A Word from the Author or Illustrator

The Gilded Ones

12 years of failure, the journey of a Black woman to be seen in publishing

Namina Forna, the author of the bestselling YA trilogy The Gilded Ones talks about her fraught journey to publication and the pitfalls that dog BIPOC people in publishing.
The Gilded Ones

The Gilded Ones By Namina Forna

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.

The start of a bold and immersive fantasy series for fans of Children of Blood and Bone and Black Panther

Namina Forna

Namina Forna has a MFA in film and TV production from USC School of Cinematic Arts and a BA from Spelman College. She now works as a screenwriter in LA and loves telling stories with fierce female leads. The Gilded Ones is her debut novel. Visit her on twitter at @NaminaForna and on Instagram at @namina.forna.

Resources from Our Authors

Our School & Library team is continually amazed by our authors and their dedication to their student, teacher, and librarian readers. These authors have created additional resources to complement their books that you can use with students and reading groups. Check out their pages for classroom and library ideas and additional information! Make sure you check back for new author created content as it becomes available.

Nelly Buchet

Marina Budhos

Lauren Castillo

Gennifer Choldenko

Tyler Clarke Burke

Chrystal D. Giles

Theanne Griffith

Kelly Jones

Alice B. McGinty

Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin

Celesta Rimington

M. Evan Wolkenstein

2020 Author Essays

Throughout the year, many Random House Children’s Books authors have shared some thoughts on their books, inspirations, and tips for educators with us. Discover all of their essays below!

Fresh Voices Series

Welcome to Fresh Voices! In this new series, we are excited to share with you authors whose books capture the human experience.

Karah Sutton author essay

A Wolf for a Spell

A Wolf for a Spell By Karah Sutton

I’ve always been captivated by fairy tales, and my debut novel, A Wolf for a Spell, is a tribute to the Russian fairy tales I’ve loved all my life. But it’s also a love letter to the natural world. It surprises me how much I enjoyed creating a wild world, when for so long I avoided the wilderness. My favorite passages to write were the descriptions of leaves, clinging brambles, and squelching mud.

Ages eight and nine were my Robin Hood phase. Not only was I determined to learn archery, but I fell deeply in love with the notion of living carefree in the forest. There was a problem, though: I really wasn’t an outdoorsperson. The woods made me uneasy. At summer camp, I stayed near the water and worked on my swimming technique.

The forest was a place I accessed mainly through stories, starting with fairy tales, then the Robin Hood books I devoured, and later the books of Patricia Wrede and Gail Carson Levine. I obsessively rewatched Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods, and usually turned up at sleepovers with my worn-out VHS of the Broadway production. (Much of the adult humor went over my head.) What was it about the forest that fascinated me? What was it that frightened me out of exploring it myself?

Probably many of the same things that fascinate and frighten us all. Journeys into the forest are as old as storytelling itself. The forest holds a mystical sense of danger and opportunity. It has the ability to conceal unknown creatures within its depths to capture and transform us.

These fears are not entirely unfounded. The news is full of cautionary tales of people getting lost in the woods. They might lose the path and freeze when the sun goes down. Or maybe they encounter a venomous spider or snake. Not to mention bigger animals such as grizzly bears and mountain lions. And then there’s poison ivy!

When we enter the forest, we are entering nature’s domain. We are at the mercy of critters and plants that live there. The woods are their home, not ours.

When I moved to New Zealand as an adult, I married into a family of conservationists. Suddenly my holidays were filled with treks up mountains and daylong hikes. The thing that inspired me was how dutifully and respectfully they approached even a short walk. You bring clothes that will keep you warm if you get lost. You never go on long walks alone, and always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return. You stay on the path to avoid trampling plants or the homes of animals. You leave nothing behind, and take nothing with you. People who ignore these practices are regarded as reckless amateurs, not brave adventurers.

One morning while out camping, I woke to see a wētā clinging to the fabric of my tent. My first instinct was to scream. I don’t do well with insects, and wētā are enormous, bird-sized crickets, named after the Māori god of ugly things. But a fellow camper excitedly led the wētā onto a stick and began to explain their incredible anatomy, their importance to New Zealand culture, and that some species are very endangered. I crept as near as I dared for a closer look. I still half wanted to scream, but a sense of wonder also started to bubble up inside me.

Once you respect the forest as a wild place, you can fully appreciate its beauty (even when it seems ugly at first glance). And once you understand its dangers, you can also see its fragility. How an act as simple as not washing your shoes can have disastrous effects if you track soil or algae to places they don’t belong. In New Zealand, the introduction of rats and weasels when humans arrived led to native birds competing for food and entire species being driven to near extinction. We humans have an extraordinary power over nature that should not be taken lightly, just as it has extraordinary power over us.

This relationship, the power that nature can wield and the respect we should show it, is a theme I have always explored in my writing and is central to A Wolf for a Spell. The villagers fear the forest because of its mystery and danger (and perhaps a witch or two), but the animals also fear humans because of their traps and weapons. Instead of caring for the forest and enjoying the benefits it offers, the humans let their fear lead to destruction.

Our own forests are every bit as magical as the forest inhabited by Baba Yaga, and as in need of protection. In writing A Wolf for a Spell, I wanted to dare readers to enter a world of danger and adventure and to leave with a greater awe and respect for the natural world around them, inspired to fight for its preservation.

Karah Sutton

Karah Sutton has loved Baba Yaga, ballet, and blini ever since she had to do a research project on her Russian heritage in the third grade. Her hunger for adventure inspired her to move from Kentucky to New Zealand, where it was rumored she would find talking trees and the occasional wood elf. Karah spent four years as a bookseller before she turned to writing her own fiction. A Wolf For a A Spell is her first novel.

Visit her online at KarahSutton.com or follow her on Twitter @Karahdactyl

Pauliina Hannuniemi is a Finnish illustrator with her Bachelor of Arts from Metropolia UoAS. This is her first book.