The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)by Published 15 Jan 2019
|The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1).pdf|
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 (The Gilded Wolves, #1) Reviews
History is a myth shaped by the tongues of conquerors.
- From the Author's Note
Well. Chokshi has really stepped up her game with this book. It's like Six of Crows mixed with the best bits of a Dan Brown book. In short, it's full of friendship, scheming, and lots of puzzles to solve.
I began reading The Gilded Wolves with some trepidation. My multiple attempts to read the author's past work led to me complaining about a disconnect with her flowery, poetic writing style. In this book, the descriptions are vivid and opulent, but she loses a lot of the synesthetic metaphors, making it a much more enjoyable read for me.
It's Paris 1889, during the Exposition Universelle - a world's fair that featured grand operas, displays of locomotives, the largest diamond in the world at the time... and a "Negro village". A human zoo. This is not fantasy. Much of this book is the real history of Paris in all its sparkly ugliness. Into this very real setting, comes a tale of the divine art of Forging - an art whose power is believed to come from the broken pieces of the Tower of Babel.
Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is a thief and the son of a French father and North-African mother. He's also the heir to the dead House Vanth, if only the Order of Babel would accept him and grant him his inheritance. Séverin's pursuit of what is rightfully his leads him on a hunt for a Horus Eye, which is said to reveal the location of a Babel fragment. To do so, he will of course need the help of his diverse band of allies.
And can I just say I loved them? Each and every one.
💫 Tristan - Séverin's sweet brother; a lover of plants and animals, especially his tarantula Goliath. He's such a lovable goof.
💫 Laila - A feisty Indian dancer and part-time pastry chef. The chemistry between Laila and Séverin sizzles, and we soon learn that there's history between them that they are both trying to forget.
💫 Zofia - One of my two favourite characters. She is Polish, Jewish, and a genius. I think it's also implied that she might be autistic, too, as she struggles to understand jokes and human behaviour in general, but is great with numbers and solving the puzzles.
💫 Hypnos - Séverin's childhood rival. Hypnos is dark-skinned, unapologetically queer and absolutely hilarious. “Oh no, shiny things,” moaned Hypnos, clapping his hands to his heart. “My weakness.”
💫 Enrique - Ah, and my other favourite character. Enrique, my love. He's bisexual and mixed race - Filipino and Spanish - and is just the kind of perfectly snarky, funny, smart character I love. Plus, he's a history buff, so even more yay.
I love them all.
Also, The Gilded Wolves is a smorgasbord of mythology. In fact, it's main weakness might be that it's more than a little convoluted and dense. There's four third-person perspectives, and the codes and puzzles bring in a mix of Greek mythology, Biblical mythology, Chinese cleromancy, mathematics, and more. It makes a certain kind of poetic sense to have so many different mythologies, though, given the Babel story.
I think the bombardment of various mythologies is tempered somewhat by the dazzling and very enjoyable dialogue. It is especially fun when Zofia and Enrique bicker. They are both so smart, but in very different ways, and it is amusing to watch the back-and-forth of Zofia being dry and literal and Enrique being sarcastic and snarky.
“What proof did you have? What was your research?”
“Superstition. Stories,” said Enrique, before adding just to annoy her: “A gut instinct.”
It's a very interesting read, both fun and packed full of history lessons. Unlike the author's other books, this one stays low on the romance and high on the scheming and politics. But if that disappoints you, don't worry. With lines like this, romance cannot be too far away:
“That boy looks like every dark corner of a fairy tale. The wolf in bed. The apple in a witch’s palm.”
CW: Racism; antisemitism; abuse.
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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
“Sometimes the only way to take down what had destroyed you was to disguise yourself as part of it.”
Most of you know that Roshani Chokshi is one of my favorite authors. I loved both The Star-Touched Queen & A Crown of Wishes with my whole heart and soul! So, I knew when she was writing a brand-new series, about a found family completing heists and solving puzzles, that I wouldn’t be able to resist once I got my hands on an ARC. And friends, this was such a treat to read.
This is a historical fantasy set in alternate 1889 Paris, France, and in this alternate world, children will manifest magical powers by the age of thirteen. And there are two different kinds of magic; the magic of mind and the magic of matter. There is also a very powerful secret society, that goes by the name of the Order of Babel, and it used to be made up of four houses, but two houses took over ten years ago. And by doing so, they made a very big mistake claiming the heir of one of those fallen houses as dead.
“Turning into ghosts is not what the dead deserve.”
