Many of us know the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, which tells of how the people came to be scattered to the ends of the earth and given unique languages, after attempting to build a tower to reach heaven. Imagine, though, if when God scattered the Babylonians across the globe, he also scattered pieces of the tower, making those regions more bountiful and giving a number of their citizens the ability to manipulate the elements. And imagine that powerful families, known as The Order of Babel, were entrusted with safeguarding the locations of these fragments.
The year is 1889. France is coming off the cusp of the Industrial Revolution. It’s been 100 years since they stormed the Bastille, and Paris is hosting the world’s fair, the Exposition Universelle, to showcase how far humanity has come and the potential of the future. This is the backdrop for Roshani Chokshi’s new book “The Gilded Wolves,” and no one is more aware of overcoming circumstances and having greatness just within reach than the main character, wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie.
Montagnet-Alarie was raised believing he, too, would one day be inducted into The Order. But on the day of his induction ceremony, he’s told he isn’t the true heir of his house, and the only life he’s ever known is ripped out from under him. It is well known throughout The Order, though, that he is denied his inheritance due to his mixed race. In order to win back what is rightfully his and restore his family’s name, he agrees to help another member of The Order track down an ancient artifact that will reveal the locations of the Babel fragments. He assembles a team of his most trusted associates: a Filipino historian of mixed heritage with something to prove, a Jewish girl from Poland with the ability to manipulate fire, a brother in arms with the ability to manipulate the earth and a dancer from India with her own dark secret. They all stand to gain something if they succeed, but will restoring his reputation be worth risking the lives of those Séverin holds most dear?
Chokshi fantastically blends historical and biblical fiction with action, adventure and a little bit of romance in her new Gilded Wolves trilogy. It highlights the difficulties of overcoming racism, even when one is highly educated or born into wealth, and warns against striving for power for the sake of power alone. I can’t wait to see where the next chapter in Séverin’s story takes us.