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…
I was so excited to read this book, the synopsis and the beautiful cover really appealed to me. This is a West African inspired fantasy with a strong message of female empowerment. Whilst I loved the whole premise of the story, the world and the characters, it was sadly lacking that special something which draws me into a fantasy novel. My problem lay in the execution of the story and the dialogue which was a little too simplified for my liking and, for the most part, I had a hard time keeping myself engaged in the storyline.
There is no question that the world is unique and colourful and full of all manner of characters and creatures. I loved the Deathshrieks, they were my favourite part of the story, and the magic system is quite new and thrilling. The world has the foundation for being really amazing but just needed a little tweaking here and there and further development. Dare I say it but at one point, what should have come across as quite a gruesome scene, actually made me giggle. In the aforementioned scene Deka said she wanted to nod in agreement but it was impossible because her neck wasn’t fully attached, I have no idea why that tickled me so much at the time!
There is a diverse and vast cast of characters, all of whom are quite lively and intriguing, but sadly lacking in the strength and depth of character I crave. Deka could have been an amazing female protagonist but her personality didn’t shine through and felt a tad one-dimensional and flat. She was missing the intensity I am so fond of in a lead heroine. The romance is a little too innocent, there was no chemistry and basically a peck on the cheek here and there, and I really wasn’t rooting for them as a couple. For someone who absolutely needs romance in a fantasy story, I would not have missed this one in the storyline.
The time skips required some concentration sometimes it skipped ahead by weeks, even months on occasions. Suddenly Deka becomes a warrior without us really knowing how, her training is skipped over and I really wanted to become involved in the rigours of her training schedule.
All that being said, I did enjoy reading The Gilded Ones, the world, the magic system are great and I loved the twist at the end. It is a simple and easy to read and perfect for YA readers dipping their toes into the fantasy genre, and who are not offended by what could be construed as a gruesome magic system. Also, can I just say how beautiful is that cover!?
Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Publication Date: 4 February 2021
Series: Deathless #1
Page Count: 264
Genre: YA Fantasy
Thank you to the publisher via Netgalley for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Please do not hesitate to comment below if you liked my review or have any comments about this book 😊