Friends if you are looking for a character-driven book with a truly diverse cast of characters, I highly recommend The Gilded Wolves! While the world-building is a little rough to get into, the characters more than made up for it for me and I loved this book.
About the Book
Publisher: Wednesday Books | Release Date: January 15, 2019 | Pages: 388
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy | Format: eARC | Source: Publisher via Netgalley
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.
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I am a sucker for historical fantasy, and The Gilded Wolves delivers an action-packed story with a diverse cast of characters that I treasured with every ounce of my being. A secret society that pulls the strings of society (Illuminati?!)? Hunting for artifacts? Magic and technological invention when the world was on the cusp of Industrialism? Heck. Yes. If you are in the mood for an adventure with a precious found family, this book might be for you!
“Everywhere he looked, he was surrounded by gilded wolves. And for whatever reason, it made him feel perfectly at home. Wolves were everywhere. In politics, on thrones, in beds. They cut their teeth on history and grew fat on war. Not that Séverin was complaining. It was just that, like other wolves, he wanted his share.”
It’s Paris, 1889. The world is at the brink of the Industrial Revolution, but there is another kind of technology that goes back way further. “The art of Forging is as old as civilization itself,” and is the magic system of the book. Those born with the ability will have it manifest it by their 13th birthday and can either influence the mind or matter.
“To those blessed with a Forging affinity, it is an inheritance of divinity […T]o Forge is not only to enhance a creation, but to reshape it.”
The former is heavily regulated by the Order of Babel, but “all Forging is bound by three conditions: the strength of the artisan’s will, the clarity of the artistic goal, and the boundary of their chosen mediums’ elemental properties.” The Order’s taking of culturally significant artifacts and assimilating folk beliefs are a powerful and nuanced allusion to and discussion of colonialism.
Where this story truly shines is with its characters. The Gilded Wolves is told in the perspectives of four main characters: Séverin, Laila, Enrique, and Zofia. The fifth part of their crew is Tristan, and they work together to help Séverin get what is needed to claim his true inheritance. While they each are looking for something themselves, they never expected to form a family of their own and each of them expresses anxiety at what the future holds when their goals are achieved.
“It’ll be ‘like dreaming’ you said. As ‘easy as sleep!'”
“Nightmares are part of sleeping.”
“Is that a joke?”
Honestly, the banter between the characters is absolute perfection and everything that I want in my friend groups. Can I enlist myself into their friend group? I will help feed Goliath. *shudders*
✨ Séverin is a French-Algerian treasure hunter and hotelier with a haunted past. He was robbed of his true inheritance 10 years earlier and is determined to claim it.
✨ Enrique is a Spanish-Filipino historian that has a mind tuned for riddles and history. He longs to be part of the Ilustrados’ inner circle and recognized for his brilliance rather than ignored because of his mixed heritage.
✨ Laila is an Indian girl that has the ability to read the histories of unforged objects, loves to bake, and is honestly mom of the group. She cares so much for everyone, taking the time to do little things that matter to each of her comrades.
✨ Zofia is a Jewish Polish Forger with a propensity for fire. She adores math and solving puzzles, and has social anxiety. Zofia loves perfectly round cookies, counting, and of course fire.
✨ Tristan is the little brother in all but blood to Séverin and a botanical genius with a giant pet spider named Goliath.
✨ Hypnos is honestly kind of Anne Hathaway’s character from Ocean’s 8 and really seems to want friends. Which is adorable.
Power and race play an important role for the diverse characters of this book and their positions within the world they live in.
“Of course it would be easy to spy when you hardly look like one of us. Marcelo spoke with no malice. In a way, that was worse.”
Each of the main characters has something about them that outwardly alienates themselves from their cultural identity, whether it be their religion or their mixed heritage. These assumptions and misunderstandings are all brought to the fore when fake identities are provided which directly challenge their identities: a Filipino is given a Chinese identity, a classically trained Bharatnatyam dancer is told she will be a nautch dancer. This blatant insensitivity is addressed and called for what it is – offensive – but sadly brushed aside as they realize that playing into the prejudices of others will allow them to blend in and go unnoticed, thus continuing the system of oppression. I really appreciated this quiet and nuanced discussion on racism and power dynamics.
Séverin […] saw how each invitation flew in the face of each person’s self-image. But he also understood how Hypnos had seen the scenario, how he had worked to ensure that each person could access the Chateau de la Lune without incident. ‘When you are who they expect you to be, they never look too closely. If you’re furious, let it be fuel.'”
I loved the world that Chokshi crafted, drawing from history and mythology from multiple cultures around the world. The reader is thrown right into the world and action. The one thing that didn’t quite work for me was the execution of the world-building. It was kind of info-dumpy in parts, over time I became overwhelmed and confused by all of the information and backstories provided. For me there was SO MUCH going on to keep track of that it was a little difficult to keep it all straight. Where I think I struggled the most was that some of the events were not clear to me while reading: some things were left unresolved/skipped over and I assumed something happened that made future plot points not make sense, only to find out much later that the thing I thought happened didn’t. Since I read an early ARC, it is possible some of this confusion will be edited for the final copy. What’s weird was I was still so intrigued, so interested and hungry for more. I wanted to wade through the confusion to have everything slide into place like the puzzles our team was solving. If I am being honest, usually I am a lot more bothered by confusing world-building, but I adored the characters and the ideas so much that I was a lot more forgiving.
Friends if you are looking for a character-driven book with a truly diverse cast of characters, I highly recommend The Gilded Wolves! The puzzles, the adventure, the heists, the banter between the characters all made this an incredibly enjoyable read for me. The excellent diversity and representation in this book, along with its subtle discussions on racial prejudice, colonialism, and assimilation, also make this an important read.
REPRESENTATION: racially diverse characters (Filipino, Indian, Haitian), Jewish rep, bisexuality, anxiety
OWN-VOICES REVIEWS: Merline @ Merline Reads (Haitian), Rain @ Bookdragonism (Filipino), Justine @ Bookish Wisps (Filipino)
CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS: racism (kind of challenged), inferred abuse, death of a loved one
Things I hope are explained in the next book:
– How the overall Order of Babel functions & different country’s Houses interact with one another
– How Forging works. It doesn’t appear to be inherited but is something a person is born with. What does being born with the affinity mean, and what training/indoctrination do they undertake?
– More about Fallen House
Pre-order Incentive: Pre-order your copy of The Gilded Wolves and submit your receipt by January 6, 2019 to get a pack of character tarot cards designed by Yoshi Yoshitani!
Let’s go on another adventure together!