I’m a sucker for historical fantasy. I mean hey, that’s the genre I’m currently writing in. There’s something about the passing on of information and stories that shrouds reality in mystery. Plus, the collective world is much much to large to ever pass on to posterity in all its glorious variety and detail. In some ways, I’ve often considered what I’ve read in history textbooks about as trustworthy as some books of fiction.
The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi, checked a lot of boxes for me. It’s a playful romp through Paris in the late 1800s, about fifty years after when the Great Industrial Exhibition would have taken place. I got through the book in about a week. Here are two reasons you’ll do the same thing.
I’ve got after books for having wonky magic systems in the past. An in-your-face magic system that hides the ball from a reader is a big pet peeve of mine. I get it. The whole point of magic is that it breaks the rules. But, authors don’t create real magic systems. They create stories.
I enjoyed Chokshi’s magic because it lit off visual fireworks in your mind and it was central to the plot, but it still called little attention to itself. In some ways, it resembled a tech system more than a magic system–similar to the Tracker Jackers or Mutts you read about in The Hunger Games.
You don’t have to worry about some unexplained part of the magical world coming and saving the heroes at the end. They squirm, and they have to figure it out, which is always a delight.
The Gilded Wolves is a heist story, and like a lot of heist stories, it’s only as strong as the crew of characters. Fortunately, Chokshi blends together an eccentric and lovable crew. There is a driven and ambitious leader trying to pull fragments of his stolen past back together. There is a logic-driven alchemist, a dreaming scholar, an innocent creative, and fiery baker/cabaret dancer (yes, you read that right) with a real reason to pull the reigns on what should be a slam dunk relationship.
Since all the characters have such different perspectives, and they share a familial-level bond with each other, the banter between them can turn pages for you. Add in her a mega-flamboyant ally/antagonist and you’ve got yourself party.
As I said, I’m a sucker for historical fantasy. Really fun character interactions. A delightful heist with big stakes on the line. Don’t expect the book to change your life the way Les Misérables might, but if you’re up for a fun page-turner, go check it out.