The Gilded Wolves
The Gilded Wolves is set to be published on January 15th, 2019. Although NetGalley provided me with an e-book copy, all thoughts are my own. Additionally, my review does not have explicit spoilers, but I do analyze the characters, so if you prefer to go into a book knowing as little as possible, I would recommend not reading my review.
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.
An interesting magic system (magic of the mind and magic of matter), historical setting and artifacts, multiple points of view, a group of outsiders trying to shift the power structure, identity exploration, and aristocracy; the components of The Gilded Wolves are full of shine and layers and intrigue. Which is why it’s so disappointing that all of these components are not effectively and satisfactorily fleshed out.
Roshani Chokshi wastes no time in putting her readers in the middle of the action, beginning the book with an exciting heist and aristocratic dangers. This built so much anticipation for finding out how the world works and learning about the relationships between characters; unfortunately, the story continued to speed on with barely time to take a breath and sort out the previous, current, and planned events. There are in-between chapters that pose as flashbacks and historical snippets, through which we get a little deeper into the characters’ lives. Please read that again with more emphasis on “a little.” But there needed to be more pages dedicated to building the people in this story. Dialogue is great for creating a surface image of a character, but without more than witty banter or serious reactions, characters fall flat, and that is the case in The Gilded Wolves.
Séverin is the character we learn the most history about, because his flashbacks are related to his tumultuous upbringing. Another protagonist, Laila, is someone whose history is also sort of told, and yet, compared to the other three or four protagonists, by the end of the book they both still feel flat. Could it be that every time we encounter them, no matter the situation, their thoughts somehow (and often ridiculously) wind up back to a passionate night they shared, a night they both try to push out of their minds even though it’s obvious they care about each other in the way of lovers and not just friends? Yes. Their sexual tension was enticing at first, but by the middle of the book our privy to their constant “secret” desire is distracting and obnoxious. It almost made me put this book at DNF status, but I didn’t, because thankfully Zofia, Enrique, and Hypnos uphold the plot.
Zofia is such a strong, complex, and dynamic character. Although her decision in one of the end scenes disappointed me, it was understandable, and showed that even with the progress she made through the book, she was still subject to setbacks – like all people are. Enrique is an entertaining character, and I liked how Roshani Chokshi wrote him to be fun-loving and still not entirely bashful to show emotion, and sometimes not able to understand or work through that emotion without help. And Hypnos definitely showed the most growth, which turned him from an unlikable character to the whimsical addition this group of friends and companions needed. We don’t get a lot of history of these characters, and yet they are the ones I felt closest to when reading.
The author has a superb plot idea, and her writing is equally pleasing. But often there are places where more detail would have been helpful in moving the plot forward and understanding what was going on. There is at least one page that is almost entirely dedicated to the contents of a feast (which is exceptionally mouthwatering), but I wish that same attention to detail was placed on spacial perception and the settings throughout the book. And with such emphasis on mathematics and calculations (an interesting incorporation, even for this non-mathematician), I thought that time would be paid much more attention, and instead, it was too easy to get lost in the timeline, even with the flashback chapters marked and easy identifiable.
The final climactic scene was definitely close to being worth finishing the book, but it still could have used more description. And down to the final pages of the book, Séverin and Laila are still their same tense old selves, and with the setup of the next novel, it looks like we are in for more suffocating tension. Hopefully the sequel will slow down and provide more details for the settings, characters, and world, and be as enthralling as those settings, characters, and world deserve to be (and as a final aside, don’t ignore the Author’s Note at the end).