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’m on a magic heist kick.
I picked this up thinking it would follow the same vein as Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. And boy howdy, does it. Severin is Kaz, Laila is Inej, and well, you see where this is going. There are remarkable similarties, so if you enjoyed Six of Crows, you’ll probably get a kick out of The Gilded Wolves as well.
The writing is absolutely breathtaking. Chokshi’s ability to craft a metaphor, to let her creativity run wild, and to make such hauntingly beautiful paragraphs is overwhelming. A little too overwhelming, in fact. While I thought the prose was magical, it could be overly distracting. Not by much, but there were a few instances where I had to reread a passage, if only to fully grasp what was being conveyed. That said, I’m not sure I would want Chokshi to trim it down. Her style of writing added to the atmospheric sense of this historical Paris in a manner that felt precise and deliberate. In a nutshell, it was gorgeous to read. And while that beauty could be distracting from the story, I felt it complimented it more than detracted.
The characters, themselves, were similarly beautifully rendered (dare I say, forged??). Oddly enough, my favorites were the outliers of the narrative. Zofia was a particular pleasure to interact with, her inability to pick up on social cues and her dependence on using math to make sense of the world made her such a real, visceral character. To that end, Hypnos likewise possessed such a wonderful complexity in his penchant for hiding his own insecurities, doubts, and longings behind his charm, wit, and extravagance. Each character had such a vibrancy to them, making them feel real, and I appreciated that immensely.
My main critique would be the final two parts of the narrative (it’s broken up into six parts). The first four felt fine, so I didn’t really understand why the subsequent two parts were added. Especially because I thought they went in for a needless shock reaction. I don’t want to ruin it too much, and spoil it if you haven’t read it yet, but the unexplained, convenient-for-the-baddies twist was…well, insulting. The book had been believable up until that point, but that moment ruined it for me because it lacked any kind of explanation. No build-up, just boom: tragedy. Yes, it gives you emotions, but it was a sucker punch for you to feel something, to end on a different note than where the narrative was headed. And I wasn’t a fan of what it did.
I enjoyed the story, though I didn’t feel such a compulsive need to finish it. In fact, I found myself putting it down for days at a time, which isn’t usually like me. And the most aggravating part is I couldn’t explain why: I liked the story, I liked the characters, I enjoyed the writing. Still, it didn’t draw me in as much as I wanted it to. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.