➽ Séverin - Biracial (Algerian & French). For sure the leader of the group, who wants nothing more than to keep his crew safe and out of harm’s way. But he is on a mission to reclaim his true inheritance that was stolen from him with lies ten years ago, because he gets an offer than he couldn’t possibly refuse.
➽ Laila - Indian (ownvoices), dancer, who is dealing with a lot of grief and a lot of anxiety over her past. She has the magical (matter) forging ability to touch any object and read it to know everything about it. And she desperately needs Séverin’s plan to work.
➽ Tristan - White, and Séverin considers him his little brother, because they moved around a lot together in foster care. Also, Tristan loves his pet tarantula, Goliath, more than anything, but he’s still my favorite little gardener/botanist.
➽ Zofia - On the Autism spectrum, Jewish, Polish, has anxiety, and a lot of her actions (in my opinion, as someone who has OCD) feels like she may also fall on the OCD spectrum. She finds comfort in numbers, needs to have things in their rightful place, and is willing to do any and everything for her little sister that she was forced to leave behind. Zofia also has magical forging abilities of the mind.
➽ Hypnos - Black, queer (probably pan, maybe bi, and maybe even non-binary), heir of a French aristocrat but know he is also a descendant of slavery. His story line is a little rough at first, but you soon realize that he considers Séverin a brother to him, and honestly? Hypnos ended up being my second favorite character. Also, he made me giggle so much that my tummy hurt.
➽ Enrique - Biracial (Filipino (ownvoices) & Spanish), queer (he is either bisexual or pansexual, but I’m not sure my heart can take reading about a half Filipino, pan character because it is all I’ve ever wanted in literature!) But, this character meant a lot to me. I am not sure I’ve ever read specifically about a biracial Filipino dealing with cultural erasure on both sides of their heritage before. I mean, this book is literally people trying to erase cultures from history, and Enrique is literally a historian, but seeing people make comments about his looks and biraciality just really hit home for me on a really personal level. I completely realize that there comes an immense privilege with being white passing but reading this book and feeling how real and hurtful it is when people disregard you and erase you because you don’t fit in their stereotypical mold of what a half Asian person should look like, but they also never let you forget that you’re not fully white. Yet, also not feeling like you truly fit in because of your lighter or more westernized features, even if they comment about it in a way that they believe is positive and a compliment. And Enrique also has to deal with people thinking that Asian people are interchangeable and thinking that their cruel and ignorant words are acceptable to say. I loved all the characters in this book, but Enrique just felt like the character I’ve been searching for for a very long while and he just really encompassed so many things that I hold inside myself every day. His character just meant a lot to me, and I will cherish him forever and always in my heart.
(Breathtaking art(s) by Nicole Deal!)
And this ragtag group of misfits come together and create something so beautiful that I hardly have words to describe it. This book heavily talks about colonization. And even though the heart of this novel is about a found family who unconditionally loves one another, the soul of this novel is about cultural erasure and how important it is to keep the traditions and history from your culture, no matter who tries to make you believe that theirs is superior. And this book really puts an emphasis of the terrible acts people will commit while saying that it’s for or because of a higher power.
“But the greatest thief of all was the Order of Babel, for they stole more than just objects . . . they stole histories”
But all these characters feel like a tier above the rest of what YA has to offer. They feel so real, their pain feels so raw, and you just want to protect them all at all costs. Roshani really is a master word weaver and I can’t help falling in love with every story she puts into the world. She is also the master of romance, and I was swooning extra hard for two people in this. (Also, the set up to book two will probably be the death of me!) As for the other romantic relationship, Roshani is either going to completely slay me with the love triangle or give me everything I’ve ever wanted with a polyamorous relationship. Lord, hear my prayers.
Also, because I don’t think I mentioned this above, a good portion of this book is set at a hotel called L’Eden where the crew lives and develops new advancements to help them with their missions. I know I’ve already gushed pretty hard over this book, but I love books that are set in hotels and inns so much, and it was just such an unexpected treat. Then again, Roshani always writes the best settings and my heart fell completely in love with a poisonous greenhouse in this story, too.
Overall, I just really loved this one. I am sure many people will compare The gilded Wolves to a mix of Six of Crows & The Da Vinci Code upon release, and I think that’s valid, bu I think it has its own unique spin, too. The cast is diverse and lovable, the writing is lush and beautiful, the themes are important and heartfelt, and the story is captivating and unputdownable. If you like a story with secrets and mystery, filled artifacts and puzzle solving, with a little romance and funny banter, then I completely recommend picking up The Gilded Wolves upon release.
