Released on January 15, 2019, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi is a YA Fantasy novel set in an alternate-Paris during a time of extraordinary change – one that is full of mystery, decadence, and dangerous desires…
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.
I really, truly wanted to like this book. Not only did it promise to be dark and mysterious, but The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi seemed like it might finally fulfill my longing for another thrilling YA Fantasy heist novel. Unfortunately, what readers got in The Gilded Wolves was a milder, less refined version of Six of Crows. That is to say, The Gilded Wolves really didn’t bring anything new to the shelves of this bookworm, offering up moderately enjoyable characters, a hurriedly built world, and a washed-up plot.
“People die for symbols. People have hope because of symbols. They’re not just lines. They’re histories, cultures, traditions, given shape.” ―
Each individual character, as an individual, showed true promise in The Gilded Wolves; from Séverin’s plotting to regain his inheritance, to his quirky and secretive brother Tristan, and their various companions – the enigmatic inventor Zofia, the alluring and mysterious Laila, the historian Enrique, and the unfailingly charming Hypnos. Each brings an interesting dynamic, and their own piece of diversity, to the main cast of characters. Despite this, readers will likely find the character development and the relationships between the characters to be lacking. Furthermore, at the onset of The Gilded Wolves, the relationships between characters are already established, with little context or background information, leaving reason with no reason to want to support these group of characters or root for any relationships. Which is disappointing, because while Séverin, Tristan, Zofia, Laila, Enrique, and Hypnos certainly hold promise, Chokshi has simply failed to deliver on that promise.
Creating a story within a pre-existing setting has its benefits – and The Gilded Wolves without a doubt benefits from the physical setting of a historical Paris. With so much else to develop, including a magic system, a secret hierarchy of magical houses, and a delightful history of danger and deceit, setting this story within the historical world readers find familiar was a good start. Unfortunately, it almost seems as though Chokshi leaned on this like a crutch, failing to fully develop other aspects of her world. Once glaringly obvious shortfall is the magic system, which remains mostly shrouded in mystery, leaving readers wondering about its uses and limitations, among other things. Furthermore, how the elements of religion, math, fantasy, history, etc., fit together became quite tedious and overwhelming to follow, especially when references were tossed out, then tossed aside in the next scene, leaving readers scrambling to understand what was important and what was not.
“Don’t capture their hearts. Steal their imagination. It’s far more useful.”―
Characters and world-building aside, Chokshi’s fatal flaw in The Gilded Wolves was trying to do too many things at once with not enough focus on anything it she set out to achieve. Honestly, the story itself was, at times, overwhelmingly chaotic. It didn’t follow a structured narrative, and often times the characters reached a place or time in the story with seemingly no explanation. This trend was consistent throughout the novel – things were just happening, and the reader was dragged along for the ride, unsure of how they got there or where they were going next.
Overall, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi was, at best, a mediocre read. It didn’t dazzle, as many readers might have hoped, but Chokshi still delivered a cast of interesting characters, with a story set in an intriguing world. With more character development, an emphasis on world-building, and a focused story, this series could build itself into something better (3/5).