Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available for purchase now
Summary: 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.
Review: I knew I was in for an exciting ride when The Gilded Wolves opened with a Virgil quote: “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” Roshani Chokshi has delivered an exciting treasuring-hunting mystery populated with a diverse cast (PoC, queer, neuroatypical) and set it against the backdrop of a fantastical, late nineteenth-century Paris. There are magical artifacts, linguistic and mathematical puzzles, secret societies, elaborate heists, and lots of high-stakes flirting.
The Gilded Wolves is a fast-paced heist book with multiple POVs, and Chokshi does a great job of distinguishing between the characters’ voices. Laila and Zofia were my favorite POV characters, and I am excited that it looks like Laila’s quest will be a key part of book two. (Or so I hope!) As for non-POV characters, I was rather fond of Hypnos and his changing relationship to Séverin and the rest of the cast. The characters’ relationships are messy and compelling, and I thoroughly enjoyed the romantic tension between various characters, even if it didn’t always go the way I’d hoped.
The puzzles and heists (and disasters and traps) throughout the book were a lot of fun for me as a reader, even when I was able to guess at a solution or that something was about to go wrong. This is a book where you want to pay close attention to details and world building items so that when the twist or reversal comes, you’ve got the pieces to put it together right afterward. It’s an engaging story, and one I suspect you’ll enjoy just as much on a second read.
One of the things I appreciated most about The Gilded Wolves is that it is impossible to pretend that colonialism and white supremacy haven’t shaped this world. Too often in historical fantasy those factors get swept under the rug in favor of the glitz and the spectacle of what is seen as a more “romantic” time. Instead, Chokshi puts these issues front and center in the creation of the characters (characters from colonized nations, an autistic Jewish girl who experienced violence and harassment for being autistic and Jewish, etc.) or in the plot (the Order of Babel taking artifacts from other nations/crushing other Forging traditions, white-passing privilege for disguises, etc.) or through world building details (the Exposition Universelle having “human zoos” for white Parisians to gawk at, the exploitation of religious traditions/practices for entertainment, etc.). There is a lot of violence and ugliness propping up the wealth and the glamor of Paris, and Séverin and his allies are intimately aware of it.
Recommendation: Buy it now. The Gilded Wolves is a fast-paced, magical heist story filled with a memorable, diverse crew. The world and the characters are intriguing, and Chokshi has built a solid foundation for a trilogy.