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.
Well, I have a few mixed feelings on this one and the first feeling is that I’m disappointed that I was a bit disappointed by this book because I had such high hopes for it. But, as always, our expectations can color our enjoyment of things and maybe that was the case here. Let me first say that I’m a fan of Roshani Chokshi’s writing–I love both The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes–but they’re both different from The Gilded Wolves and maybe therein lies my disappointment. But! This wasn’t a bad book by any means! It just left me feeling very average where I wish it had left me feeling more of, well, anything in the end.
There were three reasons I was very excited for this book. The first is because of the author, which I’ve already mentioned. The second was because it features a group, a gang, a found family–one of my favorite things in fiction! And third, it’s a heist story, and man I love a good heist. (I’ve probably watched Ocean’s Eleven about thirty times.) But, sadly, almost none of the things I was excited about really worked for me here.
I’m a reader who gravitates toward characters more than anything–if I can’t care about the characters then I’m just not invested in the story. The characters here are okay, some are fleshed out more than others, but it took me a really long time to come around to some of them. I had a hard time connecting to any of them for most of the book, which is just a shame. I wish they had been a little more fleshed out. Now, don’t get me wrong, we get pretty good descriptions of who they are, but I wish we’d gotten to spend more time in their heads really learning what they’re all about rather then being told what they’re about–if that makes sense. By the end of the story I was starting to connect with some of them, especially Séverin and Laila. But it took SO LONG. Because I couldn’t connect with them I had a really hard time with their camaraderie through most of the story as well.
I will say that the heist was pretty fun. I did enjoy seeing the plan all come together and, of course, when things inevitably went wrong (because there’s always something that goes wrong during a heist), how everyone adapted plans. I wish more time had been spent on the heist stuff though, I suppose, because that was the best part of the story for me.
The other thing that really didn’t work for me, especially near the beginning, was that there was way too much exposition. It felt like too much stuff was being thrown my way all at once. I wish the information would have come more organically through the storytelling and less all at once. I appreciated getting to see more of the character’s backgrounds later in the novel (such as Tristan and Séverin growing up), and I wish that more of the exposition had been conveyed in that way.
But, again, that’s not to say that this was a bad book in any way. Overall I did still have a mostly positive experience with this one. I liked the world that it’s set in and I think I’ll have a lot better connection with the characters in the next part of the story. Perhaps I was foiled a bit by my high expectations. 3.5 stars.