This heist gang of misfits novel quickly wormed a way into my heart. The Gilded Wolves is hilarious, heart warming, and emotional.
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.
The characterization in The Gilded Wolves is superb. This book is full of multiple perspectives which is brilliant, because it not only allows us to see through the eyes of each character, but to see our favorites from new angles. Each of these characters have their own pasts, their own talents. They have their own personal missions, combined as a team for one epic quest. Set in this historical Paris setting feels both luxurious and almost forbidden. It’s not just back alleys, it’s decadent hotels the Eiffel Tower. This book is as bright and brilliant as Paris is at night.
I could feel the setting in my bones as wagon wheels drive over the cobblestones. All the way from exotic glass ceiling greenhouses to the taste of sugary sweet confections. And what better characters to inhabit this stunning and dangerous world are our cast of misfits: Zofia, Tristen, Séverin, Enrique, and Laila. The diversity killed it on the page – poc characters, queer characters, and neurodivergent. I can’t even pick a favorite character because there’s something I love about each of them.
There’s Zofia, taunted for her Jewish, Polish background and she is autistic, who adores sugary cookies and is soothed by the recitation of numbers. And there’s Tristan, his genuine love of botany and spiders, who hides a past of nightmares. Enrique who is biracial Fillipino-Spanish (and bisexual) and can pass for Spanish, when all he wants is for people to acknowledge his Filipino identity as well. Wow, I could feel this feeling so much.
Séverin’s “colored mother” is also one of the biggest source of his own personal backstory, the way society will only tolerate so many people who are ‘different’ than them. And Laila’s own hidden secrets, never fully revealed, that hides a past and family who cast her aside.
(But seriously, Séverin was a precious character. The leader of their group, who, arguably is one of the most vulnerable because of how hard he tries to mask his flaws. How he doesn’t want to show his cracks to those he loves best.)
Even Hypnos, a character who is never given a perspective of his own, is a fascinating character (he is black and gay). Especially as he was made to play a part that he never chose. A life, a future, without his own devices even as the world seems him differently than he is.
Snippets of history between chapters give us a flavor on the world. How it’s drunk on power, colonialist, and bigger than just this moment, than this setting of Paris. And all of our characters have vivid personalities from page one. They have secret desires and ambitions. Holes in their heart and revenge in their veins. There’s simmering love in many different avenues (that are all equally precious), sacrifices, and everyone’s demons on the page.
Combined with stellar characters and a glittering plot was almost an Indianna Jones vibe with archaeology, historical puzzles, and mischief afoot. And, at the end of the day, there’s the realization that what we thirsted for, what we sacrificed for, might not satisfy us. Ending on a bombshell, I need to read book two, right now.