Book Review

The Merciless Ones

The Merciless Ones

  • Author: Namina Forna
  • Genre: YA Fantasy
  • Publication Date: May 31, 2022
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • Series: Deathless #2

Thank you to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

CONTENT WARNING: torture, violence, blood, trauma, gore, misogyny, mention of homophobia, mention of ableism, death of a parent, grief

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.

I remember being in love with the first book in this series, The Gilded Ones, and being thrilled about getting approved for the next book. But since it’s been a while since I read it, I borrowed the audiobook from my library to refresh myself. And it got me just as psyched for this book as I was after finishing the first one originally. I seriously needed this book, after having a string of low-star reads, and I truly hoped this would be a great one. Fortunately, my guess was right, and it was absolutely outstanding.

After the tumultuous events of book 1, which ended on a cliffhanger of epic proportions, I was ready to find out what happens next. Forna didn’t let me down a single bit in this book, keeping the pace fast, the action furious, and unexpected plot twists at every turn. I never knew what to expect next, and I found myself getting emotional at so many parts.

For me, I need a good plot to enjoy a book, but equally important is characters that I feel bonded to. And boy, did I feel bonded to Deka and her found family in this story. Of course, there are some villains that I loved to hate, but I shifted my views on certain characters immensely in this story. Deka, Britta, Keita, Belcalis, the rest of the uruni (male counterparts to the female warriors, or alaki), and especially Ixa were standout characters, along with White Hands.

Deka goes through a major journey of self-discovery and becoming stronger and confident in this book. She solidifies her relationships with the people around her, even as they are changing. And it isn’t just Deka who does so — the other characters aren’t just in there to be there, but each of them serves a true purpose, and the story wouldn’t be nearly as impactful if even one of them was gone. The connection between Britta and Deka is one of my favorites that I’ve seen in a while, although each of the other relationships was incredibly good as well. Belcalis is probably the most intriguing character to me, since she’s so closed off, yet the people around her understand her at a deep level.

There’s so much great representation in this story. The story is set in a very well-developed world, and there are people of all shapes, sizes, and colors in the story. And while there are people who are queer represented in book 1, this book also focuses on including trans and non-binary characters, who are known as yandaus—neither male or female. The society in which they grew up isn’t friendly to LGBTQ people, with gay males receiving the brunt of consequences, while lesbian or bisexual women are frowned upon, but not viewed as much of a threat. Keep in mind, this is a society that actively works to oppress and subjugate women as much as possible.

Each and every character goes through so much, both physically, emotionally, and mentally, but probably Deka most of all, as she uncovers her true destiny and works to save all the people around her. She discovers that she has even more powers, and explores how it sets her apart from the people she’s closest to, as well as how they adapt to these changes. 

I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the third book to come out, and this one isn’t even released yet! I love everything about this series — the character development, the world building, and most importantly, the unpredictable plot. This has quickly become one of my favorite series.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 9

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