CW’s: Colonialism & Racism (challenged), Mention of past suicide and bullying, Loss of a Loved One, Anxiety, Violence
Representation 🌷 Indian MC, Black Queer MC, Biracial (Filipino & Spanish) Queer MC, Jewish MC who has Anxiety (and possibly OCD), Biracial (Algerian & French) MC
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.
The worldbuilding is absolutely top-notch! ➽ I read a lot of Fantasy books and while I love the more classical magic systems (you can never go wrong with them!), I also adore seeing author create something different and unique! The magic system in The Gilded Wolves is definitely complex and a bit hard to grasp at first but the book does a great job slowly showing how the world works, so you can piece everything together. There’s still a lot we don’t know and that just shows me that there is so much potential in this world that can be explored in the next two books! The main ‘magic’ of the book is Forgery of objects which can only be done by people who have an affinity for it. Each country has different Houses of these individuals and an Order to oversee them. The possibilities for Forgery are endless, it’s either matter or mind-based and create so many incredibly useful objects e.g. that muffle sound or make you invisible. It’s also magic PLUS science, so you can see our characters putting a lot of effort into creating these objects. Most interestingly is that the source of power are mysterious Babel Fragments that are spread all around the world and are hidden because tampering with them could bring on the apocalypse 👀 Between all the interesting forged objects and the power struggles between the Houses (and most importantly those who left the society and are now causing havoc), this is a fantastic fantasy book!
And then we have the fantastic setting of 1886 Paris! ➽ I love me a good Historical Fantasy and Paris is one of my favorite cities in Europe, so I was so happy to get to explore this setting! Lik always Roshani Chokshi’s writing is simply so gorgeous and vivid that it really makes Paris come to life and works perfectly together with the magic system, plot, and characters to create a cohesive universe for us to experience! I also appreciate that the story deals with colonialism and racism at that time, which is evident in how the Houses deal with their forged objects. A lot of them are stolen from other countries that they oppressed and they very much try to shut out the biracial members with a Forging affinity which is present in how they deal with Hypnos and Séverin.
There’s a fantastic cast of characters ➽ If you’ve been on my blog for a while you know that I’m someone who adores complex and compelling characters – they really make or break the book for me. And let me tell you, The Gilded Wolves had one of the best character casts I’ve seen in a while! 🥰 If you enjoy having multiple POV’s, you’ll definitely like this book as everyone is so well-defined and complex with their own struggles, flaws, and dreams. Down below is a breakdown of the main characters in the first book: rated by how much I love them, though let me tell you it’s a mere matter of preference, as I like all of them!
- Zofia 🌺 Jewish & has possibly anxiety/OCD 🌺 is the group’s engineer and she’s super good at metals, fire and mostly making things explode! It was really hard to choose between her, Enrique and Hypnos but she’s probably my favorite character of the book! 💗 Zofia is great at the explosions and not to be messed with, but she’s also lost in any social situations, which I definitely relate to. The reason Zofia loves math and science so much is that it’d got clear rules, meanwhile, social interactions are often hard for her to navigate. She’s also got some bad experience back at her school, when she was attacked for being Jewish and barely escaped, which manifests in her anxiety and panic attacks.
- Enrique 🌺 Biracial (Filipino & Spanish) & Queer 🌺 is the historian of the group and simply loves using old texts to uncover riddles and mystery. He doesn’t have a forgery affinity but doesn’t hold much bitterness because of that. Rather he is witty, funny, and always good for a laugh, which is one of my favorite types of characters! ❤ Enrique however also has a big passion for working with the few Filipinos he knows in Paris and writing for their paper but keeps getting turned down for being too white-passing. Nevertheless, he’s not letting go of his dream to truly make a change!
- Hypnos 🌺 Black & Queer 🌺 is the patriarch of House Nyx and at the beginning of the story kind of a minor antagonist before he starts working with the crew. Here I was thinking he would be the big Bad Villain … but it turns out that he only wants friends and a hug 😭On the outside Hypnos is charming, cocky, and confident, always having a smart comment on his lips. I honestly loved his flair for luxury and dramatic, it made him such a fun character to have around! But like I said there’s also a vulnerability deep inside him!
- Laila 🌺 Indian 🌺 is basically the Mom Friend, which is why I loved her so much! She’s a lot of things, including a talented baker who loves making tasty treats for her friends and always takes care of the others 🥰 I loved her caring heart and how loyal she was to her friend, but also appreciated that she could handle herself and was good at playing a role! She’s living on borrowed time, so she’s often confronted with her past and the reason she’s never really like the others … including her talent to sense objects, something no one else can do.
- Tristan is Séverin’s brother and such a gentle soul. He’s got a pet spider named Goliath which creeps most of his friends out (including me 😖) and mostly tends to the gardens as his forging gift is the strongest there. Tristan is the kind of character you just want to give a warm hug as he’s kind, loyal but also can come across as a bit clueless! [Spoilers: Mark the following passage to see] I wasn’t prepared for this death at all, it was all over so soon and I barely had time to recover … him not having a POV should have been a warning sign though 😱 I’m also not sure what to think of what Laila revealed at the very end … apparently, Tristan was torturing the birds?? But it seemed like he was almost compelled to do it against his will?? I need answers for that!]
