As soon as I heard about this book, I knew that I had to read it. It is set in Paris during the Exposition Universelle, and that’s basically my favourite thing to read about (even if it must not have been that great a place to live in terms of HUMAN RIGHTS, I still find it absolutely fascinating). So like the good bookworm that I am, I preordered it on my Kindle so that I would get it right away upon its release, and believe it or not
and probably for the first time ever, I started reading it on its release day!
Written by an author of both Filipina and Indian descent, The Gilded Wolves is the second book on my list for YARC 2019 (link to my announcement post). It also features an incredibly diverse cast of characters from all over the world, many of them struggling with their identity as their parents come from different origins (for example, Enrique is Spanish and Filipino, and Séverin’s father was French while his mother was Algerian). This is the first time I read one of Roshani Chokshi’s books, but it definitely will not be the last!
Oh and before I dive further into the ramble of emotions that this book turned me into,
and I know that my black & white kindel doesn’t do it justice, HOW GORGEOUS IS THAT COVER? I love it so much.
Title: The Gilded Wolves
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Release: January 2019
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Possible trigger warnings for racism and antisemitism
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.
I tried to make my own summary of the story like I usually do, but it didn’t do the story justice so I picked up the one from Goodreads, hopefully it makes more sense than whatever ramble I would have written.
Secret societies? Magic-like powers? Paris during the Exposition Universelle? An incredibly diverse cast of characters? Count me in! For every single one of those aspects! This book really awoke the history nerd in me, I was just reading and fangirling about the 19th century Paris streets, and Zofia’s science lab, and the Tuileries Garden, and the Eiffel Tower having just been built, and all the fantastic buildings the characters walked into. I really appreciated how historically accurate the setting was, it was full of little references, and at the same time challenging the mentality of the time, with its racism — Séverin being denied his father’s title because of his Algerian mother, or the idées reçues against Laila because of her origins, and how she challenged them — or antisemitism with Zofia’s character being unfairly judges by her classmates because of her origins. Overall, that made for a very accurate portrayal of the timen while challenging its problematic aspects. I also appreciated how much it dealt with mental health through the characters of Tristan (PTSD symptoms) and Zofia (autism spectrum). And of course my heart was warmed by my precious bisexual
and nerdy baby Enrique. He was relatable in many aspects.
“Enrique used to feel a twinge of shame when it came to his feelings… He used to pray that when it came to attraction, his body would just choose between men and women, and not both.”
There is so much I want to say about this book, I don’t even know where to start. I absolutely loved the amazing cast of characters, which sometimes reminded me of the just-as-fantastic team of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo — mostly in the first half of the book. I really loved the setting, both geographical and historical. The Gilded Wolves was there to remind its reader of how glamourous 1889 Paris could be, but also how flawed it still was when it came to colonialsm for example: in case you didn’t know, the Exposition was also a “Colonial Exhibition” including villages of actual people who were there just to be observed, basically like a human zoo. This is not glamorous at all, this is so blatantly problematic and it is important not to forget about this very sad aspect of our history, and I’m so glad Roshani Chokshi decided to deal with it in her book.
An accurate representation of me every time something remotely bad happened to any of the characters… Although they can pretty much all KICK ASS and don’t need my protection!!
The plot of the book was full of twists, and the main villain entity was not clear from the start which is something I really appreciated, as it can be really refreshing compared to other books I have read! I didn’t find it predictable at all, which was definitely a plus. I also really enjoyed the writing. There were some times where the plot confused me a little bit, but I didn’t really mind that much, and I still wholeheartedly think that The Gilded Wolves deserves FIVE STARS. It was brilliant and original, while also heartbreaking sometimes — but isn’t it what makes a good book?
5/5, definitely would recommend, possibly with a box of tissues by your side