As a self-proclaimed book nerd, I’ve been devouring books what feels like my whole life. It’s been a while since I’ve written a review for LD but not to fear you can always read my reviews on Goodreads.
I’ve decided I just can’t keep it in anymore. I want to share one of my favorite books of the last year with y’all. It is The Gilded Wolves (TGW) by Roshani Chokshi, and it is utterly magnificent.
Chokshi’s writing is lush and vibrant. She first debuted with The Star-Touched Queen, her duology blending Indian mythology and fairy tales. Each book since has been another step in her journey as a writer. In an interview on the B&N teen podcast, Chokshi talked about how with each book she writes her setting and schedule change depending on her story. TGW could only be written in the lobby of the hotel in her building. The bar even named a drink after her called “Writer’s Block.”
TGW takes place in the Belle Époque era in Paris right before the World’s Fair in 1889. In this version of the world, magic exists and is wielded by those with affinities and controlled by families, or Houses, in each country to police the magical babel artifacts.
TGW follows a crew of treasure hunters, which is just their way of avoiding calling themselves thieves. Chokshi has also talked about how this book was a love letter to the movie National Treasure starring Nicholas Cage. As someone who loved that movie, I can definitely see the influence.
The book is told from multiple points of view, each chapter taking the POV of one of the main crew members. Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is the leader of this raggedy crew. They are an eccentric group of unlikely experts: Zofia, a socially awkward engineer with an affinity for metallurgy; Enrique, a mixed-race historian looking to liberate his people; Laila, a dancer at the Moulin Rouge with an origin story and a ticking clock; and Tristan, his foster brother-in-arms with an affinity for botany.
Chokshi has definitely grown her storytelling and writing with each new book, and The Gilded Wolves is a departure from her debut duology with a new level of plotting and a heavy dash of conspiracy. The diverse characters within this story are such a breath of fresh air. They each have an iconic aura and the various POVs throughout the story help led us from one moment to the next without losing any of the pacing and plot. None of the characters are without a tragic backstory, and the “found family” aspect of this story is pure gold. Their intertwining friendships are well built, and we as readers come in the middle of their relationships and yet we don’t feel like we’ve lost anything. Chokshi cannot stop giving me reasons to love this team and the differences that make their heist a truly enchanting experience.
Chokshi’s world-building is always magnificent and vibrant with heady descriptions of the world surrounding them and the peoples that populate her world. This is a historical story with a magical bend and none of it seems out of the realm of possibility. None of the diversity is sacrificed to make way for any status quo as she recreates a bygone era without erasing the difficulty of living in that time period as a POC or LGBT person. There is a wonderful blend of magic and technology that lets the characters and the story not get too far away from understanding the basis of the main setting.
This world is complex and all the parts of it are complicated and almost never one-sided. This is not an “easy read,” but it is worth it. It might be the first book ever that I started slowing down my reading so I could really grip everything that was happening and not just try to sit down and devour it all together.
I got an ARC of The Silvered Serpents from Wednesday Books, and you might be wondering why I’m not reviewing that book. The publish date for the sequel to TGW has been pushed to September of 2020, so this is the perfect opportunity to get in on the first book before the second book comes out. Needless to say, I would not be recommending the first book if the second book didn’t hold up to the scrutiny.
So many authors and stories fall victim to the sophomore slump for a variety of reasons, but TSS and Chokshi didn’t even come close. The story you become invested in pays off incredibly well in book two, and the characters get richer and deeper with more complexities and relationships. The world-building gets a little bigger and leaves Paris entirely for the Arctic tundra of Siberia. Severin and co. are on another hunt, but things are not remotely the same for any of the characters. We get to experience the team away from their home base, and we see the Order of Babel expand and the mythos behind the world of Matriarchs and Patriarchs get deeper and broader.