Glitter and Glory and Rot and Ruin, or my review of The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1)

By: Roshani Chokshi

Publisher: Wednesday Books 

Publication Date: January 15th, 2019

Format: Hardcover 

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.

  

This book was on the top of my ‘most eager to read books of 2019’ for a multitude of reasons. 1: PARIS. 2: Roshani Chokshi, mistress of beautiful words and beautiful, star-studded, magically descriptive scenes. 3: La Belle Epoque, the Gilded Age. And, you know, a longer list of reasons. If I listed them all, I wouldn’t have space for the actual review.

I had the pleasure and privilege of seeing Roshani on her tour, and hearing her talk about the book only made me want to read it more. She was talking about being a person of color, being biracial and writing biracial characters that did and didn’t ‘pass’, and also about marginalized identities that she wasn’t personally familiar with, but wanted to include. She also spent a lot of time talking about how the Belle Epoque hid many horrors behind its glittering facade, especially regarding colonialism and the treatment of non-Europeans. If I hadn’t wanted to read it before, now I couldn’t wait to see Roshani’s take on dealing with both the beauty and the horror in the Gilded Wolves. And oh, my goodness, I was not disappointed. There’s the kind of glittering beauty that you can only hope for in a magical 1889 Paris–beautiful clothing, delectable food, glittering jewels on cabaret dancers, the Eiffel Tower all lit up. And more, the kind of thing that only Roshani could dream up–magical gardens, incredible pyrotechnics, fabulously bejeweled ballrooms, and underneath all of that, the smell of something rotten.

What ties the book together is honestly the characters, their dynamic, how they react to each other and how they lean on each other. Severin, of course, is the brooding, dramatic leader, the heir of a magical destiny who was denied it. Then there’s Tristan, his as-good-as-brother, damaged yet capable of creating incredible beauty. I couldn’t get enough of Laila, either in her mama-hen clucking after the rest of her flock, or in her character as the beautiful dancer L’Enigme. Zofia, the brilliant little scientist/firemaker of the group, was perfectly amazing. And, of course, let’s have a shoutout to Enrique, the confused bisexual historian who I couldn’t help but love. Oh, and of course I can’t forget Hypnos, the ridiculously powerful patriarch of one of the Houses of France, who really just wants friends. He’s like Anne Hathaway’s character in Oceans 8, bless. All in all it’s a perfect five man band of outcasts and misfits who are there to f*** all of the stuff up of colonialist imperialist France.

I also think that Rosh handled everyone’s identity so, so well. I loved how she contrasted Severin and Hypnos, and both showcased the tokenism, ‘there can only be one’ mentality while also thumbing her nose at it. I thought she handled colorism and passing extremely well–again, the fact that Severin ‘passes’ and Hypnos doesn’t, despite their having similar mixed-race heritages. And Enrique being too pale to be a proper Filipino, at least in the eyes of other Filipinos, said something as well. I thought Zofia’s Autism Spectrum was well-written, and how it melded with her Jewish heritage to make her Other and isolated was heartbreaking. I also loved Laila’s pride in her heritage, and how she dealt with the oversexualism and tokenism that she was subjected to.

And the plot–Roshani warned us at the signing that there was a lot of setup, because it was her first trilogy, but from the first page it felt quick, action-packed, and with a whole lot of heists that just made my heart sing. The stakes start out high and they just grow higher, with every move that Severin and co take. The lulls were perfectly spaced, to allow me to appreciate the characters and absorb what had happened, and the action points were enough to keep me on the edge of my seat. The final battle was straight-up terrifying–and the last scene was enough to make me curse Rosh forevermore, or at least until the sequel comes out. Oh, and all of the riddles and puzzles that happen in the book were also delightful.

I also love all of the wierd, complex love dynamics that exist. I couldn’t get enough of Laila and Severin, their attraction to each other that they both in their own ways try to deny. I loved Zofia, her budding attraction and her confusion at it, and that the ASD character WASN’T Ace but instead did have her own emotions and love. I loved Hypnos’ gayness, and how Enrique was just a poor confused bisexual person who struggled to deal with the fact that he was attracted to multiple people. If anyone could have written a love triangle that actually felt original, and fun, and a little sad also, it was Rosh.

The Gilded Wolves was a book that was glorious, and glittering, and triumphant, and heartbreaking, and scary, and tender, and accusatory, and fantastic, and that focused on real world issues of diversity and representation, and I couldn’t get enough of it. I just hope that the sequel comes out SOON, so Rosh can break my heart all over again.

 

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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us.

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