The Bronzed Beasts
The Bronzed Beasts is the third and final book in The Gilded Wolves series and it picks up immediately after the events of the last volume. This review will necessarily contain spoilers for those works.
Laila is mourning Enrique and Zofia, the friends she had seen murdered by Séverin, when something happens that astonishes her. The butchered bodies of her buddies begin to move. It turns out Séverin hadn’t actually stabbed them to death but instead put them into a state of paralysis that mimicked death in order to deceive Ruslan, master of the Fallen House. Now Ruslan has absconded with the Divine Lyrics which they had worked so hard to obtain – and with Séverin.
Laila had had no way of knowing that Enrique and Zofia’s deaths had all been part of yet another elaborate ruse by Séverin, so she had crushed the Mnemo bug he had pressed into her hands just before he left. That bug had likely contained instructions for the next step in the complicated ploy Séverin is apparently currently playing out and without it the friends have no idea what Séverin would want them to do next. Before they can begin to examine their possible options, the water of the oval pool whose banks they stand upon begins to churn and out pops Hypnos in a mechanical escape pod from the Leviathan. Fortunately, Delphine had been able to give Hypnos a clue as to Ruslan and Séverin’s final destination before she had gone down with the Leviathan. They must go to Venice, to a safe house Delphine had prepared for them, where they will find clues as to how to obtain access to yet more clues which will lead them to the only temple where the Divine Lyrics may be safely played, and where- once he has been able to do so – Séverin will receive the powers of a god and be able to save Laila from the certain death awaiting her ten days hence.
Séverin, meanwhile, must discover a way to outwit Ruslan and to become master rather than prisoner in his current situation. He plans to lure Eva, the blood mage servant of Ruslan, over to his side but he will not be able to do that unless his friends follow the plans laid out in the Mnemo bug. Can he rely on them, or have they lost all faith in him?
Since most of the exciting and fun bits of this story take place in spoiler territory, I can’t tell you much more about the plot. I can tell you that where the initial books reveled in the glittering opulence of La Belle Époque and the juxtaposition of that wealth-infused world with the harsh colonialism that made such luxury possible, this tale is very much about treasure hunting. Laila’s looming death is the impetus for all the team does, and there is a sort of frantic haste to their actions as they try to discover how to reconnect with Séverin and the Divine Lyrics – which are their last hope of saving her. Ms. Chokshi’s lyrical, elegant prose lends itself perfectly to the rich fantasy world she has built here and to the high-stakes game which our heroes are now desperately playing. Now that we know the identity of the villain and what they are after, it is only a question of if our heroes will become victors or victims in the battle – and what either position will cost them.
The text spends a considerable amount of time also examining the bonds of friendship. That has always been the true magic of this world – the deep connections between our merry band of treasure hunters – but Séverin put their trust and loyalty under extreme duress. The group is starting to question whether Laila’s salvation is truly what is driving their erstwhile leader or if that is simply a happy by-product of his finally obtaining the power he craves. If the latter is the case, what will that mean for those who have helped him achieve his lofty goals?
For his part, Séverin needs to do some serious soul searching. He has had to scheme, cheat and steal to get ahead his whole life, but he has always sought power (or so he believes) only so that he can protect those he loves. Séverin is only now starting to realize that his machinations have done as much harm as good in terms of the relationships that matter most to him
Since this is a final volume, the question plaguing most people will be if the stories come to a satisfying resolution and I will say the answer to that is both” yes” and” kind of”. Obviously, I will have to be a bit oblique in my references, but I can say that the issues surrounding the Divine Lyrics and Laila’s impending doom are both definitively resolved. The “kind of” refers to the fact that the ultimate fates of many of our beloved characters are summarized. I would have preferred a bit more detail but overall, I found myself content with the ending.
The Bronzed Beasts is a fabulous treasure hunters’ tales with plenty of action and adventure to completely delight fans of the genre. While I felt it lacked some of the social commentary that gave the original volumes some much needed gravitas, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I would strongly recommend the series as a whole to fans of YA fantasy or anyone looking for a fun story which revolves around riddles, scavenging and magic.