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.
It’s my first book review on this blog! And I’m so happy that the book I’m reviewing is The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, a book about colonialism–about how under the glitter and glamour of Paris during La Belle Epoque, many cultures and POCs were being erased and stolen from.
“But the greatest thief of all was the Order of Babel, for they stole more than just objects…they stole histories”
(btw, the quote above was taken from Melanie’s review because I lost all the highlighted quotes in my e-book *sigh*)
And before I get into this review, I would like to state that this book is not a rip-off of Six of Crows. I admit I was one of the people who read the summary and scoffed at this book for sounding a whole lot like Six of Crows. But as someone who has read both The Gilded Wolves and Six of Crows, I can attest to the fact that The Gilded Wolves completely stands on its own. The only similarities between the two books are the focuses on diversity, a rag-tag crew of main characters and not much else. If The Gilded Wolves is a rip-off of Six of Crows, then you might as well call every diverse fantasy a copycat of Six of Crows.
Trigger warnings: colonialism, grief depiction, graphic descriptions of death, blood and ritual bloodletting
“Nothing was invincible but change.”
Speaking of a rag-tag crew of main characters, here they are!
character art by Nicole Deal 😍
↳ Séverin – The leader of this group–the biracial (French and Algerian) hotelier of L’Eden who is seeking to reclaim the fortune he was denied as a child. From the first chapter of this book, he was giving me book boyfriend vibes with that quiet and broody demeanor he was giving off!
↳ Laila- Indian (ownvoices rep), the mom of the group who can read objects’ histories. Not only is Laila an exceptionally good dancer, but she’s an exceptionally good baker too!
↳ Enrique- He is biracial–Spanish and Filipino (own voices for Filipino rep)! He’s also white-passing, and this fact constantly alienates him from his fellow Filipinos. I’m so so happy that more Filipinos are getting representation in literature. I cannot tell you how excited I became when there were actual lines of Tagalog dialogue in this book and the national hero Jose Rizal was mentioned! Enrique is bisexual (possibly pansexual); he’s a historian who–along with Zofia–is the one who solves most of the puzzles throughout this book.
↳ Zofia- Zofia is Jewish, and most probably is autistic–she experiences difficulty navigating through conversations with her peers, and it’s hard for her to pick up on sarcasm. While Zofia uses her genius math skills to solve puzzles, Enrique uses his rich knowledge of history and symbols, which naturally leads to them bickering with each other! Zofia and Enrique are probably my favorites out of the entire group.
↳ Hypnos- Definitely queer (though I’m unsure what he specifically identifies as)! He’s biracial–black and French. Hypnos is the patriarch of House Nyx, and he believes that wine can solve most of his problems.
↳ Tristan- Séverin’s little brother in all senses of the word except blood. He is a skilled landscaper with a giant pet tarantula named Goliath. Something shady is definitely going on with him.
And now let’s discuss the ships in this book. Séverin and Laila spent one night together that still haunts the both of them. Their attraction for each other is undeniable, and the angst that Roshani writes is through the roof! I also find that their reasons for being kept apart are valid, not the cheap miscommunication tropes we usually get. However, though Roshani wrote their individual characters and their pining for each other well, I honestly wouldn’t care much whether they end up together in the end.
There is also a subtle bisexual love triangle in this book, which could turn into a polyamorous relationship? But either way I could easily see Enrique ending up with Hypnos and/or Zofia. I’m all for poly rep in books, but if Roshani decides to let Enrique end up with just one of them, I’d be rooting for Zofia. Enrique and Zofia bicker a lot because of their differences, and their banter is hilarious!
“What proof did you have? What was your research?”
“Superstition. Stories,” said Enrique, before adding just to annoy her: “A gut instinct.”
We got to see Zofia and Enrique reconcile some of their differences in this book too, and it’s so cute. The train car scene between them is my favorite!
I’ve seen a lot of complaints about The Gilded Wolves’s steep learning curve. I admit that I was confused too. There is a magic system in this book called Forging which allows you to animate objects? It’s extremely hard to explain and I’m not sure I completely get the magic system even after having read the book. There’s also a lot of world-building that the author has to accomplish within the first few pages, revealing the inner workings of the Order and its houses, and how the magic works. However, I think that Roshani did it in the best way it could’ve been done.
And her descriptions! The way she described Laila’s cakes made my mouth water, and the beauty and allure of Paris was captured so well (though I’ve never been to Paris–I’m assuming 😒). Overall, I have no complaints about this book’s writing–it’s complex and well-done while still being easy to get through.
The pacing of The Gilded Wolves was natural without ever being boring. There was also a good balance of conflict mixed with heartfelt character moments. However, a big quibble I have about the plot is that it is written in a highly anticlimactic way.
To sum this review up, I am pleased with The Gilded Wolves. I love that it gives a voice to the ugliness that marginalized groups experienced during a past that is heavily glorified. It probably would’ve been a five-star read if only I cared about the characters just a bit more, and if the plot were more exciting. I would recommend you pick this book up if you love puzzles–especially ones that have to do with math–, history and diversity!