Review: The Gilded Wolves ~ by Roshani Chokshi
384 pages ~ Young Adult Fantasy
2019 – Wednesday Books
My Rating: 5/5 ✰✰✰✰✰
Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.
Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.
In the author’s notes, Chokshi states that she has always had a hard time reconciling the glamour of 1889 Paris- “courtesans and the Moulin Rouge, glittering parties and champagne” with the horrors of the Exposition Universelle, and rapid colonization and anti-Semitism that was also spreading at this time. She states “I wanted to understand how an era called La Belle Epoque, literally The Beautiful Era, could possess that name with that stain.” One of my favorite elements of this book is Chokshi’s ability to explore this question in such an artful and thought-provoking way. She has done exactly what she set out to do in this book. We still get the glitz and the glamour that you would expect of this era, but there is always an underlining push to question history, ownership, and who has the right to tell our stories. As she states, “I wanted to write this trilogy not to instruct or to condemn, but to question….Question what is gold and what glitters.” And she has done exactly that. Besides this artful juxtaposition of the La Belle Epoque Era, we also get an amazing cast of characters who I challenge anyone not to fall in love with, plus an adventure full of magic, myth, and suspense. Below are a few more of the high points for me:
The Characters • So many people have been comparing this to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, but I honestly found myself relating even more to these characters than I did in SoC. I saw little parts of myself in each one of them. They all have to overcome injustices and their own insecurities, while still staying true to themselves and going after what they want.
- Severin- “That boy looks like every dark corner of a fairy tale. The wolf in bed. The apple in a witch’s palm.” He is the dark, mysterious, brooding, mastermind that I always seem to fall in love with. He is really interesting because he has found a way to use his troubled past (his 7 fathers, named after the 7 deadly sins) to his advantage. He has an intense love for his friends, but his desire to protect them also causes him to close himself off.
- Laila- “A way to move through a world that tried to keep her to the sidelines = Don’t capture their hearts. Steal their imagination. It’s far more useful.” L’Enigma- The Mystery. This name is so fitting for Laila because the nature of her life is the only part of her that is the mystery. She has yet to discover how and why she was spared from death as a child. But Laila herself is not a mystery- she is open and loving, smart and determined. She carries great pride in her Indian heritage while trying to understand her future.
- Enrique- “When he realized he didn’t have the talent, he chose to study the subjects that felt closest to Forging: history and language. He could still change the world….maybe not with something as dramatic or grand as Forging, but in more intimate ways. Writing. Speaking. Human Connection.” Enrique is our brilliant Historian who longs to be part of the change and reform of Paris. Like Hypnos, he is also super witty- his batter between Zofia and Hypnos was definitely a highlight for me.
- Tristan- “His landscape artistry looked like the fever dream of a nature spirit. It was unsettling and beautiful, and Paris couldn’t get enough of it.” Tristan wants nothing more than to protect his friends, mainly Severin and Goliath (his tarantula), and create his magical plant worlds. But unlike Severin, he is not able to let go of the trauma of his past and he is haunted and broken in ways that are not always apparent.
- Zofia- “She’d said the wrong thing. She wanted to take it back, but then she remembered Laila’s advice. To perform. To own whatever illusion one cast of themselves.” Zofia’s social anxiety is one of the reasons that I relate to her the most. She is constantly evaluating and questioning herself, and unfortunately, always sells herself short. Everything is a numbers game to Zofia, so she has to work harder than most to live outside of her analytical world.
- Hypnos-”I shall keep your identity a secret, L’Enigma. And before I forget, I must tell you I adored your costume. So shiny. I’m rather tempted to see if it will fit me.” Wit beyond measure! He reminded me so much for Lord Henry Wotton from The Picture of Dorian Gray. He is constantly teasing and egging people on, trying to get to the core of what makes people tick, but at the same time, his desire to be loved and accepted by the group is so apparent that you can’t help but love him.
Magic/Heists/Codes/Puzzles • The magical heist in The Gilded Wolves definitely has Six of Crows vibes but while the characters in SoC rely heavily on stealth and sleight of hand, these characters have to rely on their knowledge of math, history, science, mythology, and religion in order to solve complicated puzzles and codes. It’s one of the elements of the book that puts you right in the action and it’s really exciting to read.
Obviously, I’m a huge fan. This book is thoughtfully written by an author who has clearly set out to pay homage to an era in its entirety- and not just the “beautiful” parts- but the darker, ugly side as well. She wants to show that both of these sides can and did exist simultaneously. But she also manages to give us one hell of an adventure while doing it. I can’t wait for the next installment in this series and to see where these characters go next!
A HUGE thank you to BookSparks for allowing me to be part of their YA Winter Reading Challange 2019 and for sending a copy of this my way. It has really been a pleasure partnering with this amazing group.
I am super excited to be attending Roshani’s signing in Phoenix tonight- I’ll be posting picture and videos over on my Instagram if you’re interested!