Number 24 was The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna, giving me a little break from this sad books kick that I’ve been on. I heard great things about this book on tiktok so I was really excited to read this one.
A summary of sorts
At 16 all the girls are subjected to the blood ceremony to test whether or not they are pure. If you blood runs red, the you are fine, if your blood runs gold, you’re subject to the death mandate. The women live by strict rules, they are not able to run, not able to speak too loudly or walk around without a male escort. Deka, our main character, has tried so hard to be a good girl her whole life, in the hope that she will be considered pure by God and escape the dreaded gold blood. She has no such luck however and she is subjected to months of torture as the elders of her village enact the death mandate, trying to find her final death.
Deka is given a reprieve when someone from the Emperor’s army comes to take her away to train in an army of other girls like her, the impure, called the Alaki. Deka quickly discovers that she’s a little different to even the other Alaki there, she’s more powerful and faster than they are. Each Alaki is paired with a mortal, male soldier, to fight by their side as they battle the powerful magical creatures that terrorise their borders. Deka comes to realise that maybe that they’ve been lied, maybe Alaki aren’t impure, or demons. She grows suspicious about the religious mandates they’ve been forced to live by and how they subjugate women, impure or not. As Deka begins exploring this and developing her gifts, she uncovers how many lives they’ve been told.
I really liked this book! The magic system and the world building are so well done, it was such an easy book to get sucked into. It explores the ideas of the patriarchy and women’s lives through the lens of a fantasy ya setting. The imaginary in the book is vivid and enjoyable, it’s very easy to picture it as you are reading.
This is definitely one I’d recommend if you like fantasy ya and I can’t wait for the second book to come out.