National Treasure Meets Six of Crows | Review: The Gilded Wolves

Title: The Gilded Wolves

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Genre: YA fantasy

Series: Book 1 in a trilogy

Pub. Date: Jan. 15th, 2019

Synopsis: 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.

Hello my friends, today is a very special day on the blog (and in the YA community) because it’s the release day of The Gilded Wolves!! I think a lot of us spent the last half of 2018 highly anticipating this book, I know I certainly did. Today I’m finally bringing you my review as a part of Wednesday Book‘s wonderful blog tour and a super special surprise at the end!

To start, I feel I should admit a shameful fact about myself: this was my first Roshani Chokshi book. I’ve had The Star-Touched Queen on my shelf literally since it was released and just haven’t gotten to it, but after loving The Gilded Wolves, all of Roshani’s books will soon be read! Also, apologies in advance for the abundance of quotes I used but there are so many good ones in this book I just couldn’t not use them!

One of the first things about this book that immediately made me fall in love with Roshani’s writing and world-building was the historical setting. I feel like she could have easily put the story in modern day France, but getting to read about all the shimmering lights, elaborate artwork, and glittering castles (or should I say, châteaus) of the Gilded Age (or late 1800s) is such a treat. Most YA historical fiction tends to be set during either Victorian England or WWII, so getting a fresh look at a time period that I wasn’t super familiar with added such a gorgeous aesthetic layer to this story that truly set Roshani’s storytelling apart.

The magic system in this book is also really cool and fairly unique! I was very surprised to find that much of the world-building is based on biblical stories, mainly the Tower of Babel. That Abrahamic background, interwoven with artifacts and tales from ancient Egypt, dynastic China, and ancient Greece/Rome, gave this book a very distinct flavor that any history (especially art history) nerd like myself is bound to become obsessed with!

“Enrique, who had always dreamed about what magic might feel like, thought he had found it then: myths and palimpsests, starlight sugaring the air, and the way hope feels painful when shared equally among friends.”

The Gilded Wolves follows the mishaps and attempted heists (yes, there are multiple) of Laila, Tristan, Enrique, Zofia, and Séverin, a gang of lovable misfits who all have a desire to fulfill and a somewhat dreadful past to overcome.

Sound familiar? Well, it did to me too. Right off the bat I noticed some extreme similarities between The Gilded Wolves and Six of Crows, to the point that I was very nervous to see how the rest of the story would play out. But after about a third of the way in, I quickly saw that I had nothing to be worried about. The plot divulges into a brand new story of twists and turns that I definitely did not see coming, and Roshani’s band of weirdos certainly has its own set of adorable, ridiculous, and occasionally heart-wrenching individuals that easily hold their own.

Séverin Montagnet-Alarie, the leader and strategic mastermind behind the gang’s various missions, wants nothing more than to regain his rightful status as patriarch of the magical House Vanth. He’s close to finally accomplishing that ultimate goal when Hypnos, the tricky and ever-flirtatious patriarch of House Nyx, interferes in one of Séverin’s plots and strikes up a deal that only vaguely looks like blackmail.

The overall pacing and plot of this book are perfection, I was never once bored and was always eager to pick up the next chapter and keep reading (something I’m finding more and more difficult to achieve as Netflix keeps producing such addictive TV shows). Parts of this definitely feel like The DaVinci Code, with complicated puzzles and codes that our smartical particle friends Zofia and Enrique have to put their heads together to figure out. Roshani expertly wove in facts about different civilizations and cultures that made those puzzles way more intriguing than your typical vague prophecy or coded letter. But my only real complaint with this entire novel is that some of the puzzles felt like they were solved much too quickly, I would have loved to see one larger puzzle span the entire length of the plot. However, those scenes were still some of my favorites in the book, so I can’t wait to see what other trickiness she has in store for us in the sequel!

While the characters definitely reflect Six of Crows to an extent, and the historical clues brought to mind the DaVinci Code, the one other comparison I would make with The Gilded Wolves is to National Treasure (you know, the movie franchise with Nicholas Cage that was actually pretty good but no one appreciates because it has Nick Cage).

There are giant rolling balls, surprise trap floors (no, not trap doors, trap floors), poisonous plants, and exploding walking sticks. I absolutely LOVED IT. I seriously could not get enough of all the treasure-hunt-style booby traps and races against the clock, can I please get even more in book two?!

“Dangerous, yes, but the most rewarding things are.”

By the time you get to the big climactic scene towards the end, you should be clutching the book with white knuckles the way I was. Oh, but don’t think you can let go or take a breath afterwards, because Roshani threw in literally 100 million twists that actually left me with a physical hole in my chest staring at the page thinking solely in a long, long string of expletives when I turned the final page. Thanks a lot for that, Roshani.

