The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna is an upcoming February release
The Gilded Ones #1 by Namina Forna
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publish date 2/5/21, 432 pages
I'm pleasantly surprised by this book. The premise is interesting. In a medieval setting, women are lower than 2nd class citizens and when young girls reach 16, they must go through a purity ritual where they are cut and the color of their blood determines their worth. If they bleed red, they are allowed to stay in the town, marry, and have children. If their blood is gold, they are considered evil and impure and put to death.
The thing is, the girls with gold blood are special, they are alaki. The men know they're different and have written laws and books and religious teachings to indoctrinate everyone that they must be killed. When Deka, the main character, bleeds gold, she is imprisoned in a cellar and tortured (not graphically). A strange woman comes to the village and offers her the chance at life - as a warrior in the Emperor's army. Deka accepts.
Deka enters soldier training along with other girls gathered from all over the kingdom. She makes friends, she works hard, and, discovers she has special abilities. These abilities make her the most valuable alaki warrior in the battle against the deathshrieks, the creatures that are attacking the kingdom.
The writing is strong, Deka shows major growth in her life view and her self awareness, and there are some good supporting characters. The book starts strongly with describing how she fails the purity test and what the consequences are. After she's 'saved' and recruited as an Emperor's warrior, the second half of the book is a bit more militaristic (is that a word?).
There were two things I noticed - as a YA book, I think it does a great job of illustrating a strong, repressive patriarchal society designed to hold onto power and then how Deka and other young girls learn there are different ways to think of being a woman as their world view widens. Also, lots of YA books feel too simplistically written and just "feel" young - this one doesn't; there's more heft to the story.
I think a good ground level was laid for the world building in this installment; I 'll be interested to see if it's filled in more in the next book. There's the obligatory developing love story that is very mild and incidental to the story. The focus was more on the developing and relying on girlfriend relationships which is a nice switch....there were no 'mean girls' so that's a positive impact for young girl readers.
By the way, I liked the way the book ended - it was a logical conclusion to what had been happening, you know which characters are staying around for the next book, but it wasn't such a cliffhanger that the story felt incomplete.
Watch for this book's release; it's definitely recommended.