Book: The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1)
Author: Roshani Chokshi
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Laila and Zofia talk about dresses.
Content Warnings: Spiders, death, racism, anti-semitism, colonialism, blood, mentions of stillbirth, bullying, loss of a loved one, anxiety attacks, parental neglect, mental torture
I was a little apprehensive going into this book because from what I’d heard of it, people fell very firmly on two sides, either they really loved it or they really hated it and there didn’t seem to be much in-between. Thankfully, I really, really enjoyed it! I can definitely see where people found it confusing in places, there was a little left to be desired in terms of the magic system and the world building but I LOVED the characters so much, they really made the book for me. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.
It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.
Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.
Obviously I have to start with the characters because they were the real stars of this book, without a doubt. The dynamic between them was just brilliant, they have that really natural, easy banter that I love and it was easy to see them as a family.
I had my favourites: Enrique, Zofia and Laila definitely stood out for me, for varying reasons but they were brilliant as a group as well. Tristan was also 100% the cinnamon roll character of the book and all the other characters definitely knew it! Hypnos was also brilliant, he’s super funny and he basically barges his way into the gang because he wants friends so badly and I loved how they go from begrudingly accepting him to genuinely wanting him around.
I really loved that the focus of this was on family and friendship rather than romance. There are some indicators for future romance (including queer characters, Enrique is bi and Hypnos is queer) but it’s definitely not the most important thing in the book which I appreciated.
The humour was also brilliant, this book was a whole lot funnier than I was expecting it to be: there are definitely a lot of dark moments, but Roshani Chokshi balance those really well with humour which I LOVE to see. She has really great dialogue as well, it was obviously more modern than would have been used in that time period but I found I didn’t really mind.
The main cast was majority POC, 4 out of the 6 characters, we have Severin who is biracial French-Alegerian, Enrique who is biracial Spanish-Filipino, Laila who is Indian and Hypnos who is French-Haitian and it’s brilliant to see that, especially in a historical novel because contrary to some people’s beliefs, history was not all white!!!
It also made for some brilliant explorations of identity and colonialism in a historical context and how the biracial characters struggled with being able to embrace both sides of their identities which was done in such a nuanced way. From a historian’s perspective as well, it was really interesting to see the debate over museums and objects being stolen from different cultures as repatriating objects to their country of origin is something we touched on my classes at Uni so it’s definitely a topic that I’m very interested in.
I have to talk a little more in depth about Zofia and Laila’s friendship because I just loved them so much. Laila is 100% the mum friend of the group, constantly baking and worrying over everyone and her friendship with Zofia is so pure, they are both so beautifully supportive of each other and women supporting women especially in historical contexts is something I love to see.
I really liked Roshani Chokshi’s writing, I was a bit worried from what I’d seen before that I might find it a bit overly flowery, but it wasn’t and it fitted really well with the book.
Zofia seems to be autistic, though it’s not named on page as there wouldn’t be a name for it in the 1880s. I can’t speak to the quality of the rep obviously, but there was nothing that stuck out as obviously offensive (but would def recommend seeking ownvoices reviews). I love seeing historical women in STEM and it was brilliant seeing her and Enrique (a historian) working together to solve puzzles because so often we treat those things like they have to be polar opposites and they really aren’t.
As I mentioned at the top, the world building and the magic system could have used a little work. I did find the Forging magic, the Babel fragments and the purpose of the Horus Eye a little confusing at times and whilst things were clearer by the end, there’s still a lot that I would like to be explained in the next book! I did think the forged objects and the technology was really cool, I just could have used more explanations of the systems behind them.
I also would have liked to get more of the other characters’ backstories, we get a lot of Severin’s, a little of Laila’s and Zofia’s but it would have been nice to get more of an insight of who the other characters were before Paris and what brought them there. It was also kind of ambiguous as to how old they were: I mean this is supposedly a YA book but the group definitely read more as adults to me.
The multiple POVs were done really well, everyone had a really distinctive voice and I never struggled to know whose chapter was whose, I didn’t even need the chapter headings which is exactly what you want when you have multiple POVs.
I loved all the mythology and biblical references, I thought those were really great, even if I wasn’t all that familiar with most of them.
The plot was a little slow in places, it took a while for it to get going but once I was into it, I was really into it and the heists were very enjoyable. I also appreciated that it never felt like a foregone conclusion that the heists were going to go well, so often in heist novels, it feels way too easy and that wasn’t the case here.
I loved the setting, Paris is always a winner for me, and setting the final showdown in the Paris Catacombs was inspired! It was super weird for me to see the Eiffel Tower being referred to as new, but of course in 1889 it was! The Exposition Universelle is definitely something that I need to look into more as I’m not massively familiar with that period of history.
The villain didn’t really land for me, I think they just weren’t developed enough so they never really felt like a real threat or someone I should be afraid of. I’m hoping that changes in the next book as they become more developed.
AGH THE ENDING. I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THAT ENDING AND I NEED THE NEXT BOOK LIKE NOW.
Overall, I really loved this one, I went into it sceptical from the reviews I read and I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it. The characters were brilliant, the plot was great and I’m hoping my issues with the world building will be ironed out in the next book!
My Rating: 4/5
My next review will be of Girls Made of Snow and Glass, by Melissa Bashardoust.