- Séverin 🌺 Biracial (Algerian & French) 🌺 is last on this list, but I still like him a lot! Like all of them he’s got his flaws and is definitely the most broody of the lot. The leader of the group, he takes on a lot of responsibility and is very ambitious in his goal to take back his inheritance that was denied from him. Throughout his life, he was subject to a lot of abuse and didn’t have any role models to look up to which is why he struggles to deal with his emotions. [Spoilers: Mark the following passage to see] Especially the end shows this, when he feels guilty for not listening to Tristan sooner (so caught up in his plan for revenge) and trying to save Laila instead of his own brother. Severin aggravated me a bit in the end as he was lashing out at Laila unfairly, though in reality his own grief and self-hatred at not preventing Tristan’s death are at the core of the problem.
The character dynamics are SO GOOD! ➽ I love that the friendships and dynamics of most of the group (excluding Hypnos at first) are already established! It’s nice to have some new friendships forming, but I also appreciate seeing characters working together who have been friends for a long time and already share a strong bond. That’s what makes Séverin’s ragtag team of misfits so great: you can feel that they are a (slightly chaotic) but well-lined machine. The friendships and romantic relationships are equally intriguing here and I love that all the characters have such great chemistry and banter together!
- Zofia, Enrique & Hypnos 🌺 I cannot believe that I’m saying this, but I really loved this love triangle!!?? 😱 This is usually my most hated tropes and I have only very few examples of it being done to my liking, yet Roshani Chokshi strikes again! The reason this constellation is working is that every character is complex and likable to me: I’m invested in all three of them and loved seeing all the little interactions between each other. Especially Enrique is so shippable! I have to admit that I like him and Hypnos slightly more as a couple as their chemistry is off the charts. But I cannot neglect his and Zofia’s bickering and opposites attract relationship that has me really intrigued! I actually cannot wait to see which direction this romantic triangle is going to take, as there is a lot of potential!
- Séverin & Laila 🌺 I didn’t like them as much as Zofia/Enrique/Hypnos, but there was still lots of chemistry! Apart from them obviously being friends who are attracted to each other there’s also lots of angst as they had an ONS they both are trying to forget even though it’s not working 👀 Their dynamic was an interesting one, as they are both very loyal to each other but cannot deny that they’re drawn to each other, even though they are convinced it would be an inconvenience. [Spoilers: Mark the following passage to see] Not sure where this is going to go with Séverin lashing out at Laila and really hurting her … & now Laila getting her payback. She’s definitely mad at him and if I were Séverin I’d be afraid. Her pretending to be his mistress in the next book will get explosive really soon!
- Laila & Zofia 🌺 I gotta mention them here because I specifically loved their friendship! While Laila is good at social situations and playing a role in front of people, Zofia is the complete opposite and doesn’t get these kinds of things at all. Both girls are pretty different from each other in tastes and personalities, but that’s why I love their strong bond so much! Laila is genuinely trying to get Zofia to leave her comfort zone and is always there for her – we love to see a supportive female friendship ❤
The book strikes the perfect balance between plot, characters, and romance! ➽ It’s clearly a very character-driven story and lets us experience the characters planning, getting into danger together, and also recharging after the battles they fight. Complete with banter and also swoony romances with lots of chemistry and tension. However, the book doesn’t skimp on the plot and gives us this mix of multiple heists and a kind of treasure hunt with lots of riddles and ancient history! I adored that combination so much as it was intriguing to see the characters try to solve the mystery and plan their little heists, all while balancing the dangers of those in power and trying to remain hidden. I definitely enjoyed the plotline and felt like it was well-paced with a good character focus ❤
The only underwhelming aspect was the main villain. ➽ The Fallen House in general is set up as the overarching villain and I do find their plans and motives interesting, but the specific villain in book 1 just didn’t feel well-developed. R-J is a pretty flat character whose motives aren’t well-explored and left me wondering the reason behind his scheming and big plans, which is why I didn’t think that he made for a compelling villain. However, I think that the next two books have a great opportunity to explore the Fallen House more in-depth as R-J by far wasn’t the most powerful member, which makes me have hope for a more complex villain later on! 😈
IN CONCLUSION. ➽ The Gilded Wolves is a fantastic Historical Fantasy story brimming with a complex, well-developed magic system, 1886’s Paris, fantastic, nuanced character dynamics and a great heist/treasure hunt plotline. Roshani Chokshi once again proves that she writes some of the best, most engaging characters and can always be counted on to create slightly angsty romances full of tension and chemistry!
Have you read The Gilded Wolves? Who’s your favorite character? What’s your favorite book set in Paris? 🐺