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.
I had seen so much excitement for this one online, that I couldn’t help but be intrigued. Then I read the synopsis, a great walled city, blood running the impure color of gold, and fighting in an army of girls who are different. It sounded amazing and I was really looking forward to reading it! Trigger warnings: blood, torture, mentions of rape, gore
I’m surprised how much I ended up loving this book. It took my a good long while to start loving it, I think it was about 60% in that I started really falling in love with the world, the characters, and the plot. Usually, if I’m not completely in love by 60%, I don’t completely love it by the end, so this was a new experience for me! And I am glad that I ended up loving it.
I think one of the things that threw me off in the beginning was the pacing. I think this book could have benefited from a slower pace. Everything sort of moved full steam ahead, very fast. I think a lot of things in this book would have been better and could have been highlighted with a slower pace. It would make it ache and I think that aching would make this explode with everything it’s trying to do.
With the fast pace, I felt like major things happened before I was fully settled in the world. I was still getting to know the characters when absolutely horrible things were happening to them. I feel like this made it hard to get my feet underneath me. I dunno, I feel like some of the emotional overtones of this book sort of got lost in the shuffle and weren’t as powerful as they wanted to be. I could tell what they were trying to do, but I couldn’t fully feel it. That’s just me though!
Nevertheless, this book is amazing. Because once I started to fall in love with it, I completely fell in love with it. THERE’S EVEN A FANTASY CAT!
This book has so much pain, both physical and emotional. But it’s also what can blossom out of that pain and the strength that pain can bring. This is done so, so well. Like, words are hard to find to describe how well it’s done.
Also, while brutal, this world is gorgeous. I find it to feel golden, which I know is ironic considering the golden blood. There’s so much bad, but the good that comes out of it shines so brightly. Plus, the way it ties into the plot twists and it’s rulers and how many secrets it holds. There’s also so many super cool creatures that I seriously loved.
There is also so many incredible female friendships. There’s a sisterhood between them and the support they show each other was amazing. I always love friendships and this book has some amazing ones.
I also really liked all the characters. They all carry themselves and their pain differently and I liked seeing so many stories come together. They’re all so well rounded and so real. I loved them all.
I also really, really loved Deka. Her emotional journey, craving acceptance, feeling like a monster, being so completely immersed in the society she’s grown up in, was one to behold. It’s subtle, but once you realize what has happened, it sort of takes your breath away. It’s something else that is brilliantly done and I loved how it was done under the surface. It’s not explicitly mentioned, but it’s there in the actions Deka takes and the decisions she makes.
It might have taken me awhile to fall in love with this book, but I did fall in love with it. It’s powerful and it’s gold. It’s dark but there’s also so much light to be found in it. Plus, a fantasy cat (I really love the fantasy cat, if you couldn’t tell)!
Thank you for reading!