Title: The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1)
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Release Date: January 15th 2019 from Wednesday Books
Narrators: P.J. Ochlan and Laurie Catherine Winkel
Listen time: 11 hours, 55 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
This was one of my most anticipated releases for the year, after not only reading a sample and loving it but also seeing so many glowing reviews from people I trust. I will fully admit that I haven’t been a fan of her Star Touched duology, so I was still a tiny bit hesitant. But my fears were eased right away. Roshani Chokshi has created a fully immersive, creative historical fantasy with characters that made me snort out loud and really care for. I know there’s a lot of hype around this book, but it’s really worth it. Here are five reasons to listen to this book:
1. Cast of Characters
This is one ensemble cast of characters that hooked me from the start! We have four central perspectives that we read from but there are a total of six characters that play a role in this first book. We have: Enrique (half Filipino, half Spanish and my personal favorite), Zofia (Polish, Jewish and I have heard she’s on the Autism spectrum), Laila (Indian, own voices for the author), Hypnos (a nobleman who helps the group), Tristan (has a huge pet spider) and Séverin (half Algerian). We mainly have POV chapters from Zofia, Enrique, Laila and Séverin as they hunt down magical artifacts in the historical setting. If I had to pick between the group, my two favorite characters were Zofia and Enrique. These two were so unique, masterfully fleshed out and the ones that made me laugh out loud and care the most for. Enrique reminds me of Percy from The Scarlet Pimpernel in the best ways and his lines and thoughts were perfect comic relief. I also liked his struggle with wanting to belong with both sides of his heritage. Zofia was another character I loved because I haven’t read a historical book with someone on the Autism spectrum and being a central character. I don’t have a lot of experience with people on the Autism spectrum but the author wrote her so well and you see her wanting to belong but also not caring about certain things at the same time. Her love of math and numbers was very interesting to read about and also how she shows her care for the group made me feel for her. I liked all the other characters and seeing how they worked together and even got frustrated with one another. All of their reactions felt real and at times hilarious.
2. World Building
Since this is an alternate version of 1889 Paris, the parallels were so amazing! I loved the history and mystery of the Babel fragments and the secretive Order of Babel. The author weaves the magical parts of the book into history so perfectly that it almost reads like a historical fiction. The way that mythology from different cultures, brutally honest views on erasing cultures during that time and the changing world were so spot on and definitely relatable to our world. I know some people struggled with the world building, but I enjoyed every second of it. I always love to see how authors can weave magic through history and make the setting all at once mysterious, exciting and feeling the magic in the atmosphere. The super indulgent Babel houses were luscious to read about and the mystery surrounding the missing artifacts, the Fallen House and Séverin’s inheritance just sunk its teeth into me and made me keep listening.
The two narrators were newcomers for me and I was curious of how they were going to read the story. While I did have to get used to PJ Ochlan’s narration, he quickly grew on me. Both of them had great accents for the French and Polish for the characters. The male narrator had the biggest challenge of all the male voices to do: Hypnos, Tristan, Enrique, Séverin and the others. All I have to say that is that I hope both of them stay to narrate the entire series. The female narrator was a tiny better for me personally, but both did a great job of moving the story along and injecting disgust, humor, wonder and shock all throughout.
I know some people have struggled with the pacing of the story as well. There are points where our group is planning, talking and some background on some of their stories. But I always appreciate the quieter moments where we’re deepening the mythology, mystery and emotions of the characters. But then, reaching the climax of the book was insane! Things really amped up and it gave such great moments to prepare us for book two. One major thing happened that I didn’t expect and it still made me emotional, despite not having a deep connection. The author isn’t afraid to make things messy and show how these characters make mistakes and don’t always do the right hing. The pacing was perfect, from hunting down artifacts, planning a heist and also escaping danger. This was the one of the best paced novels I’ve read all year so far 🙂 I’m DYING for book two.
5. It’s so quotable!
There are a lot of times where the writing is good, but no quotable when listening to an audio book. I’m not the best at remembering great sentences or passages while listening to a book. But there were so many moments of simple but powerful statements of the writing. The themes of erased nations, your identity, how museums stole things from other cultures and not feeling like you belong were very powerful. But also there were some great moments of humor that made me snort. Here are some passages that I really enjoyed:
Enrique whined. “Séverin doesn’t think I’m pretty.”
Séverin crossed his arms. “Zofia, tell him he’s pretty.”
Zofia didn’t look up from her tea. “I am personally undecided, but if we’re assessing based on objectivity, then according to the principles of the golden ratio, also known as phi, which is approximately 1.618, your facial beauty is mathematically pleasing.”
“I’m swooning,” grumbled Enrique. (pg. 87)
“Nothing felt still. Even the stone gargoyles leaned off the edges of buildings as if they were on the verge of flight. And nothing looked lonely. Terraces has the company of wicker chairs, and bright purple bougainvillea hugged stone walls. Not even the Seine River, which cut through Paris like a trail of ink, looked abandoned.” (pg. 36)
“Kisses were not supposed to be like this. Kisses were to be witnessed by stars, not held in the presence of stale death.” (pg. 329-330)
Overall: I really loved this book! I didn’t have high expectations, but then it blew me out of the water! The themes, discussions, pacing and magic woven into history was so fascinating and wholly original. I loved Enrique and Zofia the most and while I didn’t completely connect with Laila or Séverin, I know there will be more books for them to shine. If you’ve been wondering about this book, go no further and get the audio book and enjoy the magical journey. This is one of my top favorite new releases so far!
Have you read this book? Did you also love it? Who was your favorite character?