But aside from the A+ world-building and heart-racing plot, there’s one thing this book does better than probably any other YA fantasy book I’ve read to date: representation.

Now, take what I say with a grain of salt since I can’t speak for the representation myself, but I do want to provide a quick list of each character’s identities/marginalizations for those who are interested (definitely took this list from a page out of Melanie @ Mel to the Any’s book). A lot of the rep is not necessarily labeled on-page using modern day terms, since this is historical fiction. But Roshani makes many things very clear from each character’s perspective.

Séverin – Biracial; Algerian and French

Laila – Indian (ownvoices rep)

Tristan – White

Zofia – Jewish (Polish), on the Autism spectrum

Enrique – Biracial; Filipino (ownvoices rep) and Spanish, bisexual (possibly pansexual)

Hypnos – Black, in the LGBTQ+ community (likely pansexual or bisexual)

So as you can tell from that list, Roshani is serving up this community some real blessings. On top of the fact that she made each of these characters’ identities such a huge part of their development and growth, the heart of The Gilded Wolves really lies in avenging marginalized people of past generations that were treated unfairly simply for who they were, as well as in fighting for different (non-white) cultures to save them from hateful erasure. I highly suggest reading the author’s note at the end of the book once you get a copy, because Roshani beautifully explains her inspiration for The Gilded Wolves and it will make the whole reading experience even more meaningful. I don’t want to say anything more though without potentially spoiling the rest of the book!

“I wanted to explore beauty and horror through the eyes of the people on the sidelines.”

Author’s Note

Along with the diverse representation though, let me just say one thing: if you thought love triangles were dead, YOU’RE SO WRONG. Roshani is doing the lord’s work by bringing them back in a very gay, bisexual way (*hint hint*) and I’M ABSOLUTELY OBSESSED. To be fair, there’s also a big possibility that the love triangle might actually be/will end up being a polyamorous relationship, which would also be fricking amazing. Either way, I know my heart is gonna get ripped out because I love all three of those characters so much!

So let’s just segway right into romance and character relationships shall we? It’s rare that I find myself utterly obsessed with a certain ship (it does happen, but not super frequently), but by god if Roshani didn’t manage to do just that. My good friend Brittany @banualcosmos on Twitter always said that Roshani’s romance writing literally made her feel nauseous the characters are just that good for each other (or, maybe I should say bad for each other), and I think I totally felt that physical effect. There were scenes between Laila and Séverin (yes, those are the two sassy, indecisive children I’m speaking of) with so much damn sexual tension and passion that my heart became an actual puddle in my chest and I physically could not breathe in oxygen. I’ve never felt so viscerally attacked by two characters’ banter before, especially towards the end of the novel. And the set-up for book two is actually going to MURDER me, like I’m talking knives to the gut and a sword through my head kind of emotional murder.

“‘Your hands are frigid,’ she said, scowling. ‘What king of lover has cold hands?’

‘One who makes up for temperature with talent.'”

*Chokes just reading that line* But anyways, I shall leave you to discover that pain for yourself. While the romance killed me, all the cute, adorable dialogue between the other characters gave me absolute life. If you follow Roshani on social media you’ll easily see her quirky sense of humor shine through in her characters, and I loved it with my whole heart. The squad (I definitely feel like Roshani is the type to write a squad rather than a gang) would be in the most intense strategic meetings or literally in the middle of battle and Hypnos or somebody (usually Hypnos god bless his soul) would make the most random comment and I would proceed to throw my e-reader across the room and smile as I went to pick it up again. Also I LOVE GOLIATH THE TARANTULA. BRING BACK GOLIATH IN BOOK TWO PLEASE ROSHANI PLEASE.

“Please can he stay for the meeting? Goliath is different. He’s special.”

With that brief explosion of my emotions thrown on the page, I leave you all with a final parting thought: read. this. book. Even though your TBR is the size of the state of Kansas and you have dozens of other new releases to get to, make time for this one. Roshani crafts an exquisitely told story of love, sacrifice, peril, friendship, adventure, and yes, tarantulas. You don’t want to miss out.

About the Author

ROSHANI CHOKSHI is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-
Touched Queen, A Crown of Wishes, and Aru Shah and the End of Time. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted
for the British Fantasy Science Award.

Giveaway!!

Want a brand-new copy of The Gilded Wolves to read for yourself? Maybe to take the cover off and hang it on your wall because it’s definitely that beautiful? Just leave a comment answering any of the questions below, and if you want an extra entry, retweet the giveaway from my Twitter feed!

This giveaway is sponsored by Wednesday Books.

Have you read The Gilded Wolves? What did you think? What are some of your favorite historical fantasy novels? Have you guys read Roshani’s other books? I really hope to sometime this year!

Thanks to Wednesday Books for providing me with a digital advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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