Happy book release day to Namina Forna! I’ve been excited about her debut novel, The Gilded Ones, ever since I read an excellent interview with her on Refinery29 discussing why she wrote a YA epic fantasy book in which women literally bleed gold, among other subjects—and I’m thrilled to have a guest post by her to share today!


The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna - Book Cover
Read an Excerpt


The most anticipated fantasy of 2021. In this world, girls are outcasts by blood and warriors by choice. Get ready for battle. 

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

The start of a bold and immersive fantasy series for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther

The Importance of Feminist Boys in YA Literature

Some weeks ago, I was scrolling Twitter when I came upon a heinous tweet. It was written by a man, and it espoused some truly concerning thoughts regarding women. It was the type of tweet I would have usually rushed to correct, but before I could do so, one of my mutuals, a young African man, waded in. He battled the tweet-sogynist with facts and data. He was not just a feminist ally—he was a feminist himself.

Growing up in the hypermasculine cultures of Sierra Leone, West Africa, and Atlanta, Georgia, I saw precious little in the way of male feminists. Boys were supposed to be tough and strong. They weren’t supposed to be soft, weren’t supposed to cry, and certainly weren’t supposed to defer to women.

Somewhere along the way, this dynamic changed. Boys started to realize that the patriarchy was just as much a trap for them as it was for girls. It helped that there were new portrayals of heroes in books and film, particularly young adult and middle grade works.

Malik, one of the dual protagonists from this summer’s A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, is one such hero. A nervous, but sweet soul, he is understanding of his weaknesses and respects his reluctant partner in crime, the calculating princess Karina, knowing that she is both bolder and more ruthless than him—necessary characteristics to survive in the cutthroat city of Ziran, the main location in the book.

Other notable feminist boys include Peeta Mellark of the Hunger Games franchise—a much kinder and softer person than protagonist Katniss Everdeen; Peter Kavinsky in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before; Daniel Bae from The Sun Is Also a Star; and Rishi from When Dimple Met Rishi.

In film and TV, there’s Ang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Otis in Sex Education—even Uber-masculine icon Mad Max has undergone a bit of a transformation in recent years. In Mad Max: Fury Road, he defers to protagonist Imperator Furiosa, even going so far as to hand a gun to her when he can’t get a shot right. Progress.

In my novel, The Gilded Ones, Keita, the love interest of my protagonist, Deka, is a soft boy with a hard shell. He has no choice but to be. The world of The Gilded Ones is brutal and deeply misogynistic, especially Otera, the empire in which my story unfolds. Otera is absolute theocracy: women are considered lesser than men and required to undergo a ritual to prove the purity of their blood—red for pure, and gold for impure.

Even worse, the alaki—girls who bleed gold and are stronger and faster than regular humans—are branded as demons and executed on the spot. That is, of course, if they aren’t bled first. Gold is gold, even if it comes straight from the veins.

Despite all this, Keita, a hardened warrior with the battle scars to prove it, develops a deep and abiding respect for Deka. He listens to her when she speaks, doesn’t try to change her, and genuinely cares for her as a human being. In a world where women are considered little less than property, he sees her as an equal, and that’s an important thing.

We have a long way to go when it comes to gender equality, but portrayals of boys in books and film are helping along the way. That, for me, is an awesome thing, because now, whenever I go on Twitter, I can always find a feminist boy there, ready to do the work of dismantling the patriarchy.

Photo of Namina Forna Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the epic fantasy YA novel The Gilded Ones. Originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa, she moved to the US when she was nine and has been traveling back and forth ever since. Namina loves telling stories with fierce female leads and works as a screenwriter in LA.