Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Series: The Gilded Wolves #1
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: January 15th, 2019 (Wednesday Books)
Synopsis: 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.
“When you are who they expect you to be, they never look too closely.
If you’re furious, let it be fuel.”
I was initially very hesitant to read this book, especially as I wasn’t a huge fan of the author’s earlier novel, The Star-Touched Queen, but seeing the amazing early reviews – and that beautiful cover – I added it to my TBR on a whim. Roshani Chokshi has definitely stepped up her game in this one!
Séverin Montagnet-Alarie, wealthy hotelier and thief, is the rightful heir to House Vanth, one of four French Houses belonging to the Order of Babel, a society that guards an ancient secret. Denied his inheritance and determined to earn it back, Séverin finds himself on a dangerous quest to locate an artifact that may prove to be the answer to his troubles. Not alone, however. Five friends join this endeavour, each with their own special abilities, each with their own purposes. But as the saying goes, no plan ever survives first contact, and the group quickly find themselves in very precarious positions.
The Gilded Wolves is a delightful, Six of Crows-esque roller coaster, with a healthy dose of mystery thrown in for good measure. Paris, at the turn of the nineteenth century is an intriguing setting, with fact and fantasy intertwined. The Industrial Revolution is around the corner, yet there is another kind of magic prevalent – the art of Forging, an ability some people are born with to exert influence over either mind or matter.
The Gilded Wolves doesn’t feel like a novel with a historical setting. The presence of all the mysterious artifacts and the wonder of Forging makes up for the lack of traditional technology and makes me as a reader forget I’m supposed to be reading about the late nineteenth century – this is an entirely different world. Add to that the sheer amount of research that must have gone into this novel for the concept alone – from the biblical stories to the various tales and artifacts from a number of different cultures, to the discussions on mathematics and various sciences and my personal favourite, the puzzles, it all definitely makes this book stand out. Six of Crows-esque it may be, but this has an immersive magic all its own.
But beautiful and intricate world building aside, the true beauty of this book is in its characters. It has been a really long time since I’ve come across a cast of characters I’ve liked so much. I give this book an A+ for character development, and that’s without even getting into the amount of representation present! Roshani Chokshi gives us six amazing, incredibly diverse characters, and what’s more, their POVs are perfectly balanced. At no point did it ever feel like the author was trying too hard – it felt like it all just belonged in the plot naturally, and that goes doubly so for the social issues woven into the narrative.
My favourite POVs to read were definitely Zofia and Enrique. Both are amazing characters and many of the lighter moments in the story come from them. Laila is the character I’m most curious about at the end of this book, beside Séverin of course. Most of her past is still a mystery and I’m looking forward to reading more about her history and how her personal mission is going to turn out in the sequel. Séverin himself is everything one would expect in a ringleader of treasure hunters – mysterious, unpredictable, but also incredibly protective of his people. And then there’s Tristan, Séverin’s brother in all but blood. I did wonder why Tristan didn’t have a POV when I was about halfway through and after those last few chapters, my thought was – “Oh. That’s why”. I literally blinked and went back a page because I hoped I’d read it wrong. I just finished this book so it hasn’t sunk in yet but I’m sure that will happen soon enough.
As for the ending, I absolutely loved it, especially since it felt like there was a piece missing all along. I suspected from the beginning that there was something more to Séverin’s past – I have my theories and I can’t wait to see if I’m right! Fans of Leigh Bardugo will definitely appreciate this magical adventure and I’m particularly thrilled to have come across such a good read this early in the year!