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The Gilded Ones: 03/08/21
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna is described by the author as an "African-inspired world & basically imagines what would happen if the Dora Milaje from Black Panther were stuck in The Handmaid's Tale and decided they weren't going to take it anymore" (Twitter). It's the perfect description.
Sixteen year old Deka has lost her mother to the red plague and has been helping her father who is struggling with the long tail symptoms post recovery. Coming up, though, is the blood ceremony which will test if she's pure or a demon. If her blood runs gold she'll be arrested and put to death.
Before the ceremony has even begun it's interrupted and Deka's powers reveal themselves. It's a surprise to her and an instant death sentence. Except that it isn't.
While Deka's world is very much a mixture of Gilead and Wakanda, the ceremony and the red plague bring to mind Ascendence of a Bookworm. The two share the combination of the blue ceremonial dresses, the lingering affects of a disease, and the rigid class system.
The remainder of Deka's story is one of travel and training, being forced to fight for the emperor. She is among an elite group of alaki who can't be killed in the standard ways a demon can be killed. The sudden switching of gears and life plan to one that's entirely training and fighting, also brings to mind Legendborn by Tracy Deonn (2020), but in a fantasy setting.
Deka's journey from scared teenage girl to confident warrior also places The Gilded Ones on the Road Narrative Spectrum. This analysis will contain spoilers. If you haven't read the book and want to avoid surprises, please stop reading. Deka over the course of her journey learns that she was created by a goddess to change the course of the country. As such, she is a scarecrow (99), traveling with minotaurs (the other alaki). Both types of traveler sit in the same tier. Her destination or goal is uhoria (CC), here being both an understanding of the true history of her people and country, and a desire to improve the future. The route she takes is the maze (CC) in that the way to her goal is fraught with traps, dangers, and death. Summarized, the theme of this novel in terms of the road is that of a scarecrow traveling through uhoria via the maze to save her country and people (99CCCC).