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.
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 3.98 out of 5
15th January 2019 by Wednesday Books
The Matriarch of House Kore was running late for a dinner. In the normal course of things, she did not care for punctuality. Punctuality, with its unseemly whiff of eagerness, was for pheasants.
I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I don’t know what to say about The Gilded Wolves.
My policy is to be honest when reviewing but sometimes I worry that I can get a little…. ranty. It’s not like I’m the Hulk or anything. I think instead of getting angry I just get disappointed. Like my parents were towards me multiple times during my teenage years.
I try not to read reviews of books that I’m reading until after I’m done reading and then I go looking to see how many people agree or disagree with me.
I think my opinions on this book will be from the outside looking in as from what I can see the general reviewing consensus is that this is an amazing book worthy of 4 and 5 star ratings.
I’m not saying it isn’t but unfortunately it won’t be getting those from me. But honestly, I don’t know what to say about The Gilded Wolves because I don’t know what to think about it.
This is going to be such a rambling review and for that I can only apologise.
If Oceans 11 and The Da Vinci Code had a baby it would probably look a little like this book. If this book had a cousin then the cousin would probably look a little like Six of Crows.
The disclaimer I have is this – I haven’t even read Six of Crows but I swear to god I know every single thing about it. You can’t not, unless you live under a rock. I’m not complaining because when you have a book blog and follow people and do memes and lists then you’re going to come across what is popular and adored.
Six of Crows is clearly adored. And the reason why I keep mentioning a book that I haven’t even read is because I, someone who hasn’t even read Six of Crows, can understand that The Gilded Wolves was a little on the familiar side for a lot of people.
The Gilded Wolves seems to be the Six of Crows posher, more glamorous cousin. It’s the kind of cousin who enters the room and your mouth drops with envy because…. well… glam. But then, after speaking with them for an hour, you wander away dazed and confused.
Are they so intelligent that your lowly mind couldn’t follow? Were they trying so hard to be intelligent that you were confused because nothing made sense? Did they just bamboozle you with the shiny??
That’s how I felt about this book.
First and foremost this is a character driven story and not a plot driven one. Not a problem. I love character driven books.
There’s Kaz Brekker, I mean Séverin, the suave and often cantankerous leader of the gang with a tragic past. There’s Inej, I mean Laila, his possible love interest with a mysterious and tragic past who has a particularly unusual skill. We also have Enrique (tragic past, skilled), Zofia (tragic past, skilled) and Tristan (tragic past, skilled).
We follow this group of five friends via four of their viewpoints. But this is where my first issue kicks in – for something so character driven I didn’t really feel like I understood the characters.
We skimmed across them and learnt things about them like they were part of a checklist in a guide on how to create a character; religion, race, tragic backstories, sexual orientation, tragic backstories, hidden desires, tragic backstories, nervous behavioural habits etc.
It was almost as though each character had to be so unique that they became paper thin versions of unfulfilled fleshed out versions. I liked them because they were fun characters but I didn’t love them. I didn’t get them. I certainly didn’t feel the warmth or sense of caring between them despite how much ‘banter’ they gave.
I also felt that anvils were being dropped over and over again about their relationships until I wanted to yell, ‘yes, I get it!’
For instance Séverin and Laila spent a night together prior to the story and swore it would never happen again. But did I need to have it repeated every time I was in either of their viewpoint sections?
Repressed desire and longing makes for wonderful conflict but it quickly became repetitive as it was brought up in one of their minds every single time they interacted.
That being said I did adore Zofia and Enrique and Hypnos and the burgeoning whatever it is between all of them and despite my above gripe I actually really liked Séverin and Laila’s complex relationship.
I think this may be where my dissatisfaction came in – I actually wanted more time spent within each character and more explorations of their relationships, romantic and otherwise. When the characters clicked they really clicked and I found myself aching for more character depth and interaction.
This is also where I differed in my approach to this book. I dove into the character interactions and glimpses into their motivations and poured over the setting descriptions but lightly skimmed over huge chunks of the plot for my own sanity.
I have two degrees. Neither of those are in math.
There was so much math in this story. I hate math.
The plot surrounding the heist just didn’t interest me. I think its no secret now to say that I want chapters of more intimate interactions between characters to pages of code breaking and hieroglyph cracking.
Also, I didn’t understand it. I just didn’t have a clue what was going on most of the time. The world building, while vast, was a little too vast and all the explanations only confused me further.
Yet, paradoxically, the setting seemed to serve mainly as an aesthetic. I know, I’m confusing.
In a world of heightened glamour and Forging I still don’t know what Forging is or how it came to be. All I know is that Forgers make pretty and magical (but not magic) things that exist for the sake of The Pretty.
I don’t have a gripe about the writing – it’s good writing. Pretty prose in places and some delicious lines (mainly by Hypnos). Séverin is described by Hypnos as some dark corner of a fairy tale like the wolf in a bed or an apple in a witches hand and honestly – I am here for that kind of scrummy writing.
The strange thing about this book? Even though I’m giving it 2 stars (and I was genuinely torn between 2 and 3) because I was just too confused – I will be reading the second book.
Why? The characters. I’m clearly invested enough in them to want to know how they end up.
Damn you, The Gilded Wolves. You’ve got just enough gold in you.