The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1)
by Namina Forna

This is your “young girl finds out she’s special and is taken away to warrior training” trope but with overtones of non-Western culture, some masterfully woven in secrets, and oblique referencing to rape, torture, and killing that is truly for only the oldest of the YA age range (IMHO).

Deka lives in a repressive village with her father and has come of age–meaning she’s on her way to a purity ceremony where she will be cut and her blood will either run red (meaning she’s human) or gold (meaning she’s a demon).

It’s not spoiling much to say that things don’t go smoothly for Deka and she is whisked away to a special female warrior training school for fighting deathshrieks. Punishments like being skinned alive happen if warriors in this school don’t get their required quota.

There she forms tight friendships with a band of other girl warriors, and a romance with her assigend male recruit from the regular army. (Could have done without the YA romance with this recruit. It would have made an emotionally stronger, more complex story without the overt romance but keeping that emotional bond).

There’s such cool lore here: the deathshrieks, White Hands the noble who guides Deka’s life, her pet Ixa, the forbidden goddesses whose temples are still hidden.

But yikes, the repressive society formed here to root out girl demons is pretty awful. And super bad things happen to Deka and her friends before they arrive at the training school. Some awesome secrets are woven into this story that are revealed with satisfying hints…but the biggest secret around why the demon girls are suddenly allowed to train seem a bit plot-contrived.

No matter, this is still quite an impressively woven story. I would definitely read on to find out what happens next if more books come, and extra points for no cliffhangers at the end!