Okay, okay, after promising I’d get back to normal I’m immediately going to break my own rules. You see, I have 5 books waiting to be reviewed, and I typically like to do everything in order because it’s easier on my memory. But The Gilded Wolves was so damned good I had to move it up to the front of the que! If you like YA lit, fantasy, historical fiction, diverse reads, or even just exceptional characters this baby needs to be on your must read list when it’s released in the new year.
Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Expected Publication Date: January 15, 2019
Genre: Fiction, YA, Fantasy
Themes: Family, Friendship, Romance, LGBTQ
My Rating: 5/ 5
Set in a darkly glamorous world, The Gilded Wolves is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous but thrilling adventure.
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.
This book is insane, challenging, diverse, and inclusive in the best ways possible. It explores gender, sexuality, race and privilege without making any overt statements. And best of all, it challenges the sordid histories of subjugation and colonialism in an imaginative and introspective way. Oh, and this heavy hitter is clever disguised on an epic (almost steampunk) fantasy filled with magic, science, history and drama to boot!
Set during the French Revolution, and steeped in colourful imagery, the combination of history and fantasy is one that is sure to set the imagination on fire. I fell in love with the food, the costumes, the magic of forging, and the world Chokshi created. But best of all the characters are complete and entirely unique. If you don’t find yourself feeling for one or more of Severin’s crew, you must be broken. Seriously, who can’t help but love a band of plucky, artefact stealing, mission oriented, insanely intelligent misfits? Let em give you the run down:
First, there’s Severin. The rightful heir to house Vanth which has been declared dead by the Order of Babel. He’s the ring leader of our motley crew and at a ridiculously young age liquidated his fortune and turned himself in the owner of the lavish L’Eden Hotel. Now, if you’re a fan of Gossip Girl think Chuck Bass in the midst of the French Revolution, but with magic and friends that actually like him. He’s moody, secretive, loyal, and pining after an insanely independent and determined cabaret dancer. Oh, and he thinks he’s being kinder (not) by making his friends swear, and marking them with, kinder oaths than most of the other masters out there. The truth is though, that he is really just a broody, handsome, and rather lovable tyrant.
Then there’s Tristan, Severin’s half brother and equally cast out son of house Vanth. Brilliant botanist, forever childlike, and obsessed with his giant spider Goliath. At first I was irked by his unwavering innocence in the face of such hardship, but as the boy’s pasts were revealed my ire changed to pity, and finally pity to fondness. His story, though less explicitly told, was perhaps the most moving and heartbreaking of the group.
Next is Laila, our enigmatic pastry chef who just so happens to moonlight as Paris’ most famous dancer. She is well versed in the languages of beauty and power, mysterious to the core, and just so happens to be the forbidden object of Severn’s desire. And despite all of this she is kind, empathetic, and the glue that holds this motley crew together in spite of Severin’s delusions of leadership. Her tenderness and social aptitude save her friends on more often than they give her credit for. And she has her own secrets too – a mysterious past, a dire quest, and a wicked streak you don’t want to get on the wrong side of.
Enter Zofia the resident mathematical genius and baby pyromaniac. She’s socially awkward, painfully literal, and the most endearingly blunt character I have every encountered. I have no doubt that her exclusion and bullying at school will be relatable to many. Her attempts at learning how to flirt might split your gut, and her refusal to be anyone or anything but her brilliant, awkward and calculating self will leave you cheering for strong female characters everywhere.
Then there’s Enrique, scholar and historian, who wants nothing more than to be accepted by his countrymen. He’s so blinded by desire that he’s often incapable of seeing his place amongst his peers, and how loved he is by his friends. He’s the quintessential representation and exploration of otherness. He’s egotistical, vain, and entirely oblivious of his effect on others. I couldn’t help but feel for Enrique’s desire to be accepted, and found his love of luxury impossible to look away from – especially since so many of his obsessions have to do with the relics of the Order, decoding the mysterious, and generally making academia (dare I say it?) sexy.
And finally we have Hypnos, our young flamboyant patriarch, who experiences his otherness on a level apart from the others. Acknowledged member of the order yet looked on with disdain, childhood friend of Severin yet kept at arm’s length from the group, and painfully lonely in a way that wealth and power can’t correct. We’ve all seen that kid, hell we might have even been that kid, who wants so badly to be part of a group but just doesn’t fit in – and it’s impossible not to draw connections to your own life.
I want to say more about the actual plot, but I’m scared that I would dole out some ridiculous spoilers. There is no detail in this book that doesn’t have meaning, so be prepared to go back and read a few things twice! The symbolism, foreshadowing, and planning in this book are on the next level. It might be listed as YA, but The Gilded Wolves can be enjoyed by all.
Would I recommend this book? Oh hell yes! And better yet, it’s set to come out on my birthday. I strongly suggest you read it as a gift to me. But if you’re not into charitable reading, do it for yourself – it’s beautifully written, imaginative, and carriers some powerful messages. Read it book nerds, it’s amazing.
Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.