Huge thanks to NetGalley, and the Delacorte for the chance to review this title.
At the start, this book goes the way of many popular YA books-a girl enters some sort of ceremony to adulthood and discovers she is not who she thinks she is. Boy howdy, this book took a brutal and unique turn. Enter the deathshrieks. Enter golden blood and gilded death and an army of girls. THE GILDED ONES does not let you take a breath. it assaults you in the face with fascinating writing and unbelievably story-telling. I am kicking myself for waiting so long to read this, but also happy that I am ending 2020 (almost) with such a book.
Deka enters her purity test for excitement. She will finally be recognized as part of society. But when monstrous creatures called death shrieks attack her people, she discovers that her blood does not run red, but gold. Now considered a demon, she's subjected to violent beatings, dismemberment, beheading, etc (most are off-page, but if you're easily triggered, you may want to skip chapter three and some of four.) in order to find her "true death". Finally, a woman she dubs White Hands comes and takes her away, promising life at the capital training with others like her. There, she meets Britta whom she befriends right away, and together they learn how to fight alongside the other "alaki". But Deka's past creeps up on her, and she soon learns that being a GIlded One means something else entirely.
First off, this book has some violent imagery that should come with a content warning. I did not have a problem with it, but others might so here's your warning. I think NetGalley actually updated the synopsis with a trigger warning. for violence and mentions of sexual abuse. I think that's the reason for most of the lower ratings I'm seeing, and maybe a reason for my higher rating.
I believe this book took a huge risk with the content it contained, and I for one am here for it. Deka's world is not cupcakes and rainbows. It's cruel, and brutal (I'm using that word a lot, I know. It's the only word that comes to mind), and she must claw her way out of it if she wants to protect her sisters.
The author's goal in writing THE GILDED ONES was to examine the patriarchy and how girls cannot thrive under it. The book covered a ton of themes, but it wasn't overwhelming or preachy. One theme that always gets me into a book is the bond of sisterhood. It's refreshing to see a group of girls rising each other up instead of breaking each other down.
Minor issues that did not affect my rating: The romance was meh, and I think the story could have done without it. And the ending felt rushed. I get the word count deal and having it end at the right place to set itself up for a sequel, but I felt like I needed more. I mean, I'll get more with the second and third book so here's hoping the story keeps up the momentum.
Overall, this was a solid debut, and I think it's going to throw me into a book hangover. It was that good, you guys. I can't wait for you all to get a chance to read it next year.