- The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Trade ed. ISBN 9781984848697 $18.99
E-book ed. ISBN 9781984848703 $10.99
Reviewed from digital galleys R Gr. 8–12
Deka is finally sixteen, which means she’s old enough for the purity ritual that marks maturity for girls in the patriarchal society of Otera. Most people are already biased against Deka, whose dark skin stands out in her northern village, but when she bleeds gold instead of red at the ritual, she’s marked as an alaki, descended from the original four demons known as the Gilded Ones. Deka is then given the option of serving the emperor in an all-alaki force to eliminate the deathshrieks, monsters who have been terrorizing Otera’s population. As Deka becomes closer to the other alaki girls and does things she’d never be allowed as a regular girl, she breaks down the religious reasons that women are kept oppressed in Oteran society—and realizes that the deathshrieks may be more than just mindless murderers. Forna’s debut presents a complex fantasy world whose mythology has been twisted by misogyny; readers will have an easy time making connections between the practices of Otera and the excuses created from religious texts to justify patriarchal practices. All of the alaki girls have realistic and moving trauma as a result of actions wreaked on them both as human women and alaki, and strong female friendships stand at the forefront of this novel that will have readers thinking about it long after the last page.