The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
Published by Wednesday Books on January 15, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
“Nothing but a symbol? People die for symbols. People have hope because of symbols. They’re not just lines. They’re histories, cultures, traditions, given shape.”
A ton of reviewers I follow on Goodreads had this on their list of their most anticipated reads for 2019. I bought into the hype and decided to get myself a copy. Also, how could I resist that gorgeous book cover?!
As the months went by, I discovered that the reviews became mixed and I was getting pretty nervous about reading it. But I have to say, I enjoyed The Gilded Wolves.
It’s Paris 1889, during the Exposition Universelle. Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is a thief and the son of a French father and North-African mother. He’s 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 get to the Horus Eye, he’ll need the help of his band of misfits.
It’s a solid YA novel that has elements of things that I love in fiction — fun characters, great camaraderie between friends, lots of scheming, and a heist. Oh, boy. How I love me some heists. Side note: Should I write a full blog post about my favourite heist movies?
This was my first Chokshi novel and now I’m wondering if I should read her other books. I loved her writing — she spends a lot of time making sure the reader can imagine the atmosphere of a scene. It gives the book a cinematic quality.
When done poorly, it can read as unnecessary detail or a way to show off flowery language and metaphors. But Chokshi did a superb job of walking that fine line.
This book is a mix between Six of Crows (hello, heists!) and the best parts of a Dan Brown novel (hello, puzzles!).
While this is classified as a fantasy, a lot of the book was rooted in the real history of Paris at the time. While Paris is sparkly and considered the “City of Love,” it’s only to cover up the ugly racism, sexism, and classism of the time.
Unfortunately, the reason why this book didn’t become a 5 bubble tea read for me is because it felt like Chokshi took too much on all at once. The Gilded Wolves has so much crammed into one story.
There’s four third-person perspectives, and she takes bits and pieces of mythology from around the world. There’s codes and puzzles from Greek and Biblical mythology, Chinese cleromancy, mathematics, and so much more. It comes across as dense and convoluted, but in a way makes perfect poetic sense given the Babel story.
I’m also not quite sure if I actually understand the concept of Foraging. And I have some questions about the Fallen House’s symbol and Zofia that I thought would be answered by the end of the book. But I wonder if Chokshi purposely left that for the next book?
Despite this being the main weakness, it doesn’t lower my rating to below a 4 because of that dazzling and snarky dialogue between characters. The main characters are all charming and have great personalities. You can see Chokshi put a lot of effort into developing her characters.
Not only that, Chokshi’s characters are diverse in every sense of the word, but they’re not solely defined by their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
I find myself comparing this to King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. I was so disappointed in the writing and the plot, but I know I’ll be sucked back into the universe when the second book comes out. I’m not exactly dreading revisiting those characters, but I can’t say that I’m excited about it either.
But I’m enthusiastic about jumping back into this world and spending more time with these characters.
I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history mixed with snappy dialogue between characters. Oh, and if you love heists, you’ll love this too. Six of Crows is no longer the only YA heist book to rave about!