The gilded ones by Namina Forna

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Sixteen-year-old Deka cannot wait for the Ritual of Purity. On that day she will finally be able to prove to her family, friends and community that she belongs. When she is cut by the priest, she is sure that her blood will run red. She cannot bear to imagine what will happen if she bleeds gold . . .

When Deka's village is attacked during the ceremony by the violent and fearsome deathshrieks, Deka saves her loved ones but is revealed as a gold-veined 'demon'. Subjected to torment and torture and forced to die over and over again by those she once considered family and friends, Deka is finally rescued by the enigmatic White Hands, a woman who promises absolution if Deka will join the Emperor's newly formed army of girls as impure as herself. Whisked away to the capital to train as a warrior, Deka discovers troubling secrets about her growing abilities, her past and the empire she has sworn to protect, that may change everything she is working towards.

The Gilded Ones is an excellent debut from Sierra Leonian-American author Namina Forna. Weaving together elements of fantasy and traditional West African society, Forna has created a compelling and unique world for readers. Young adult fantasy by African authors is gradually gaining more traction in a genre heavily dominated by European and North American fiction. The Gilded Ones is a worthy contribution to this growing group. It must be mentioned however that Forna does not hold back on her portrayals of the abuse and trauma suffered by women living in patriarchal societies. Readers should be aware and keep this in mind when determining whether to read this book.

Themes: Identity, Oppression, Gender Inequality, Misogyny, Trauma, Womanhood, Demons, War, Warriors, Friendship.

Rose Tabeni