21st February, 2019

Review: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (Wednesday Books)

Meh! Is that even a word? Well, it certainly does summarise perfectly how I felt about this book. This was another of these hyped YA novels – the ones that get a lot of attention on social media and which everybody seems to love. Alas, I didn’t. But before I tell you why, here is the synopsis:

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.

Sexy heists, diverse protagonists, 19th century Paris? Hell yeah! BUT… while I did enjoy the first few chapters, the book quickly lost me. The characterisation was extremely weak, the setting definitely did NOT have the feel of fin de siecle France and the switching between different voices was more of an annoyance than a positive feature of the story. And this is exactly what bugs me: the book had so much promise that it simply didn’t fulfil. I was literally in tears over so much wasted potential.

Additionally, I am of course aware of the fact that this is a young adult novel but does that mean that the characters have to be so childish while pretending to be grown-ups? Clearly not, as many other YA books have shown. While the author could have done so much with the characters in all their glorious diversity, all we get is boring teenager banter and only little snippets of background story. The chapters of the book jump between the different protagonists’ viewpoints, but they all felt very interchangeable to me. I sometimes drifted off and then couldn’t really remember which character I’m actually following right now as they all sounded so alike. Yes, they do have different backgrounds and… well… psychological problems, but their voices aren’t distinct enough.

And then the setting – the basic idea was amazing and I absolutely adored the whole steampunky atmosphere and the general idea of Forging. What I didn’t believe for one second was that this was supposed to be late 19th century France. Except for the backdrop of the Exhibition Universelle, the entire story felt very futuristic. Maybe I wouldn’t have stumbled over this if the blurbs hadn’t advertised the book as being set in historical Paris. It is definitely more of an alternative history kind of narrative.

Unfortunately the book wasn’t for me and I’m yet undecided whether I should be mad at myself because it simply didn’t connect with me or mad at the author because the story didn’t live up to its potential. Oh well, I guess that’s the quandary of subjective perspectives and personal taste.

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

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