Book Reviews

The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna: Blog Tour & Book Review

This is a spoiler-free review.

The Merciless Ones by Namina Forna

Expected publication May 31st 2022 by Delacorte Press.

My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fans of The Gilded Ones and Children of Blood and Bone will love the second book in an epic fantasy series about a girl who is the key to saving the empire–or its greatest threat.

It’s been six months since Deka has freed the goddesses and discovered who she really is. There are now wars waging across the kingdom. Otereans now think jatu are traitors to the nation. Deka is called a monster.

But the real battle has only just begun and Deka must lead the charge. Deka is tasked with freeing the rest of the goddesses. Only as she begins to free them, she begins to see a strange symbol everywhere in places of worship and worn on armor. There’s something unnatural about that symbol; just looking at it makes Deka lose her senses. Even worse, it seems to repel her powers. She can’t command or communicate with the new deathshrieks. In fact, she can’t even understand them when they speak.

Deka knows freeing the goddesses is just the beginning. She can tell whatever dark force out is powerful and there is something sinister out there threatening the kingdom connected to that symbol–something merciless–that her army will need to stop before humanity crumbles. But Deka’s powers are only getting stronger…and her strongest weapon could be herself.

Thank you to TBR and Beyond Tours and the publisher, Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books, for providing me with an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Oh my goddesses! This book was so good!! 🤩

Deka returns once again, her friends in tow (a found family of deathshrieks, alaki, and ex-jatu alike), and the recently awakened goddesses behind her – a true force to be reckoned with. But things in Otera are never how they may first appear. And more is brewing under the surface than even Deka the Nuru, the daughter of the goddesses, realizes. Revelations that will once again shake Deka to her core, and send everything she thought was true crumbling to pieces…

“When gods dance, humanity trembles.”

In The Merciless Ones, Forna takes Otera, a world already filled to the brim with a vast, rich, and diverse culture, and expands it even further! Through the sequel to The Gilded Ones, Deka’s world is further explored, more locations visited, more residents introduced, and even more of its history brought to light.

This book wastes no time, immediately dropping the reader back into the throws of conflict between the alaki and the high priests. The narration does a very skilled job of re-familiarizing the reader with all that has come to pass in the previous novel while also introducing everything new since it’s story left off. I did find the beginning quick exposition-heavy, but not necessarily in a bad way, since the world itself was so intriguing. Forna certainly knows how to describe some of the most imaginative environments I’ve ever read about.

The Merciless Ones is chock-full of action, adventure, and intrigue, and jumps from one intense scene to the next as Deka and her friends make their way across Otera and to the Grand Temple of Hemaira. There were a few moments that did feel a bit abrupt, and well, a little too convenient for the characters. Some literal divine intervention, if you will. But that’s not uncommon in a “chosen one” plotline, and since this novel fully deals with divinity, it’s to be expected.

“All the gods I’ve seen thus far are flawed, distant beings, vastly remote from the people who worship them… And they constantly demand worship, constantly demand prayers to feed their power.”

But, what I liked best about this novel was its depth. Following in its predecessor’s footsteps, The Merciless Ones continues to tackle gender politics and patriarchy while adding gender and sexuality diversity, identity, and religion to the roster. I loved the expanded discussion of how Otera’s patriarchal society affects those not previously mentioned, including queer, trans, and non-binary individuals.

The diversity of the cast was also explored here, and gratefully so. Despite this novel including such a wide variety of characters, Forna does a good job of rounding them, making them feel like real individuals with their own unique backgrounds and experiences. It was nice to be afforded more time to delve into some of these side characters’ storylines more completely in The Merciless Ones.

And rep was fantastic! Not just one or two queer characters to fill a quota, but many, fully actualized individuals from across the spectrum were presented here. All with their own histories, motivations, and challenges to overcome. I truly feel like I connected with more characters in this novel than almost any other book I’ve ever read with such a large ensemble cast.

Honestly, shout-out to the found family dynamics and friendships throughout this novel too. They were ideal. Deka and Britta’s friendship in particular was just utterly fantastic. Really, I can’t recommend this book enough. If you enjoyed The Gilded Ones, you have definitely got to read this sequel, it does not disappoint!

“If there’s one thing the past few days have taught me, it’s that I’m more capable than I ever knew; that I’m more than just the quiet, naive girl I was in Irfut, foolishly hoping for others to accept me when I couldn’t accept myself.”

About the Author

Namina Forna is a young adult novelist based in Los Angeles, and the author of the upcoming 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 has an MFA in film and TV production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA from Spelman College. She works as a screenwriter in LA and loves telling stories with fierce female leads.

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indigo | IndieBound

~ Check out the rest of the tour schedule here! ~

Have you read The Gilded Ones?

What did you think of it?

Let me know!

Liza is a twenty-something book blogger who spends way too much time with her nose in books and feels way too much. She loves cooking, baking, reality tv show watching and, of course, reading. She can be found most often with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other. Her blog, Literary Liza, features bookish content like reviews, recommendations, and author interviews.


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