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The Gilded Wolves

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Gilded Wolves Book Poster Image
Clever 1889 Paris-set story has diversity, magic, puzzles.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Repeated references to Tower of Babel tale from Genesis and to Greek myth (especially Hades' rivers and Hypnos, the god of sleep). Real events and places in Paris mix with fantasy, like Paris catacombs and 1889 Exposition Universelle when they built the Eiffel Tower. A character loves math, provides much detail on Fibonacci Spiral. Plus some mythology surrounding Egyptian Eye of Horus.

Positive Messages

As in Tower of Babel story from the Bible, evil lies in desire for total power and glory of the gods. Good in this story lies in loyalty to friends, pursuit of knowledge. References to seven deadly sins, people who exemplified them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Severin thinks he desires a return to social standing and recognition more than anything, but in the end chooses loyalty to his friends and his life with them. All of Severin's friends have challenges, difficult pasts. Most main characters have one or both parents from the colonies, making life in 1880s Paris society hard. One female character is on the autism spectrum and amazing at math. Her friends give her what she needs to be comfortable, use her gifts. There are two LGBTQ characters.

Violence

Two bloody deaths of important characters: a good one who's mourned and an evil one. Torture from helmet that relays a person's worst fears used on a teen and on young children in flashback. A ring cut from a finger, a hand nearly crushed and bleeding, a pipe used to knock someone out, many knocked unconscious. Mention of parent deaths from house fire, a man's throat cut, and foster parent deaths from poisoning.

Sex

Memories of one night characters had sex, but only kissing in the main part of the story, both straight and LGBTQ. Talk of brothels, mistresses, dancers who keep lovers in their dressing rooms. Some innuendo.

Language

One use of "f---ing," a couple of "s--t," a few uses of "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Most main characters are in late teens and go to parties, bars, clubs where much alcohol is served, including brandy, champagne, wine, cocktails. Character Hypnos always seems to want more wine. Mention of cigar smoke in a club.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Gilded Wolves is the start of a new fantasy series for teens by Roshani Chokshi (Aru Shah and the End of Time). It takes place in 1889 Paris before the Exposition Universelle, which featured the building of the Eiffel Tower, but it's set in a world of magic. Problems are solved with magic, a deep knowledge of ancient history, and mathematical concepts like the Fibonacci Spiral, so this is a great fit for clever readers who like to solve puzzles. Readers will also run into some mature content: plenty of drinking from older teen characters, two bloody deaths, some mind-control torture, and other injuries. Two characters remember sleeping together, but in the main storyline there's only kissing, both straight and LGBTQ. Characters are diverse and talk of their experiences as mixed race (with one parent from the colonies) and Indian. One female character -- the math whiz -- is on the autism spectrum and is well supported by her friends.

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What's the story?

 In THE GILDED WOLVES, Severin is an outcast in the magic secret society of Paris. He was denied his position as the last heir of his family's house and schemes to reclaim it by any means necessary with the help of his talented friends: Zofia, who's amazing with math and inventions; Enrique, the historian; Tristan, who can magically enhance plants; and Laila, who can read memories off objects. That brings him to an auction at the House of Nyx, in disguise, to steal a magic compass. He thinks he's gotten away with the acquisition until a letter arrives from the House of Nyx saying "I know you stole from me." Rather than face the authorities, he returns to House of Nyx and is confronted by Hypnos, the young head of house. Hypnos doesn't care about his compass, it turns out. He has a proposition for Severin and his friends: Steal an artifact from the rival House of Kore, and Hypnos will make sure Severin reclaims everything that's his. Severin agrees before he realizes just how well guarded the artifact is, and just what kind of danger it will put him in.

Is it any good?

While this story has difficulty setting up its fantasy world with clarity, it more than makes up for it with its cool mix of puzzles, math, mythology, and magic. The characters are a plus, too, and will remind you of the motley crew from Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows. They're diverse, quirky, and very talented, and all have tough pasts to overcome. Each has an essential talent that comes into play when trying to pull off a series of nail-biting heists. Add to that the enemy you didn't see coming, and readers will stay engaged and guessing.

But that's once they're able to dive in. At the start of The Gilded Wolves, there's little explanation of Forged objects or the magical world we've entered. It's easy to get lost, and re-reading is necessary until you can get oriented. Let's hope readers have the patience for this, because there's a definite payoff for the rest of the book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Severin's struggle to belong in The Gilded Wolves. Why is acknowledgement and status important to him? Why does he think it's denied him?

  • What's real about Paris in 1889? What's part of the magic world of the book?

  • Will you read more in this series? What do you think happens next to Severin and his friends?

Book details

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