Like every girl in Otera, 16-year-old Deka must undergo a ceremony which will determine her place in society. It is a test of purity: if her blood runs red, she’ll be allowed to join the ranks of the “pure” women in her community. However, already an outcast by virtue of her skin color, Deka’s blood runs gold and she is deemed impure. She is then beaten, brutalized, and tortured until a mysterious woman makes her an offer: stay in her community, or join the Alaki, an army of supernatural girls just like her, to defend the capital against Deathshrieks—pale monsters that terrorize villages all over Otera. This is how Deka discovers she has powers that enable her to lead the Alaki into battle and save Otera from destruction.
The Gilded Ones is a YA fantasy novel reminiscent of Octavia Butler. Imbued within the magic and technology is a looking glass into our own reality. The racism, colorism, xenophobia, and misogyny in our world is reflected in Otera, even if it’s a reality where blood runs gold and girls come back from the dead. As author Namina Forna states in her letter to the reader, “If you can’t find yourself anywhere, find yourself here.” –Grace Weinberg
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