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Content and trigger warnings for colonialism, cultural erasure, and racism (always challenged and in a negative light), blood depiction, mention of past suicide, loss of a loved one, bullying in the past, abandonment, anxiety attacks, mention of a stillbirth, and depictions of grief.
Buddy read with Kristi, Mel, Amy, Caidyn, Lily, & Alex! ❤
This book is over and all I’m left with is a fucked-up sleep schedule and 100 more crushes on fictional characters that I don’t have time for.
Everything I knew about The Gilded Wolves’ fascinating premise led me to believe that it’s going to dig in the talons of sentimentality and vibrate in the chambers of my heart and awaken my soul from a slumber that was far, far too long. I’m a sucker for tightly knit bands of outcasts and a good heist book, and I'm completely confident in stating, without an ounce of hyperbole, that this is one of the most fun books I've ever read!
So, what's this book about?
Trouble often comes to those who make it and Séverin Montagnet-Alarie, a French-Algerian wealthy hotelier and part-time treasure hunter, has carved for himself twice as many paths to trouble.
Ten years ago, the Order of Babel—the all-too-powerful secret society of Paris—denied Séverin’s claim as heir of House Vanth and declared their line legally dead. But the Order’s decision is holding every hallmark of a lie, and for years, they luxuriated in seeing Séverin’s dream shatter, and him hobbled and lamed, foundering in the shards of his broken hopes.
When Hypnos—young heir of House Nyx—offers Séverin the chance to restore his lost inheritance in exchange for turning his “acquisitions” skills to a mythical and possibly dangerous object belonging to the Order, Séverin’s mind flashes before him an alternate history of his own life, in which he settles in for a lifetime of saying “fuck you” to the Order. His future now seems to have thinned to a point of destiny, and it had a name: revenge. But one can only get so far on thoughts of vengeance alone…
✨ Enrique , a brilliant Spanish-Filipino historian who was more like a textbook that occasionally remembered how to be an active member of society and who, like me, is one of those people who are so sarcastic with you which could only mean that they’re unapologetically flirting with you or you really annoy them and they can’t stand you.
✨ Zofia , a Jewish Polish mathematician with a rare magical affinity who was arrested for arson and expelled from the University and who, also like me, has a massive fear that no one actually likes her, rather everyone is just politely tolerating her hoping she’d leave them alone. (me? projecting? more likely than you’d think!)
✨ Laila , an Indian made-up girl with an ability to read people’s history while holding an object of their possession, baker extraordinaire and the epitome of what a mom friend is.
✨ Tristan , kind of a botanical specialist and who is a very recluse sort of person, and just wants to be left alone with his gigantic pet spider.
✨ And even Hypnos himself, the young heir of a French aristocrat whom people were quick to underestimate because they only ever see the dark of his skin and consider him less than they are. But as it is often the case, underestimation only happens to one’s greatest peril.
Six huge nerds. One impossible heist slash treasure hunt. The outcome could either be a dream or a death sentence. Paris drags out its secrets, and Séverin soon learns the things that could be taken away in a heartbeat, all in the pursuit of power.
“When you are who they expect you to be, they never look too closely. If you’re furious, let it be fuel,” Séverin said, looking each of them in the eye. “Just don’t forget that enough power and influence makes anyone impossible to look away from. And then they can’t help but see you.”
The Gilded Wolves reminds me of Six of Crows...if a root of this book had tapped down into a hidden pool of poison and drunk, then fed on bitter smoke and vengeance and a williness to do violence that had never been known before. In other words, The Gilded Wolves is definitely less lethal—but it’s spectacular in its own cruel cleverness and beauteous, dark, and enthralling in its own unique way.
The Gilded Wolves is a magical take on an ever-compelling theme, with just enough riddles and conundrums to entertain the history and science geeks but not so much to turn off the fantasy naysayers. And best of all, it’s inclusive, diverse, feminist, and wonderfully queer. I found myself filled to the brim with gratitude coiling into every moment of admiration for Chokshi’s craft: gratitude for agency, nuance, complexity, inclusiveness, representation, mingled with awe at the way she draws on a wealth of meticulously detailed research to flesh out the characters’ surroundings, and never falters in the balance between the necessity of telling a story, and the indulgence of making it a pretty story by imbuing it with the lush, descriptive language for which Chokshi has become known.
