. I totally got their relationship personally. White Hands was pretty sketch, but all in all makes sense character-wise. Also I’d be remiss to not talk about Ixa ::heart eyes:: Also, the deathshrieks sound formidable.
Plot: As I’m sure you could read in the above, the plot start with Deka’s life being, eh, let’s just say pretty not great and sad. I feel like lots of books have done this, though not to the same extent. There’s an early twist that is fucking awesome though, and then a lot more sad. Once she meets White Hands and starts training for the emperor, things really start to pick up. Literally.
World Building: I love this world. It’s incredibly inclusive with lots of depth and not-Western world basis, which is really refreshing. I don’t want to down play the originality, so to say it is a better take on Handsmaid’s Tale isn’t telling the whole story, but it totally is an improvement on that. I personally felt unfulfilled by that book, in a way that I did here. Though I know the former was a product of its time, so not shade here.
Drink Pairing: Gin and tonic with enough bite.
Rating: 4.5/5 shots