My copy of The Gilded Wolves came to me by destiny. I’ve been talking up Roshani Chokshi since the release of Aru Shah in March of 2018, and because of my unabashed gushing, a friend of mine entered a Goodreads giveaway for The Gilded Wolves, and won a copy, which she gave to me. This was the first time I have—albeit indirectly—won a giveaway. How is that not destiny?
Because of the luck that landed me with my Advanced Reading Copy—my first ARC, mind you—I already felt like the book itself was magical. I think that was the perfect mindset with which to dive into this story. The Gilded Wolves’ version of 1889 Paris takes the bustle of the Industrial Age and weaves magic into some—but not all—objects, and some—but not all-people. I like this some-but-not-all type of magic system, because it leaves room for wonder. If every single person or object is magical, the wonder disappears. A golden thread weaved into a solid black pattern stands out more than a golden thread weaved among other golden threads. That’s the type of magic in Chokshi’s Paris.
This story is not structured or written like any book I have read. That is refreshing. No one wants to read the same thing over and over, as is often encountered within genres. No one wants predictability. No one wants to be sitting comfortably in their seat while reading a book, no matter how many “candid” pictures we take of ourselves doing exactly that. This book is not “the same” as anything. It is not predictable, so it leaves you gasping at every solved puzzle, every reveal and every new mystery. The main cast of six characters—Severin, Laila, Enrique, Zofia, Tristan, and Hypnos--works together to restore Severin’s inheritance, but also find themselves having to thwart some evil machinations. Each member had their own reasons for joining Severin’s mission, but you hardly feel any disconnect between them, since they gel like an old family. You’ll fall in love with each of these characters because of their endearing quirks and qualities, insecurities, mysterious histories, and unique talents.
What I love most about these characters is their spectrum of cultural origins. Severin and Hypnos are half-French, half-African. Laila has traveled to Paris from India, with a secret and a mission. Zofia is Polish and a math geek. Enrique is Filipino and Spanish, similar to Chokshi herself, who is Filipina and Indian. Tristan is Parisian, but he’s got a pet tarantula, so he’s odd enough. Even though the story is set in only one geographic location, this treasure hunt proves that a perfect team is chosen by talent, not geography. There is no doubt that each of these six is uniquely necessary for the success of the mission.
As a literature geek, I love themes, motifs, and metaphors. Like many fantasy novels, Chokshi gives the number “seven” a significance in a few aspects of the book. If I’m being honest, I’m a bit tired of all the ways “seven” can be magical. Anyway, Severin and Tristan, who were both orphaned at a young age, had seven foster fathers, who were each given a symbolic name, in Severin’s mind, that correspond to one of Seven Sins. These Seven Sins show up in the garden the Tristan creates in Severin’s glamorous hotel, “L’Eden”. I love reading about themes such as these Seven Sins, but they also seemed a little detached from the main thread of the story. Each of the fathers are introduced in a flashback—seven flashbacks that occur periodically throughout the book. Flashbacks are tricky. Some people love them, because it puts pieces of a puzzle together. Some people are impatient to get back to the plot. I fall in the latter category. (Disclaimer: I’m a harsh critic of flashbacks). The flashbacks are beautifully written, intriguing, and relevant to the characterization of both Severin and Tristan, but I don’t think they are crucial for understanding Severin’s thought-process throughout this treasure hunt. I would, however, read a book exclusively about Severin, his seven fathers, and the Seven Sins. I’m a sucker for moral philosophy in the form of metaphors.
Chokshi is a master of detailing. Her description of a room is hardly mundane—you feel like you are standing in a glittering ballroom or a magical garden. The magical—”Forged”—objects might as well be hovering in front of You. In a fantasy book, that is crucial. An audience must be fooled into believing in the magic of the book’s fantastical world. Chokshi takes 1889 Paris and tweaks it just enough to make it possible for magic to exist. Everything else is just 1889 Paris. So why couldn’t there be a touch of magic here and there? Everything about her re-imagined Parisian world is intricate, entrancing, and Gilded with magic.
Read the introductory blog post here!