Hngghhhnshwgd trilogies always make me antsy I swear. I don’t think I should be reading them one after the other.
Anyway, the book was a slow start and I admit I’m still really confused about the magic system and the lore behind the Babel Fragments. I thought there would also be more heists in the story, but a lot of this was definitely introductory and leading up to more.
Which is to say, I WANT MORE. Honestly, the last hundred or so pages alone more than made up for my floundering at the beginning. Also, the lead up to the next book is…wow. Of course NOW I’ll have to pick the sequel up.
THE GILDED WOLVES
by Roshani Chokshi
Wednesday Books, January 2019
YA fantasy, historical, romance
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies
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.
Let me preface this by saying that I love found family tropes, and Severin Alarie-Montagnet is the more cheerful Kaz Brekker. (And yes, there are definitely going to be some Bardugo Six of Crows comparisons here…because yes.)
Until shit happens and we find that he’s almost exactly like Kaz Brekker. And that in itself made me love him even more.
But I’m jumping the gun here. Let me get back to the beginning.
The Gilded Wolves on the first outset looks like a magical heist book. From the very beginning (well, after the prologue), we witness Severin and his crew undergoing a heist during a magical artifacts auction. We’re introduced to the magical art of Forging, and some of the background story comes to light. We get a sense that Severin desires much more, and each of his crew–Enrique, Laila, Zofia, Tristan (okay, maybe not Tristan)–have ulterior motives for being part of Severin’s group. We eventually see the inner workings of L’Eden as well.
As an introduction to the world of magical Paris in 1889, I definitely fell head over heels in love. I mean, what wasn’t to love about magic and science, about World’s Fairs and the mixture of fantasy and steampunk all wrapped in one historical context? As an introduction to the characters, I already related to a lot of them. Zofia and her mathematical/scientific mind, Enrique and his half-Filipino heritage (the references he makes about Filipino folklore are chef’s kiss!), Hypnos and his joie de vivre, Tristan and his quiet but brilliant gardening genius, Severin and his schemes and desires, Laila and her kind heart, as well as her baking prowess. Somehow all of them bring something to the table, and together, they are a chaotic force of teenagers running around the streets of Paris. And all shall love them and despair.
Then, of course, there’s the power couple that is Laila and Severin, the Kanej of the trilogy (I also find it amusing that their ship name is quite literally just SeverinLaila, no shortening involved, thank you). The things I could say about Severin and Laila could probably fill an entire treatise, but here are just some of my favorite things about them (I totally don’t go in order, by the way…):
- There’s already an established on-and-off relationship alluded to from the very beginning. And yet we’re still going to consider this a slow-burn considering there’s three books in the series and every. single. time. the two have some sort of connection, one of them pulls an Anthony Bridgerton/Kate Sharma and leaves the other hanging. (Okay, so maybe I’m doing a bunch of random references other than SoC…)
- The leading man that is Severin, with his violet eyes and his dark locks and his TDH-ness. Alright, so I’m fairly certain all the main characters at this rate are just canonically hot, but one cannot possibly resist the rich, broody, TDH mastermind. And, clearly, neither can Laila.
- The knife-wife that is Laila. Alright, so I’m not sure she’s as adept as a knife-user as Inej, but she’s certainly formidable enough to carry at least one upon her person. As L’Enigme, Laila has other skills to use to her advantage, and she certainly knows how to do so. So what if she’s not exactly human and has a strange power no one else has?
- The friggin’ tension between them. My god, that tension is a drawn-out bowstring ready to snap. And it does not get any better even as the story comes to a close. It’s delicious and lovely and my heart LIVES FOR IT. And keep in mind that it’s been alluded they’ve already acted on their attraction at least once. Still, the tension is there. Ugh. I can’t.
- The “use me as your instrument”, “don’t call yourself that” argument. (Which, ironically, becomes SO APPROPRIATE by book three. IFYKYK…)
- “Don’t capture their hearts. Steal their imagination.” That dance scene and the eye-fuckery that was happening. IT’S TOO MUCH, SEVERINLAILA. GET A ROOM. Oh wait.
- The L’Enigme-Severin fake-dating pretense that doesn’t last long but DAMN it felt like it took hours for Severin to put that necklace on and OH HOW WE WISH IT TOOK THE ENTIRE NIGHT.
- The fact that Severin doesn’t really eat much but he will surely scarf down every single thing Laila bakes for him. Tarts included.
- The fact that every time Laila thinks and looks at Severin her heart goes ba-dump but she tries to tamp it down because she’s a strong-ass woman and has other shit to deal with, so instead she lets her L’Enigme persona out to do all the flirting for her. (“What kind of lover has cold hands?” “One who makes up for temperature with talent.” DEAR GOD THE ROOM IS WARM AGAIN I NEED A FAN).
- The fact that Severin is all, “I shouldn’t let Laila be a distraction to me. I don’t have time to be distracted. Let’s swear off kissing her altogether.” But also, the fact that Severin is all, “Laila Laila Laila. I can smell her rose-scented hair everywhere and I can’t breathe properly every time I get a good look at her KEEP IT TOGETHER SEVERIN.”
- The fact that these two will always worry over each other in an irrational sense, and when push comes to shove, they will gravitate towards protecting the other.
- That kiss.
But enough about those two. Let’s talk about other things. The book itself, as Chokshi had said, is a mixture of a National Treasure-esque adventure with a Faustian deal. It’s definitely that and thensome. While I was lured in with the promise of magical heists, The Gilded Wolves delivered a more complex plot by nature. A lot of information was thrown at us from the beginning, and it is clear that the story is going beyond the heists that Severin and his crew are committing. There’s the Order of Babel, and the dangers of the Babel Fragments. There’s the need to find powerful artifacts that could lead to salvation–and power. There’s schemes within schemes, and betrayal that rocks Severin’s crew to the very core.
Admittedly, it took a while for me to warm up to this overall idea, that the story went beyond a mere heist. There was a lot of information to absorb, and while I overall appreciated the setting and story, I finished TGW scratching my head, still unsure how the magical system worked. We glimpsed quite a bit of Forging in the beginning, and Tristan and Zofia certainly showed their affinity for the liquids and solids, and from time to time we even saw how Mind-Forging worked in all its horrific glory. But I was still confused by how Tezcat doors worked and the rules that underwent the other types of Forging. On top of that, the historical riddles and asides Enrique gets to seemed overly long-winded to me to the point of me nodding off and just smiling and going along with the ride (and I love Enrique, don’t get me wrong).
That all said, did I enjoy the book? I very much did. Am I going to recommend it? Yep yep. Will I read the next book, considering how TGW ended with even more SeverinLaila tension and the revelation that there is more to Severin than meets the eye? Hell yes. In fact, at the writing of this review, I’ve finished the entire trilogy and all the better for it!
Also, can we just acknowledge the fact that Roshani Chokshi’s figurative language is to die for? Because it is. I sigh every time she writes her pretty words.
4 out of 5 cookies! Please, ma’am, can I have some more SeverinLaila in the next book?