Desert Isle Keeper
The Gilded Wolves
Combining the cleverness and action of a heist movie with a touch of fantasy and whole lot of charm, The Gilded Wolves is a story of colonialism, power and corruption. But mostly, it’s a tale of friendship and finding a place for ourselves in a world that has no room for us.#
When God destroyed the Tower of Babel, He left humanity a gift. Fragments of the tower which bestow on a chosen few the power to Forge, a gift of creation second only to the power of God. The Fragments are hidden, safeguarded by The Order of Babel, a group of nobles entrusted with their keeping. The Four Houses of France were given the job of protecting the European stone for this season but problems have occurred. One House indulged in blasphemy and had to be purged. Another house had their ring, which can reveal the location of a Babel Fragment, stolen. One house produced a “mongrel heir”, a bastard born to the daughter of slaves from Martinique. And one house produced no heir at all.
Or so the story goes. Séverin Montagnet-Alarie believes differently. He knows he is the heir to House Vanth. The nobles of France didn’t want two “mongrels” holding European rings and had denied him his rightful place because of his mother’s Algerian blood. He, however, has a plan to get his birthright back. As a wealthy hotelier, owner of the most fashionable establishment in France, L’Eden, he has been able to attract a motley band of followers; Enrique an historian of Filipino descent who dreams of freedom and reform for his Spanish controlled country; Laila, a breathtaking young dancer with a mysterious past; Zofia, a brilliant Jewish engineer whose nationality has kept her from rising to her proper place in society and Tristan, who can Forge plants into fairytale (or nightmare) creations. They’ve been stealing, er… acquiring, secrets and treasures needed to force the Order’s hand and return Séverin to his true position. Once there, he will be able to help the others gain what they need to make their dreams come true.
But beneath the excitement and charm that shimmers through Paris are dark, ancient secrets. A phantom menace hunts the European Fragment and it will be up to Séverin and his friends to save all of Europe. And if each of them profits from this brave deed? Well, that’s just icing on the cake.
The author does an excellent job of blending fantasy, history and reality to create a unique, lushly imagined world which glitters with the opulence of La Belle Époque but shows the shadows in which the dark stain of colonialism cast upon a large portion of the world’s population. The fantasy aspect weaves gently and naturally through this universe, the rich costumes, decadent cuisine and fabulous, lavish parties of the era a perfect fit for the luxurious, often ornate, magic of Forging.
The author has a writing style entirely suited to such work. She paints word pictures which are always sumptuous, gorgeous, and posh. Her characters might face hardship and hatred but they do so in style. This really adds to the enchantment of the work, forging an extra layer of bewitchment to the text.
The characters are all well drawn, especially Séverin. One paragraph describes both the man and the world he dwells in perfectly:
Everywhere he looked, he was surrounded by gilded wolves. And for whatever reason, it made him feel perfectly at home. Wolves were everywhere. In politics, on thrones, in beds. They cut their teeth on history and grew fat on war. Not that Séverin was complaining. It was just that, like other wolves, he wanted his share.
That’s plot, character, and setting in just a few sentences. His friends are handled with the same consummate skill, and their camaraderie is one of the best parts of the story. The author is able to explore their vulnerabilities, their hopes and hurts and dreams and show us how they have been both crafted by the world they live in and have risen above it. I truly enjoyed every moment I spent with them.
The romances in this tale are all in their embryonic phase. Séverin and Laila shared a night together once but that takes place in flashbacks, and during the course of our story, they are discreetly dancing around each other. The feelings are clearly there, desire is clearly there but both of them have good reason to be cautious regarding moving the relationship forward. There is also the start of an affair between Enrique and an enigmatic young man but the two don’t progress beyond a kiss before the end of the tale. Still, there is a promise of an epic love(s) here, we will just have to wait and see if it comes to be.
In any tale that deals with serious subjects such as racism and colonialism and political power struggles there is the possibility that the fictional story will be lost to the lesson or cause the author has embedded in the book. Rest assured that does not happen here. The darker aspects of history never overshadow the brilliant, fantastical fable the author is spinning for our pleasure and amusement. Those factors remain very much in the forefront, while the darker threads lend a quiet, subtle much needed gravitas to the brilliance and lightness of the surface.
The Gilded Wolves is the first book of a trilogy that promises to be entertaining, engrossing and utterly enjoyable. This is a must read for fantasy fans.
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