The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I had a hard time with this book. I finished it eventually, but it was a bit of a slog. I think this book has an ambitious concept, but unfortunately the execution left a lot to be desired.
To be blunt, for nearly all of its 415 pages I thought I was reading a first draft. In the Acknowledgments, the author mentions "multiple drafts." I'm sorry, but I find that hard to believe. The worldbuilding and characterization is just so lacking in this story that I can't imagine it's been revised multiple times. The first few chapters are really rough, the pacing is wonky, the characters are not well fleshed out and many of the important emotional beats don't feel earned at all. Aside from the protagonist (and even her, to an extent) the characters are thin and shallow. This is supposed to be a sweeping feminist fantasy of rebellion against a suffocating patriarchy and coming to terms with one's true self, and as far as I'm concerned, it felt a mile wide and an inch deep.
This is the author's first novel, but I think it had more than its share of first-novel problems. Enough, in fact, to prevent me from going on with the rest of the series.
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