No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.
It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.
Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.
The Gilded Wolves is an utterly immersive and gorgeous book from start to finish, with high stakes adventure and heist action as well as a clever quest narrative that I devoured within a couple of days. This is my first time reading any of Roshani Chokshi’s writing but it most definitely will not be the last. I actually have an ARC of The Silvered Serpents (the sequel which will be out in September!!!) so I can’t wait to read it soon.
There are so many things I loved about this book, a huge one being the characters themselves. I’ve mentioned this a billion times at least, so sorry if you guys are sick of reading this but I love the found family trope so much and I’m usually a sucker for any book that features this, but I especially love how Chokshi features this trope within the book. I loved all of the interactions between the characters, from Séverin and Laila mooning over each other, to Zofia’s sharp mind cracking clues and remaining oblivious to Enrique’s jokes and attention and Tristan just generally being a wholesome person whom the group adores unquestionably. The group dynamic was well written and I genuinely felt that these characters were friends and cared about each other, which makes the events in the book, with all their highs and lows, all the more impactful.
Linking to the characters and their dynamics, I loved the bits of romance we did get in the novel. My favourite has to be the wistful and intense relationship between Séverin and Laila, neither party wants to be in love with the other but it’s clear that despite their best attempts to show otherwise, they do care about each other a lot. I loved that Laila calls him Majnun throughout the book and he has no idea why she calls him that, attributing it to the fact that it translates to madman but it’s also the name from the famous story of starcrossed lovers Layla and Majnun.
“Though the room was nearly dark, whatever light clung to its corners now raced to illuminate Laila. It seemed the world couldn’t help but want to be near her…every bean of light, pair of eyes, atom of air. Maybe that’s why sometimes he couldn’t breathe around her.”
As well as the characters and their dynamic as a group, I also loved the whole heist and quest narrative within this book. I liked that while each character had their own well explained motivation for taking part, they all collectively work like a well oiled machine…well for the most part! I liked that each character contributed to the plan and no one felt redundant. I always enjoy stories where the characters have to crack codes and follow clues and this element was so great here, I have to admit some of the bits about numbers and the Fibonacci sequence went over my head but I thoroughly enjoyed the journey despite this. I also want to point out that whilst this has some loose similarities with a very well known duology with a bird in its title, The Gilded Wolves totally stands up on it’s own and is completely different than that book and any comparisons or suggestions that this book is a rip off is just so far off base, it’s ridiculous. mini rant over!
As well as the heist and puzzle elements, I thought the exploration of colonialism, discrimination and exploitation added another complex and important layer to the book. I loved that this didn’t just feel thrown in but it was weaved into the plot deftly and actively contributes to who the characters are and explains their motivations and backstories. I thought the representation of Enrique and Séverin’s biracial identity – Enrique is Filipino and Spanish, Séverin is Algerian and French- in particular portrayed their desire to belong and claim their heritage and identity, which has been denied to them for so long because they’re not deemed enough or lesser simply because of who they are. I can’t speak for the validity of this rep as I’m not biracial / an own voices reviewer for this element of the book myself but I appreciated that this ‘conversation’ exists within the book all the same.
“Wolves were everywhere. In politics, on thrones, in beds. They cut their teeth on history and grew fat on war.”
Overall, The Gilded Wolves was everything I hoped it would be and I’m glad to have finally read it this year. If you’re a fan of diverse fantasy and Y/A with a warming found family element, complex characters and heist action and wit galore then definitely pick this book up.
Until next time,