Trigger warnings: xenophobia, misogyny, abuse and sexual abuse, rape (off page), graphic murder, torture, body mutilation
”The truth is, girls have to wear smiling masks, contort themselves into all kinds of knots to please others, and then, when the deathshrieks come, girls die. They die.” I glance from one bloodsister to the other. “The way I see it, we all have a choice right now. Are we girls, or are we demons? Are we going to die, or are we going to survive?”
So this is one of those rare books that caused me to have really mixed feelings about it. I guess everyone who followed my updates knows that I wasn’t all too happy about how the first half of “The Gilded Ones” played out. Maybe it’s just one of those “it’s me not the book” cases because I read way too many YA books and notice the similarities between them. A lot of YA books have the same tropes and start out the same way so I wasn’t really surprised about the initial plot line of the book.
”Every girl knows it by heart. We recite it whenever we enter a temple – a constant reminder that women were created to be helpmeets to men, subservient to their desires and commands.”
I mean we have a patriarchal system and girls aren’t even allowed to walk on the streets if they don’t have a man with them. The women wear masks in order to hide their faces and it’s seen as an honour to wear them after they went through the blood rite and became full members of society. Their only goal in life is to get through the blood rite and to serve their men and they are devoutly religious. So yeah, this was nothing new for me and I’ve seen this particular kind of trope in a lot of books. Truth be told after everything Deka went through at the beginning of the book I had a hard time to comprehend how she could still hold on to the beliefs of her people.
”Even some of the little girls here wear half masks, visible representations of their family’s wealth moulded in gold and silver. A pang of sadness passes over me whenever I see them. I’ll never wear a mask now, never be able to adorn myself in the sacred coverings of purity.”
Then again, change comes slowly and I think this was portrayed really well in here. Because the longer Deka stays with her fellow alaki, the more she finds out about their world and why they are shunned from society. And the more she knows the easier it becomes to let go of the cultural beliefs that have been indoctrinated into her ever since she was a little girl. This said I really liked the friendships in this book and the fact that those girls became true warriors and didn’t take any bullshit anymore. XD I absolutely loved Deka’s friendship with Britta and those two were amazing together!
”I’ve learned many things these past months, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s this: Britta is my dearest friend, and my kinship with her is the foundation I stand on.”
As for the love interest: I saw this one coming from miles away and I was not surprised that they became a couple in the end. Still, even though I knew they would end up together I really liked that this was a fairly slow burn and that they started out as enemies that became friends and then developed into something stronger and more. I know some people said that it was insta-lovey for them but I guess that’s just because the time line and the world building weren’t all too elaborate. I knew there must have passed quite some time between their training and missions but some pointers as to how much exactly would have been very welcome. XD
His eyes seem to glow as he glances sideways at me. “Am I your friend, Deka?”
“Do you want to be?” I say this part so softly, I don’t think he hears it.
But then he whispers in my ear, his breath stirring the short mop of curly hair above it. “I think I’m something much better. I’m your uruni, now until the day of our deaths.”
Another thing I liked was that the trauma of the girls and how they were coping with it was addressed. A lot of them were abused, raped and hurt in the worst way possible and this just because their blood ran gold and they were considered to be impure. It was good to see that they grew into their strength, that they didn’t succumb to their horrible experiences and fought their way back into life instead. They remembered and they got out of it even stronger than before.
”The physical body – it heals. The scars fade. But the memories are for ever. Even when you forget, they remain inside, taunting you, resurfacing when you least expect.”
White Hands made for a very intriguing character and I kinda liked that we were left in the dark for so long. (Even though I’ve to admit that I still could anticipate a lot of the plot twists. XD) And last but not least I’ve to mention the addition of Ixa to the team! I loved Ixa so much and I hope he’ll be an even bigger part in the next book. As for the ending: I have no idea where the second book is going to head. I mean yes, I know the general direction but there are so many different ways in which it could play out. There’s – quite literally – a world of possibilities.
This said I really liked “The Gilded Ones”! Yes, at first I was very sceptical when I started to read this book but in the end the book surprised me and I started to enjoy it more and more. Despite the rocky start Namina Forna eventually persuaded me to pick up the second book as well and I’m already very curious if I’ll enjoy it even more than the first one. I guess I’ll just have to find out. 😉