At the age of 16, women are subjected to a bleeding. Those who bleed red are deemed pure and serve their community, those who bleed gold are called demons and killed. But, when Deka bleeds gold, she uncovers a startling gift and is rescued from death by a mysterious figure who recruits her for an elite army to fight a swarm of deadly creatures. As she trains for the army, truths about her past and future are revealed and Deka must decide where her loyalties lie.
From the summary, this book seems like something I’d totally love, but I had a hard time getting into the story. I found the plotting to be inconsistent and didn’t find the action scenes to be particularly fast paced. But there were definitely some elements I loved.
My favorite thing about this book were the characters. It was packed with well-developed, relatable, admirable characters. Deka is fierce and brave, she has a strong power and uses it to protect her friends. She’s empathetic and thoughtful, while also having moments of uncertainty. Her best friend, Britta is hilarious and instantly loyal. She loves everyone she meets and will protect those close to her at all costs. Belcalis is incredibly strong and open, even after facing horrific trauma. Each female character has a compelling backstory that made me want to keep reading.
I also loved the themes that came out of this book. It’s fiercely feminist, juxtaposing a patriarchal society with a group of fierce, warrior women who are responsible for saving the empire. There’s a strong element of sisterhood that I loved and a frank discussion on the expectations placed on women and how women are commodified in a patriarchal society. Forna also touches on racism, abuse, and trauma in a really nuanced, thoughtful way. I’m so impressed with her deft handling of heavy themes.
Alright, onto the things I was less thrilled with. Like I said, the action scenes fell flat for me, for a reason: the main character tends to pass out near the start of the action. Her power is incredibly draining, so once she uses it, she falls unconscious and awakens to the end of the action. This didn’t do much to advance the plot for me. Likewise, I felt the plotting was inconsistent. I was fascinated by the story in the beginning, but started to lose interest as she traveled to the Empire and then began training. As she discovered new truths, my interest would be piqued again, but then fall flat as I waited for that information to come into play.
Finally, I just did not connect with the romance storyline. We see Deka and Keita have very few conversations, and the scenes they had together were never my favorite. I’m a sucker for a little romance in fantasy, but this one just wasn’t believable for me,
I will say that most other readers seem to be loving this book, and that’s great! The story is unique and fresh and the writing is quite good. I feel confident that Forna will continue improving and am interested enough in the futures of these characters to pick up the next book.
Have you read The Gilded Ones? What’d you think? Let me know in the comments!