The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna – Book Review

Title: The Gilded Ones (review copy)

Series: Deathless #1

Author: Namina Forna

Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Feminism, Graphically Described Violence

Blurb from Goodreads

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…

My Review

The eARC copy of The Gilded Ones I received from NetGalley opens with a content warning for scenes of violence which made me very hesitant to read it as I’m uncomfortable with written descriptions of graphic violence. But I thought okay, I’ve been warned and I can prepare myself for what is to come.

And the opening 10% of this book that I read is brilliant in so many ways. I was immediately taken in by the story. It begins with 16 year old Deka who lives in a patriarchal society. When a girl turns 16 she must take part in a blood ritual to show that she is pure. If her blood runs red she becomes a woman in her society… if however she bleeds gold she is seen as a demon and is cast out from her village.

The scenes leading up to the purity test really helped establish Deka’s world. I found her to be a very engaging character and was very keen to get to know where her story would lead to.

But during the purity test there is an attack from demons and in the midst of a bloody battle Deka bleeds gold.

She is then subjected to knifings, beheading, disembowelling… and I tried to read through this because the story is so riveting. I wanted to somehow get past the violence to the heart of the story. But it felt to me that the violent descriptions would never end so by 10% I had to admit defeat and reluctantly decided to DNF this book. I simply felt much too queasy from the violent descriptions and knew that sadly I was not the right reader for this novel.

I must admit that I am quite surprised that in a YA novel there is as much violence as this. Perhaps I am mistaken but I thought that YA novels would be lighter on violent imagery than this one. I understand there is a need to show the harshness with which Deka was tortured by her own people but sadly for me it was too much. I’m very sorry not to continue with my read of this novel as the story really is intriguing and from just the 10% I read I know that the author is capable of crafting interesting characters and a compelling plot.

I wish the author every good luck with this book and hope it finds its right audience.

My one recommendation to NetGalley would be that if a book contains (or requires) content warnings that these content warnings should be stated with the book’s blurb on the website. Had I read the content warning about violence before requesting this book I would not have requested it. And therefore my eARC copy could have gone to another reader who is not sensitive to graphic violence as I am.


I posted the above review to NetGalley and a number of days later received an email from the publisher, Usborne. In this email they apologised that I had been affected by the violent content of the book and actually updated the blurb description on NetGalley to include a trigger warning for violence as I had suggested.

I am delighted that Usborne are taking trigger and content warnings seriously and are listening to their early readers.

In a further email to them I said that I hoped they would consider putting any relevant trigger and content warnings for their books in a position alongside the specific book’s blurb on both the physical copy, but also on online blurb descriptions. I was told that my thoughts were very welcome and my suggestions would be put forward to the publishing team.

Now I know I am not the first person to ever request content and trigger warnings so it does feel a little odd that my suggestions seemed to be completely unheard of and novel ideas to Usborne… but at least they are engaging in discourse with their readers and therefore I hope that this is a step in the right direction.

*An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley. This review contains my honest thoughts and opinions*

Publishing 4th February 2021, Usborne Publishing

My Socials

7 thoughts on “The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna – Book Review

  1. I read this one over the summer and didn’t like it as much as I thought it would. I’m sure many others will but it wasn’t for me either.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s