Author: Roshani Chokshi
Fiction > Young Adult > Fantasy
Fiction > Young Adult > Historical Fiction
Fiction > Young Adult > Mystery
Published/Publisher: January 15th 2019 by Wednesday Books
Format Read In: Hardback
Summary from Goodreads (GOODREADS LINK)
No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.
It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.
To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.
Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.
My Review [SPOILERS AHEAD]
TW: antisemitism, depiction of autistic character being unintentionally triggered, racism, discussions of colonialism, ableism
When I first heard about this book, it had been constantly compared to Six of Crows and had received mixed reviews as a result. As someone who found SoC to be rather average, and since the reviews I saw for this novel were not fantastic, I’d skipped it until a booktuber I really enjoy watching (aphroditereads) highly recommended it. The cover is lovely, though, but still really cluttered, in my opinion.
What I Liked
- The representation is top-tier! There are multiple biracial characters, a bisexual character, an autistic and Jewish character, and a gay Black character. Plus, the representation is done so well; their identities aren’t entirely who they are but play integral roles to how they act, what they want and how they affect the plot.
- Along the same vein, there were genuine talks about colonialism and racism that were both subtle and totally obvious to people who can spot it.
- While Severin didn’t entirely interest me as a character, what sets him apart from Kaz (if we must compare TGW to SoC) is how much he loves his friends, not just his love interest, and how desperate he is to keep them with him. This is the kind of open love and loyalty that I appreciate in male protagonists, and not finding it in Kaz made me dislike him as a character. So Severin is a big winner, as far as heist leaders in YA novels go.
- Hypnos was hilarious! He was surprisingly clever and very charming. The way he tricked them just so that he could have friends for the first time in his life was quite relatable.
- Zofia took some time to grow on me but now I care about this girl so much! Please protect my daughter; she doesn’t really need protection but I still worry about her!
- Enrique was a character that charmed me from the get-go. I loved how curious he was but also how he could still be sensitive towards his friends despite his curiosity. I found his desires to move away from his Spanish colonialist heritage by trying to involve himself in a Filipino community that views him as an outsider was so poignant and perfectly illustrates the divide biracial people can feel.
What I Didn’t Like
- For being already experienced at heisting before the book opens, I thought that how they got caught by Hypnos was kind of silly and didn’t make me feel confident in their abilities.
- As others have said, I found that the magic system hadn’t been explained very well. I was confused all the time, particularly when the magic would overlap with more sci-fi elements in a way that made me wonder why the world hadn’t advanced further by the time the book opens. Despite my confusion, I still found the magic to be really cool!
- Along the same vein, I also found the descriptions of places and objects to be quite confusing and I would re-read whole sections to see if it was just me or if the writing was off. Sometimes, it was indeed the writing.
- I found Zofia and Enrique’s romance to be kind of boring; maybe that’s ’cause I really ship Enrique with Hypnos but I wouldn’t be mad if they ended up in a polyam relationship!
- I’m kind of on the fence when it comes to Severin and Laila’s romance. On one hand, I find the teasing and the sexual tension between them to be quite delicious but on the other hand, I also find it to be distracting. Like they’ll literally be salivating over each other during serious discussions and when other people are in the room. So I don’t know how I feel about them yet.
- I never really cared for Tristan; he just seemed like a blank wall for the other characters to paint their own personalities on. His betrayal didn’t make sense to me either and I found it wasn’t explained well.
- The villain was really cartoonish and not well-developed. I wasn’t that scared about the Fallen House, even during the climax. I also thought it was strange that their symbol looked like the Star of David but no one had made that connection, not even Zofia.
Are heist books not my thing? Is that what I’m learning? I hope not, ’cause I love heist movies/TV shows! But the books have all been pretty average to me. Although I read this book during a reading slump so that may have coloured my perception. Either way, I have an ARC of the second book ’cause I want to know where the story goes!
My Rating: 3.5/5
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