by Namina Forna
Deka, age 16, is terrified and eagerly awaits the blood ceremony that will determine if she will be accepted into her village. Deka, who already stands out from the others due to her unusual intuition, prays for red blood in order to feel more at home. However, on the day of the ritual, her blood turns a purplish gold tint, and Deka knows she will suffer an outcome worse than death. Then a mystery woman approaches her and offers her the option to either remain in the village and accept her fate or to join an army of girls who are just like her in fighting for the emperor. They are known as alkali-near-immortals with exceptional abilities. The biggest threat to the empire can only be stopped by them. The characters had a strong sense of development and reality. Deka developed alongside us, and we gained insightful knowledge about her world in the process. She felt genuine and unforced in how she learned. She had real and profound relationships with the other Aliki. Forna does not, however, devote much of the page to illustrating the development. We catch the crucial details, and although not spending the entire time with Deka, we can still make out the genuine friendship and trust that have grown over this period. In the end, her boyfriend Keita proved to be such a wonderful character. It's intriguing to see how this friendship develops because, like with the girls, we only get to see little glimpses of their interactions.
Although the world is highly imaginative, it is not so fantastical that it is impossible to imagine. You can see the parallels to the real world that Forna made while writing, brought the universe to a whole new level. Without being info-dumpy or making the reader feel overburdened by the magical features, Forna was able to inform us about an entire world and how that civilization is organized. Overall I found the plot and the story structure itself to be very intriguing and organized. Nothing was unnecessarily added to the story and nothing seemed to be missing either. From the amazing cover art to the story, It really was such a satisfying read and I will for sure recommend this book to anyone!
Reviewed by Manaal