Genre: fantasy, dystopian fiction
Key Stage: Year 9+ (contains mature themes and content)
The Gilded Ones, Namina Forna (2020)
When I asked Ms Harrison to recommend to me a debut novel from 2021 so as to help me acquire my green-belt in this year’s George Green’s Reading Challenge I was really pleased when she left a copy of The Gilded Ones in my pigeon hole. I didn’t know anything about the author, the topic or even the genre, and I know it’s unwise to judge a book by its cover… but this is a gorgeous edition, with colourful and ornate decoration that runs off the front cover and over the textblock. I instantly wanted to read it because it’s a thing of beauty!
The book opens with a young woman in a rural village of the fictional Kindom, Otera, excitedly awaiting a ceremony which will mark her path to maturity and determine her status of purity in society. As she ponders on her family history, friendships and status I must admit I started to have my doubts about the book, and worried that I might have to spend the rest of the novel inside the mind of an uncertain and introspective teenage girl…
And before I knew it, the second chapter landed, with a savage and brutal ferocity that justified the warning printed on the back cover: “Contains material that some readers may find distressing.” An exciting, unpredictable and fantastical adventure had been launched and I happily read on.
Namina Forna cleverly reveals the layers of Oterian society, and as she does so she examines important themes and issues surrounding femininity, patriarchy and accepting the status quo. Fantasy and mystical powers blend with social issues and battle-action to form an interesting and engaging novel, which is set to be the start of a series. I will keep an eye out for the sequels and if their covers look as attractive as this one I might just read some more!
Reviewer: Mr Cullenbrooke