Book: “The Gilded Wolves” by Roshani Chokshi
Publishing Info: Wednesday Books, January 2019
Where Did I Get this Book: ebook from the library!
Book Description: 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.
Review: I was a bit hesitant to pick this book for a few reasons. First, as readers of this blog know, the last year or so has been made up of a lot of middling reviews from me for books that I feel are WAY too similar to “Six of Crows” to be called much more than blatant cash grabs on the part of authors and publishers who want in on the lingering popularity of that duology. And secondly, I’ve tried to read Roshani Chokshi’s books in the past because she’s a fairly beloved YA author and…haven’t loved her work. But, I thought I’d give it one more go. And, in an improvement on my opinions on her other books, this one was…ok.
Severin had been on the cusp of entering into an inheritance that would establish him into one of the most exclusive and privileged circles in the nation, if not the world. But, in the eleventh hour, he is rejected and outcast. Ever since, Severin has worked to gather up a crew of other outcasts in an attempt to regain his birthright. Each with their own speckled past and hopes for the future, this ragtag group will now find themselves caught up in conspiracies grander than they could ever had expected. But with the potential riches, comes the equally dangerous perils.
So, to start with the pros of this book. One of my major complaints about Chokshi’s work in the past was my distaste for her overly flowery writing. It was of the type too often found in YA where it seems like the authors are just playing word spaghetti and hoping to string together sentences that sound pretty. Who cares if they don’t make any actual sense or the metaphors are pure nonsense if looked at for more than half a second? But luckily, here, there was less of it, especially of the flowery type. I still think the writing left something to be desired, however. No one can fault the author for her dialogue writing, as that was witty and fast. But the actual description of how the magic system worked or some of the actions scenes were confusing, and even after re-reading, I didn’t have a solid image in my mind for what exactly she was trying to describe.
I also enjoyed most of the characters, though this two is both a positive of the book and a negative. The author does a great job of peopling her story with a diverse cast of characters. They come from different cultures, religions, orientations, you name it. However, when you’re actually reading the chapters, many of their voices sound very similar, which seems to detract from the actual celebration of differences that she seems to be setting out to accomplish. Given the author’s note at the back and the author’s own story, I don’t believe she was just trying to check boxes, but I do think that, again, her writing itself let her down where these characters were concerned. And, of course, I can’t end a section on characters and not acknowledge the giant elephant/”Six of Crows” shadow in the room: several of these characters were disturbing similar to characters in that book. The story itself was very different, but the characters….the two “main” characters and their romances were especially disconcertingly similar to that of Kaz and Ines.
I was intrigued by the world-building and the history of the magic in this world and how it worked. There were a lot of creative ideas thrown around, and some of them were definitely unique and whimsical, fitting in perfectly with the author’s style and the story she was laying out with its tone and characters. There were times, however, where I felt like there was always some magical “out” or McGuffin that the team could use to solve almost every problem. It didn’t really seem like you had to be all that clever or skilled to pull of the things they were doing, and more just needed to have the right magical tools that did the job for them. And at the same time, the existence of all these magical get-arounds seemed to undermine the dangers or protections that the crew was setting out to get around. What good are all of these magical wards if they are so easily bypassed by some other magical tool or what not? I wish the story had been a bit more clever in these areas.
So, as you can see, I had a fairly middling experience with this book. It was a fast read, and the adventure and snappy dialogue kept things moving to the point that I never felt the need to put the book down (as I have with other books by this author in the past). But on deeper reflection, once I’d finished the book, a lot of the elements involved seemed to be wanting in some way. The story definitely ends with a set-up for the next, and I’m intrigued enough to continue. I’m hopeful that as this book seemed an improvement on some of the author’s works of the past, that things will continue in that direction and the second book will feel a bit more solid. If you’re not totally burned out on “Six of Crows” read-alikes, this one might be worth checking out. If you’re a fan of this author, than definitely.
Rating 7: Most of the pros had corresponding cons, but I’m in it enough to want to continue on to the next, which is a bigger compliment than I’ve paid the author’s books in the past.
“The Gilded Wolves” is on these Goodreads lists: “Speculative Fiction Heist/Caper Stories” and “YA Fantasy by WOC.”
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