I spent the last week reading The Gilded Ones and the sequel, The Merciless Ones, and this is what I thought!
The Gilded Ones follows Deka, a seventeen year old Black girl who is forced into an army to serve the emperor after it’s discovered that she is “impure” and her blood runs gold. She’s labelled an alaki and the only way to earn favour back to the gods is by serving in the army until she’s deemed pure. And what are they fighting? Deathshrieks that can explode your eardrums with their screams and tear people in two with their terrible claws. But Deka quickly bonds with the other alaki girls and they end up banding together as bloodsisters, determined to survive whatever the cost. Only Deka has a secret — she can command the deathshrieks with her voice. So if she’s not a normal alaki…then what is she?
It’s a deeply feminist story about girls rising up against the patriarchy and finding strength when they’ve spent their whole lives debased. It’s full of battles and violence and survivors, of the desperate claw to freedom while pledging not to leave any sisters behind. The girls face a lot of violence and abuse, so this book definitely goes hard.
Deka quickly finds herself as the Chosen One of the narrative with her impossible powers. And I really loved her instant friendship with Britta, who is just loyal and lovely and also super buff. And then Belcalis was amazing too, absolutely sardonic and sharp, never trusting anyone until begrudgingly befriending Deka. And there is a little romance happening too 😌 as Deka is paired up with Keita to fight deathshrieks and he just happens to be a very lovely boy of badassery with a golden heart. The romance is definitely a subplot in book one, but features more in book two.
A very battle and powers focused story; and it asks the question who are the real monsters?
Then we launch into the sequel: The Merciless Ones…
This is set 6 months later and I don’t want to give spoilers so I’m just going to give a vague idea of what we’re getting into. 👀👌🏻 It’s definitely the kind of sequel that ups the stakes a hundred fold. There are new powers, new plot twists, new gods. There were a lot of lies told by the oppressors in book one, so in the sequel we’re still really unwrapping layers of what is truly happening in Deka’s world.
This one focuses less on girlpower and more on boosting the powerless, whoever they might be. It was also nice to see more lgbtqia+ characters in the sequel.
The ending definitely hits with an explosion of plot twists you will never see coming. 👌🏻 A big finale for a vast and complex epic fantasy story.
Read this series if you like…
- battles and wars against monsters
- girls embracing their dark side and smashing the patriarchy
- lots of girl friendships
- big plot twists
- vast magic systems that include immortals and gods and legends
- Black girls getting to be the Chosen One
- interesting magical fantasy creatures
Thanks to HarperCollins AU for the review copy of The Merciless Ones!
Title: The Merciless Ones (Deathless #2)
Author: Namina Forna
Date Published: 20/07/2022
Genre: YA Contemporary
Purchase: Book Depository, Dymocks, Amazon US
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Set in an ancient West African-inspired world, this unmissable YA fantasy series is perfect for fans of CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE and BLACK PANTHER.”The invention and the tension never flag – an outstanding second book.” Ben Aaronovitch, author of Rivers of London series It’s been six months since Deka freed the goddesses in the ancient kingdom of Otera, and discovered who she really is… But war is waging across the kingdom, and the real battle has only just begun. For there is a dark force growing in Otera – a merciless power that Deka and her army must stop. Yet hidden secrets threaten to destroy everything Deka has known. And with her own gifts changing, Deka must discover if she holds the key to saving Otera… or if she might be its greatest threat.THE MERCILESS ONES is the second, thrilling instalment of the epic fantasy series in which a young heroine fights against a world that would dare tame her.
Namina Forna was born in Sierra Leone but emigrated with her family to the US in the 1990s, during her homeland’s civil war, and has been travelling back and forth eversince. She has worked as a writer and producer for film and TV in LA since graduating from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Namina was a finalist for NBC / Universal Writers on the Verge, a semi-finalist for the Sundance Screenwriting Lab and top 50 in the prestigious Nicholls Screenwriting Fellowship. Namina loves spicy food and witchy-looking cats, and has been known to wear unicorn onesies to the nearest taco truck. The Gilded Ones is her debut novel. Twitter | Website