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The Gilded Wolves: A Nuanced Heist Fantasy That Explores Colorism, Colonialism And Power Struggles

The Gilded Wolves: A Nuanced Heist Fantasy That Explores Colorism, Colonialism And Power Struggles

Ratings: 5/5

Short review: Excellent novel is excellent. Highly recommend.

The tea (because there always seems to be a controversy or another whenever a marginalized author puts out a best-seller diverse novel): skip to the bottom.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: child abuse, mild torture and violence

Detailed review: Now this here is a stunning, exciting thought-provoking novel that I can’t wait to get more of. Roshani Chokshi (who made me remember why I love fantasy with her debut novel The Star-Touched Queen and its sequel A Crown of Wishes) once again brings a brilliantly written fantasy/heist story with a cast of incredibly fascinating, lovable characters, an intense and captivating plot line, slow burn romance, and breath-taking world building.

Set in the era of Moulin Rouge in a fictional, glittering and magical Paris, the book, on the surface, is about a team of 5 talented thieves working on their most dangerous and rewarding acquisition. However, as you dive deeper into the story and learn about each characters’ motivations and aspirations, the story begins to explore racism, colonialism, identity and disparity through well developed, diverse characters of all backgrounds. What I loved the most is that the author touches on these topics just long enough to make you pause, and ponder on important questions without taking the focus away from the actual heist.

THE WORLD BUILDING

In both The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown Of Wishes, Roshani Chokshi proved to all her readers that her imagination knows no limits. The world-building in those two books were nothing short of spectacular, and The Gilded Wolves does not disappoint either. The French Industrial Revolution meets a different kind of revolution in this book: the science and art of magic–or, as the book calls it, Forging.

I absolutely loved the perfect balance of magic, science and logic that guides this book. It made the fantasy elements of the story feel much more believable, much more probable, and at the same time left enough room for the impossible to occur. The Gilded Wolves keeps its magical system grounded with science, and still pushes its readers to stretch the boundaries of their imagination and then takes them further still.

The descriptions of the geographic locations of the book was also mesmerizing. I’ve never been to France, but the way Chokshi described the lantern-lit misty streets of Paris transported me there nonetheless. To put it simply, the world-building is so immersive that you cannot help but be lost in this story.

THE CHARACTERS

I adored each and every character in this story, and that is saying something. Perhaps it is because the major characters in this book are effortlessly diverse, and their struggles with both their identities and their aspirations are not only relatable but very realistic and stays true to a lot of people’s experiences.

For example, Severin, the cunning leader of the group is equal parts kind and ruthless: his lust for vengeance, thirst for a grander life are tempered by his compassion and understanding for his fellow thieves. Add to this his unique experience as a white-passing biracial, and you have a very complex and intriguing character who has a lot to explore about himself.

There are other biracial (and bisexual) characters who struggle with identity and micro-aggression in this story: Enrique and Hypnos and I adored them both. Their experiences were unique from that of Severin’s–neither of them belonged among their own people or that of the French people. I adored Laila and her personal experiences, some of which I could relate to: the reduction and exotifying of her culture and traditions at the hands of white people (many of whom, to this day, would rather perpetuate their own interpretation of a colored person’s culture rather than allow him/her to explain it), the stereotyping of her identity as either a maid or an escort (because God forbid brown women have the audacity to be anything other) .

(note: this admittedly is not my first hand experience as I’ve been raised among my own people, but I am very acutely aware of the experiences my brown ancestors had even though very few history books have allowed them to speak).

I also loved the Jewish representation through Zofia in this book, and how for most parts of the story she was utterly uninterested in romance and sexuality–this was something I could relate to as a demisexual, and though it is not yet very clear that Zofia is demi, I was glad to see representation of a somewhat naivete teenager with very little interest in sex.

This however brings me to my only issue with the characters in this book: they were too young. These characters, with all their maturity and responsibilities, felt more like young adults in their early twenties to me, and personally, I think it would have been more appropriate to put them in that age group instead of making them a bunch of seventeen/eighteen-year-olds.

THE PLOT, THE THEMES, THE WRITING STYLE

Although this first book is essentially about an impossible heist, it connects with a bigger story that encompasses the plot of the entire trilogy and the central theme of the story: mankind’s lust for power and vengeance; glory and gore. The frequent question asked throughout this story is this: where do we draw the line?

Needless to say, this entire story is written with such a captivating narration style, that you will be kept on your toes from start to finish. However, my biggest issue was that every chapter seemed to end in some sort of cliff-hanger, which made the story seem repetitive and at times rather annoying: one can only hold their breath in anticipatory suspense so many times.

To sum it up: The Gilded Wolves is a one of a kind, impeccably written, nuanced heist fantasy that explores colorism, colonialism and power struggles through vivid, diverse characters and a captivating narration style that will simply take your breath away. DEFINITELY RECOMMEND!

Other bloggers whose reviews you must check out:

Shealea’s articulate review on The Gilded Wolves

Kaleena’s detailed, well-written thoughts on The Gilded Wolves


Word on the blogosphere is that many people have been calling The Gilded Wolves an Asian version of Six of Crows by Leigh Burdago, some going so far as to say that it copied from Six of Crows too. **sigh** I loved Six of Crows, it is well written on its own, but God knows The Gilded Wolves touches on the experiences of diverse people and is a thousand times more thought-provoking than Six of Crows could ever hope to be. In terms of writing quality, they are both equal, but in terms of content, The Gilded Wolves takes the lead. That being said: these comparisons need to end, simply because despite both books being fantasy heist stories and having the central theme of power, The Gilded Wolves is written by marginalized author while Six of Crows is written by a privileged author, and that fact alone makes these comparisons absolutely unfair. More on this on a future discussion post.

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