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Simply Epic – a review of The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

I recognise that I often read books that were released aeons ago due to most of my novels being thrifted. Now I’ve read a novel that was release in 2021 and I was looking forward to reading as soon as I saw a person of colour on the front cover and found out it was written by a black author. And just writing this blog post I found out she’s an Indie author too, like me!

She has undoubtedly deserved her Indie Bestseller status with this debut.

When Deka bleeds gold blood of demons, her village treats her as one. It is by luck that the Emperor is seeking girls like Deka, impure half-demons who are deemed impure. She is taken away to use her newfound demonic abilities as a new breed of warrior trained to fight the onslaught of Deathshrieks taking away young girls – a force of monsters who keep on growing. However, even amongst her fellow part demons Deka discovers that she is even more absurd than she thought.

I should first mention that this book is definitely not for everyone. It touches heavily on themes of abuse towards females. This may hit too close to home for some people.

Firstly, whenever a patriarchal plot is part of a story I typically feel a bit iffy towards it. Sometimes it hits too much on the nose as an exact reenactment of history, like it was plucked from our world and placed into theirs. The world of the Gilded Ones never felt like that. While some themes coincide with ones from history, it felt like its own history altogether and for that I was far more invested. It made the feminism story and themes feel a lot more genuine and made me root for Deka and her fellow warriors that much more.

Moving on to talk about them, these characters were incredibly real with all their various backgrounds. I really appreciated how diverse, ethnically and personality-wise, everyone was. This can often be the case when there is a large ensemble style cast, but not with this cast. Few characters felt generic, and when they did it wasn’t in a way that made me roll my eyes or gloss over a character totally. It was hard to pick a favourite because of how developed so many of these characters are.

I think I loved the world the most though. While it still had some high fantasy elements present, it heralded its own culture that brought upon an incomparable world. I am here for this! It’s not just how well the feminist aspects of this novel contribute to the world. The monsters, the cities, the people and their religion combined to make a world that I can guarantee is absolutely unique. I think it’s one of my favourite worlds in a book I’ve read so far.

My only complaint would be the second half of the novel felt rushed. Granted this was because a lot of time went by, but it only left me wanting more or wishing a certain aspect was explored further. Furthermore, with the way the novel concluded it didn’t feel like a conclusion suitable for the end of book one. This felt like at least a book two or three ending – it felt too epic for a first book.

Although that might mean that the following novels will end even more epically. For that, I can’t wait until the second book in the series comes out next year.

The Gilded Ones gets a score of 4.5/5. Epic fantasy to make a girl feel epic.

Yours in writing

Amy

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