The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)by Published 15 Jan 2019
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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.
"The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)" Reviews
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, Enrique and Hypnos’s 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” where both sides are deeply in love with the other but both sides 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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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! ❤
✨ Preorder Swag: Submit your receipt by January 6, 2019 HERE and get your own pack of character tarot cards designed by Yoshi Yoshitani! (United States & Canada only, I'm sorry!)
12/18 All of our characters have now been revealed! Follow the link below to meet Enrique, Tristan, Hypnos, Zofia, Laila, and Séverin!
12/12 Ready for a look at our third character reveal? Meet Hypnos, Patriarch of House Nyx. Not sure what to say about this ultraglam goof. I love him? But he's terrible? Don't let him near your boyfriend. (Artwork by the brilliant @NicoleDealArt)
12/11 The second character reveal from The Gilded Wolves is now LIVE! Meet Tristan, a gardener extraordinaire & also that little brother who says "LOOK WHAT I FOUND" and thrusts a bunch of writhing insects in your face while cooing at them. *shudders*. (Artwork by @NicoleDealArt <3)
Gotta love the fuzzy tarantula, Goliath, just chilling by his feet.
The first of The Gilded Wolves character reveals is now LIVE! Meet Enrigue, resident historian and linguist who makes most decisions based on what he gets to eat. I totally relate. Artwork by Nicole Deal. All week we'll be revealing character art so if you don't follow already, make sure to head over to my Instagram stories! https://twitter.com/Roshani_Chokshi/s...
So excited to reveal THE GILDED WOLVES cover on EW! Along with an excerpttttt. Woohoo! I hope you guys love it <3 http://ew.com/books/2018/05/07/the-gi...
THE GILDED WOLVES COVER REVEAL GOES LIVE NEXT MONDAY (May 7th)!!! Keep a close eye on social media.
I am RIDICULOUSLY excited to share THE GILDED WOLVES with you guys in Winter 2019!!! I'll be updating this space fairly regularly to share news :)
THE GILDED WOLVES grew out of my love for treasure hunt stories like DAVINCI CODE and TOMB RAIDER, and my fierce love of the dynamics between ensemble casts and found family. Recently, I saw something ridiculously gorgeous that I can't wait to share with you guys, but in the meantime you can peruse the Pinterest and feast your eyes on the prettyyyy!
"If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell."-Virgil
Hello friends, and let me welcome you to my review of my favorite fantasy novel of the year.... err of 2019? Whichever way you look at it, The Gilded Wolves is the type of read where after turning the final page your jaw hits the floor, and then days later, when you've semi-recovered, it's all you want to talk about with anyone you come in contact with. My husband is sick and tired of me bringing it up over and over, constantly trying to work through what I think will happen in the sequel and why Roshani thought she could earn my trust, make me fall in love with this gang of cool kids, and then rip my heart out like it was nothing.
"His father had not allowed him to call her mother, and in public she referred to him as "Monsieur Severin." But at night... when she snuck into his room to sing his lullabies, she always whispered one thing before she left: I am your Ummi. And I love you."
The amount of research that went into making this book feel believable, coupled with own voices storytelling, made this one of my favorite fantasy novels of the year... even though this one doesn’t come out until next month! I loved it so much that I’ve pre-ordered the hardcover for my personal collection, and I don't do that frequently. Many people have been comparing this to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and I can see why considering this is another teenage fantasy heist novel and there is a bunch of kids who have been through some tragic stuff brought together, but in my opinion the similarities end there. This is a story that stands on its own two legs, with its own magic system, atmosphere, and unique qualities that make it compulsively readable.
"I don't want to be their equals. I don't want them to look us in the eye. I want them to look away, to blink harshly, like they've stared at the sun itself. I don't want them standing across from us. I want them kneeling."
The plot here is so complex; it begins with a bit of world building that segues nicely into some of the characters' history without giving away too much. Each of the characters have suffered some sort of ill fated prejudice, some of which are discriminations that are felt in the real world, and some which are "made up" but can also be attributed to real issues in a metaphorical sense. I won't go into detail due to spoilers, but one particular character's back story was both heart-wrenching and disturbing; it was a grotesquely beautiful and unique combination of emotions that invoke a wide array of feels. The author touches on some difficult, yet timely issues, and manages to portray them in a historical fantasy setting while keeping a very believable beat to the well paced plot.
"Lust is safer than love, but both can ruin you."
One of my favorite aspects of The Gilded Wolves was the fact that the romance was subtle, but deep. Sometimes I need a good lusty YA novel, but this was so much more. The portrayal here is sensual, poetic, and luxurious, and by the end I wanted to slap someone and was left with a deep craving to find out what would happen next. After having the pleasure of meeting Roshani at the Goodreads Power User Summit last year, I knew I wanted to pick up one of her books, and I'm so privileged to have led off with this one. If you enjoy YA fantasy that is rich in culture and well-researched history/mythology, you don't want to miss out on The Gilded Wolves.
"I think the greatest power is belief, for what is a god without it?"
*I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.