Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)
But for the most minor of things (one single typo), this book was perfect. Everything about it, from the writing to the editing to the plot to the character, was perfect; I could not name one single thing that could be improved (other than that one typo -- 'lungs' in place of 'lunges' -- easily missed).
In the author's notes section, the author thanks multiple editors, a copy editor, proofreader, and a number of other editor-like roles, and the results of all that proofreading shows.
But, while the writing and editing are very important to me, plot and characters are just as (or more!) important. Those are just as strong as her technical writing.
The story takes place in Korea, and does the wonderful, WONDERFUL thing where it teaches you a whole lot without ever knocking you out of the story to do so. To be honest, before this book I never really thought much about Korea. Never had the slightest desire to go there. This story taught me a lot about it, about the language and the people and the land and the culture, and it opened my eyes tot he fact that it's an interesting place.
The main character (Jae Hwa) is a strong girl, but in a fully believable way, not just strong so the author could sell the story as having a strong female lead. And, while she's physically strong, she has believable flaws and comes off as a realistic teenage girl. (Yet, unlike so many other YA books, she's not an annoying teenager.)
Gilded does something very few YA books succeed at: The romance between Jae Hwa and her boyfriend did not annoy me one bit. I believed it, and I liked it. It did not take away from the story at all. While there was a "best friend"/female friend, there was none of that usual love triangle crap that so many YA books pull. Their friendship was just as realistic and believable as everything else in this book.
The plot was fantasy/myth-based. Jae Hwa's family was cursed -- the oldest girl of each generation would be stolen away by a demigod to be made into his wife. Jae Hwa was the oldest girl, but wasn't about to just allow herself to be kidnapped out of her world, nor was she going to allow all the souls of the girls who were stolen before her to remain trapped by the demigod.
All of the supernatural elements were believable -- something I so often have a challenge with in books.
I know I keep coming back to that word, "believable". More important than anything else, stories and characters have to be believable for me to enjoy them, thus it's the highest praise I can give. (Even the most out-there stories have to be believable within their own setting.) That this is her first published book makes all this even more impressive.
Highly recommended for multiple reasons. I'm impatiently waiting for her second book!