I could also write gushing praise about the deep undercurrents that make this book transcends a mere story about cool magic and perilous quests into something so much more. About the straightforward discussions of slavery, exploitation, colonialism and colorism, about how fascinating is the book's twining of religion, capital and enchantment, about the depth, loneliness and longing of the characters (their longing to be called what they want to be called instead of simply falling into what they were given at birth), about how Séverin’s, Enrique’s and Hypnos’ biraciality is the book's warm, glowing heart, about their weariness of grasping at smoke and trying to connect glimpses of their history together, of wanting to belong to both sides of their heritage and being denied one (or both) of them. About how effortlessly interlaced all of the aforementioned is with the presence of magic.
“What no one tells you is that even when you decide which world you will live in, the world may not always see you as you would wish. Sometimes it demands that you be so outrageous as to transcend your very skin. You can change your name. Your eye color. Make yourself a myth and live within it, so that you belong to no one but yourself.”
Everything in this book delighted me, from the characters’ endearing wit and multidimensionality to the plot that manages to be twisty and thorny without being unduly complex or overpowering—yes, sometimes the tension of the story gets inevitably lost, but I love how Chokshi cleverly replaces it with the slow unfurling of all the weasley half-truths and lies that are propping up the shambles of the characters’ lives—to the supporting interlopers, and antagonists who are textured enough to feel real in the moment, and especially to the way this book hews to all my favorite romantic tropes: the slow burn enemies-to-they’re-actually-not-that-bad-to-friends-to-are-we-lovers-now romance (sprinkled with intense polyamorous vibes), and while we’ve all heard of one-sided unrequited love, this book raises you “two-sided unwanted love” when both characters are deeply in love with each other but both are disappointed in themselves and are like, “really?? them?? really?” I loved it.
“Am I pretty?” asked Enrique, plucking at his fake beard and patting his hands over his jowls, wrinkles and age spots. “Be honest.”
“‘Pretty’ is a stretch. Let’s call you ‘striking.’ Or ‘impossible to look away from’.”
“Oooh. Like the sun?”
“I was thinking more along the lines of a train wreck.”
The ending abruptly throws the veracity of most of the earlier narration into doubt, which was kind of dislocating but in a thrilling sort of way. I finished this book with the feeling of having raced through a labyrinth and found only dead ends—a labyrinth with no solution. The Gilded Wolves is definitely setting up interesting hooks for future installments and I'm genuinely excited to see where and how the story unfolds!
If you've never yet read a book by Roshani Chokshi, this would be a great place to start.
ARC kindly provided by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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this book is serving some major ‘six of crows’ meets ‘the da vinci code' realness and i had no idea that was something i needed in my life until now.
gosh, with a story this good, where do i even begin? the massive cast of diverse and interesting characters who have each made their way into my small heart? the intricate and highly thought-out plot that constantly delivers twists and turns at every corner? the effortless and gorgeous writing which paints a historically stunning world filled with delicious food, breathtaking sights, and cunning individuals? this story is the ultimate treasure hunt and X marks everything i love about it.
and sure, no matter how much i rave about this, it isnt without its problems. there are some massive info dumps that take some effort to sort through, the acute focus on details can make the writing seem dense (and even confusing) at times, and there are some inaccuracies with the french translations. but once you get past those minor hiccups, this story has sooo much to offer.
i honestly feel that, with this book, roshani chokshi has finally come into her own and made the transition from queen to goddess. i am so glad this was signed on as a trilogy because i cant wait to see where this story goes and how its built upon. and i have a strong feeling i am not going to be disappointed.
↠ 4.5 stars
I read the first chapter of Gilded Wolves and was like "ok, I need to clear like 2 days because once I start this, I won't be able to put it down." AND SO IT WAS. Roshani perfectly balances the stories of Severin, Laila, Zofia, Enrique and Tristan, taking us on an unrelenting adventure through and alternative Paris filled with magic and intrigue and power-hungry families.
And the descriptions of food! And clothes! The fight scenes! The romance! I felt like I was living in this world, and am sort of grumpy that I'm not, to be honest.
One thing that stood out to me was the originality of the characters within their own identities--as marginalized characters who are dealing with issues that marginalized characters *would* deal with in real life--but in a historical fantasy. It's not often that you see that, and Roshani handles it beautifully, particularly as concerns Enrique and his half-Spanish, half-Filipino heritage. His longing to be part of a full-blooded Filipino group is explored with great skill.
And now...the wait for Book 2. Urgh. Write faster, Roshani, write faster!