Deka can’t wait until the Ritual of Purity, when her blood will run red and finally allow her to be accepted as a woman of her village. But disaster strikes and Deka’s blood runs impure gold instead, and everyone she knows rejects her. Her only hope to become pure is to follow a strange woman to join an elite group of soldiers – though in the end not even Deka herself will be the same.
I know I’m late to the party by reading this book now, and I certainly regret not reading it sooner. The Gilded Ones does a wonderful job of showing what it’s like to exist within patriarchal and religious power structures and the difficulty that comes with breaking away from them. Deka’s character development surrounding her purity progresses in a very natural way. Even when removed from her village, she is not completely freed from the expectations and conventions of her childhood. It takes her and the other girls she meets a long time to grow beyond the beliefs that were imposed upon them.
This book is uniquely fantasic about doing its minor characters justice. Books of all genres tend to ignore or sacrifice background characters for the sake of the protagonist. Each background character is important. In The Gilded Ones, everyone’s story matters, not just Deka’s. Deka mourns the deaths of others, which serve a purpose beyond motivation that carries the plot forward. It’s important to me that deaths matter – that even if characters die for nothing, the reader knows that their stories were worth telling. Characters and character development truly made this story, and it’s a fantastic one.
Yours in love and literature,
Content warning(s): blood, graphic violence, death, execution, colorism, ostracization, sexism, child abuse, trauma, past rape
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