I’ve grown as a reader since the time I read Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen. This bittersweet realization came to me while reading her latest, The Gilded Wolves. Fantasy novels have always been a favorite of mine because of the vivid worlds they allow me to dive into, which is why I loved Chokshi’s debut. Unfortunately, three years later, her fifth novel falls flat.
“History is a myth shaped by the tongues of conquerors.”
I am not a fan of overly-poetic prose, especially when it’s hiding simple meanings. It leads me to skim and takes me out of the story because the writing feels juvenile. For instance, the sentence above basically expresses the common saying “history was written by the winners,” but wraps it in overly loquacious phrasing (see- I can write with SAT words, too!), which makes it feel like the writer is trying to prove their skills. I wish they would display their story-telling abilities in ways other than whipping out a thesaurus, because everyone can do that. Writers I love tend to show their skill instead of telling us all about it. As a thirteen year old, I appreciated the vocabulary practice. As a sixteen year old, not so much.
Additionally, the plot occasionally felt tacky and predictable. For instance, two main characters have seven foster fathers, each named for a deadly sin. The idea is a kitschy way to convey the simple reality of terrible childhoods. While that was a small issue, the plot continued to feel spotty throughout the book. The pacing is fantastic and twisty, but easy to guess. From page 20 the ending was clear, except for two details that caught me off guard. From these two details, it’s clear that Chokshi has the capability to write well. At times she did, but never consistently enough to carry the book to excellence.
One redeemable quality is Chokshi’s incredible setting. I’m not usually attracted to Paris-centric stories because the city often feels sanitized and fetishized into a romantic, writerly utopia, but I was pleasantly surprised by The Gilded Wolves. Like in her debut, Chokshi’s sense of place is captivating but always feels realistic. As the title would suggest, there’s plenty of gilding in Paris but not a lot of gold.
I enjoyed The Gilded Wolves. It felt like the perfect airport paperback– fast-paced, interesting enough, and easy to finish in four hours. While it wasn’t a very memorable read, I’m hopeful Chokshi’s writing will continue to grow in her future works.