Let’s Steal a Magical Artefact: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves was one of my big anticipated releases for 2019. ASix of Crows-esque squad pulling a heist in post-revolution France with some magic thrown in? How could I possibly resist?

Complex World Building

I don’t know if I’m not paying enough attention, just obtuse, or it’s the book itself, but either way, I was massively lost on a lot of the world building elements of TGW because there’s just so much to process.

There was once the Tower of Babylon which God broke up into a bunch of smaller pieces. These fragments were then hidden in different parts of the world. Through their presence, some members of the population developed special abilities. Known as ‘Forging’, these abilities are either physical or mental and involve altering objects in unique ways (forged objects). Forging affinities are also highly specific e.g. manipulating stone.

To protect the fragments, the Order of Babel was created and is made up of powerful houses spread across the globe (there were once 4 French ones each led by a patriarch or matriarch, now only two remain). The members of the order are responsible for moving the Babylon fragments every few years and ensuring the location isn’t discovered. This is to avoid someone attempting to misuse, destroy or reunite them. 

Still following? Because I haven’t even mentioned anything about:

  • The special rings the house heads wear
  • The forged objects designed to locate Babylon fragments
  • OR the branches of forging that somehow allow you to transfer souls (…what?)

In one word, it’s overwhelming. As the book went on, despite the author’s attempts to explain, I just found myself getting more confused, especially during the climax. The frustrating thing is that I’m so impressed by the amount of work and creativity that’s gone into crafting this world and I feel as though it has so much potential for awesomeness, but at this point, I AM CONFUZZLED. SEND HELP.

It’s Heist Time

The plot of TGW revolves around a heist. It’s Paris, 1889 and Severin Montagnet-Alarie is the denied heir to one of France’s two now-extinct houses of the Order of Babel. When he and his associates come across something that may lead them to an object Severin believes could force the Order to give him his rightful place as patriarch and resurrect his house, he jumps at the idea. That is, until he finds out the object is locked inside the protected vaults of House Korre. Deciding to let it go, plans change when he’s soon forced into a magically sealed deal by the head of House Nyx, the charismatic Hypnos –  deliver him the object and he’ll give Severin exactly what he’s always wanted.

The plot of TGW is intricately linked with its world building and because of that, I had trouble understanding (or even just avoiding zoning out during) some of the technical parts of the story. However, because the pacing is so spot on and the narrative has such a great balance between action-packed/tense scenes and quieter character moments, it actually managed to distract me from this fact on numerous occasions.

Me: I have no idea why Zofia & Enrique broke into this museum but OH MY GOD, THAT DUDE JUST THREW A BLADED HAT!

As you’d expect, there’s also some romantic drama which I quite enjoyed because we got both the cute, awkward flirting pairing and the intense I-love-you-but-we-can’t-be-together pairing.

The End

I have to give Chokshi points for her ending. I was on the fence about reading the sequel for ages and then…we got to the last few chapters where she dumps a whole bunch of teasers for future character drama and THEN wham, hits us with a solid twist in the last line. *sigh* I think she may have got me.

Diversity & Commentary

This book has such an ethnically diverse cast of characters and it makes me ridiculously happy. We have Algerian-French, Indian, Filipino-Spanish, Polish, Haitian-French and…Tristan.

Through the use of her cast and setting, Chokshi also makes some great commentary on some of the darker issues associated with France during this period in history such as:

  • Cultural appropriation and exploitation – Laia is pushed to perform a traditional Indian dance for mere entertainment
  • Racism & Discrimination – Severin is denied his place as head of House Vanth because the Order refused to have two mixed-race patriarchs, Zofia is harassed for being Jewish
  • Slavery & Human Trafficking – the existence of human zoos
  • Colonialisation – The occupation of the Philipines by the Spanish & Enrique being of mixed race is considered part of neither population.

A Loveable Family

My favourite part of TGW, hands down, was the characters. Severin’s team of quirky, adorable and brilliant associates are all likeable and distinct. They also interact with one another in ways that feel real, familiar and humorous.

Severin: Owner of the L’Eden Hotel , Severin is calculating, good at recognising the talents of others and using them to his advantage, and generally tries to hide his emotions behind a calm exterior. However, deep down, he thinks of his team much like a family and would protect any one of them at all costs.      

Laia: Exotic dancer & hotel baker. Laia is wonderfully confident, cool-headed, mysterious and always trying to feed everyone. She has the unique ability to read the history of objects by touching them and can go toe to toe with Severin.

Enrique: The team historian and a massive nerd for all things scholarly. He’s bisexual and possesses that cocky bravado thing which pretty much assures I will fall in love with you. Also, will turn up to parties to get first dibs on chocolate covered strawberries.

Zofia: A Jewish, Polish engineer with autism who’s great with numbers, patterns, and chemicals. Zofia’s not so good with people or humour and tends to count things when she’s nervous. She has a love of sugar cookies and is basically an awkward, little cinnamon roll. 

Tristan: A botanist with forging abilities centred around plants. Tristan is like a little brother to Severin and he’s pretty much an overexcited puppy who spends most of his time in the greenhouse working on his inventions with his pet tarantula, Goliath. 

Hypnos: Charming, ostentatious, and flirts with anything that moves. Hypnos is smarter than he seems, adept at getting what he wants and swears by using alcohol as a thinking asset. If there’s one thing he needs, it’s friends. He opened his mouth, and I fell in love.

The Gilded Wolves showcases solid writing, good momentum, and diverse, interesting characters. However, due to the overly complicated nature of the world building and it’s inextricable links to the plot, I found myself unable to enjoy the story as much as I wanted to. Still, with an intriguing ending, the chances of me reading the sequel remain high.

3.5 stars 

5 thoughts on “Let’s Steal a Magical Artefact: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

    1. Thanks Kelly! There have been a heap of amazing reviews for this one so it’s highly likely you’ll end up in that camp when you read it. I did enjoy it, but yes, I think I should probably have gone in with lower expectations. It was likely all those Six of Crows comparisons! Ah well.

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