‘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.’
The Gilded Wolves is, to me, as about as close to a perfect story if I could ask for any story to be written. It has a cast of diverse and engaging characters who are all unique and interesting in their own right, none of them added to the narrative as specific support for another, more prominent character. They all have their own stories to tell and their own dreams, drives and desires, enough of each revealed to make the reader feel as if they know them well without surrendering every facet of their being, making it easy to empathise with them while still being surprised by some of the paths that they choose. There was not one character that I didn’t want to spend more time with as the story unfolded, and what I found the most endearing about them is that they each bring to the group a skill set that they are (mostly) unabashedly confident in and they seem to enjoy sharing what they love of the world with the others, even if they cannot always share the entire truth of themselves.
As Chokshi has demonstrated before in her Star-Touched series, her writing is beautifully immersive and sensory, colours and textures and everything all but leaping from the page, each location painted so vividly that it makes it incredibly easy to experience the world that the characters do. I simply love her writing and have re-read both her Star-Touched series and The Gilded Wolves more than once because they are some of the most enchanting books out there.
In particular, I loved Zofia and Laila; in particular Laila’s understanding of what Zofia finds difficult about the world and how she finds ways of encouraging her and explaining things to her when necessary (the sugar cookies!). The portrayal of Zofia’s coping mechanisms is a sensitive one that holds true to methods that others of similar circumstances (I am making the assumption that Zofia is on the autistic spectrum) are known to employ – at least in my experience – which is a detail that I especially appreciated. Laila’s abilities and what is slowly revealed of her past as it becomes more and more of her present are further elements of the narrative that I particularly enjoyed, the specifics of which I can’t go into much detail about with giving away spoilers. In short: I adored her, though Zofia might still be my favourite.
One of the many reasons why The Gilded Wolves is my idea of a perfect story is its use of altered history, mythology and ancient artefacts from different cultures. Having spent much of my life studying Classical Civilisation and Egyptology, the details of the artefacts and the research that the cast put into unlocking the various secrets that they must was a huge highlight, along with the snippets of where and when the concept of Forging (around which the book’s magic system is based) came about and what such power means for people across the world. Paired with the varied backgrounds of its cast of characters, its representation of love and the unravelling of mysteries of both people and history, it’s a fantastically enjoyable read.
The Gilded Wolves is out in January 2019 and would be an excellent read to start the year with!