The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi is a fantasy set in the Victorian era of Paris in 1899. The author’s sumptuous writing style perfectly lends itself to this time period, as the plush and gilded world is built upon an interesting magic system and characters that will become one of your new favourite groups. I will say that there could be a lot of triggers in this book though for certain readers and I likely didn’t catch a number of them, but I noticed: mental abuse/torture, racism, death of a loved one, graphic violence and physical harm, neglect, pre-meditated murder, and discussion of suicide. It is definitely not a light book and readers should go in aware that they are in for strife, struggles, death, and violence.
I liked all of the characters on an individual basis, although I was quite distracted initially by the striking similarity that the Gilded Wolves crew bore to the Dregs from Six of Crows. Some felt like a rebranding of the same character, while others felt like they were a mash-up of two of the characters. I suspect that Chokshi was inspired by the fantastic banter, antics and the ability to play off one another that Bardugo captured with the Dregs, but I wish it was a little more unique. That being said, it didn’t negatively impact my enjoyment of the series – it just would have likely received a slightly higher rating if it hadn’t felt so much like Six of Crows.
Individually, the characters were incredibly unique and diverse without it feeling forced. Diversity in books means so much more when it just makes sense, rather than feeling like they threw in a token ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, etc character. Severin, the leader, is Algerian and French. Laila is Indian and it was nice to see her honour her culture in little ways throughout the book. Zofia is a Jewish, Polish girl on the spectrum and she felt so authentic (although I cannot truly speak to the rep as I am not on the spectrum, but it rang true to me as a casual reader). Enrique is Filipino, but due to his Spanish father is the personification of the struggle of being too ‘white’ to be one group and too ‘brown’ to be the other group. It is a struggle that people today still face and it was nice to see it make its way naturally into Gilded Wolves. Tristan is the slightly awkward, cinnamon-roll type character that Severin (and the reader) want to protect no matter what. Finally, Hypnos is not a regular crew member but he adds some hilarity, awkwardness, and genuine desire to belong into the group. Like come on guys, Hypnos just wants to be friends. Let him in the crew. Overall, it was her characters that shone for me with their flaws and struggles.
The plot was also incredibly reminiscent of Six of Crows, but that’s to be expected because it is a crime/heist plot involving a group of misfit characters. It was still incredibly engaging and entertaining, despite that similarity. I felt that it was significantly different in action and execution, even if the bones of the plot felt the same. There was intrigue and mystery, which kept me wanting more and needed to know what would happen next. There is a lot about colonialism in this book, which is heartbreaking but also incredibly necessary. It sets the stage for a lot of people’s stories and struggles, and unfortunately is glossed over in the real world – so it was nice that it was addressed in this book.
I loved the idea of the magic system, although sometimes I didn’t feel that it was well enough explained. There were little things that would pop up throughout the book that gave me pause. I hope that she is able to add a little more depth to the magic system in the second book to help cement the rules, limits, and possibilities of the magic.
The plot and storylines had me hooked so quickly. I couldn’t always predict where the story was going (unfortunately, sometimes that was because certain scenes/actions just didn’t make sense since there was not context for that being what would happen or how someone would act) but ultimately I was left with the need to read the next book as soon as I finished the Gilded Wolves, although unfortunately it hasn’t been finished yet. I adored the lush, vibrant world that Chokshi painted into existence with her words and cannot wait to see where she takes this story.
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The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi