Hi friends! I’m here to share my thoughts on a book I’ve been HIGHLY anticipating reading!
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.
i listened to 54% of this book in one day.
If you know me, then you know that is the equivalent of the planets aligning and milkshakes dropping from the sky to birth otherworldly tortoises*. I really did adore this one though! Like, I am about to rant about how much I love these characters because my gosh do they have my whole heart and soul.
*in other words, IT DOESN’T HAPPEN
Séverin is my child. Like, his banter with Enrique? THE SASS? Also, he just wanted his little crew of friends to be togetehr. Also his House but that’s a different topic entirely. He’s also half Algerian and the son of a Frenchman so I was hyped. There’s honestly so much biracial rep in this book that I was living for!
Laila is such a queen. She’s Indian (which is OwnVoices rep too I believe!!) and there were several references to her culture that made me smile. You could really feel the author’s pride in her heritage through Laila especially. And honestly, Laila was just the mom friend who was also totally fearless and always has sugar in her hair and AGH. Also her dynamic with a certain someone had me squealing.
Enrique is such an icon. THE BANTER. AGAIN. Also, he’s half Filipino and half Spanish? And his struggle with wanting to free his home country from Spanish rule but also not being seen as “Filipino enough” had me emotional. He also loves history and I’m so interested to see where certain relationships with him involved go? He’s also bisexual I think.
Zofia is just…ahhh. I love her! She’s Polish, has anxeity, is on the autism spectrum, and possibly the OCD spectrum as well. She’s a brilliant scientist and her chapters were honestly some of my favorites to read! I really hope we get more from her in the sequel because she’s honestly a queen.
Tristan is my CHILD. He loves gardens and spiders and he just wants his found family to be happy. Like, HELLO. PURE CINNAMON ROLL HERE. He’s also Séverin’s brother in all but blood and I’m crying because brotherly relationships are my weakness.
Hypnos brought all the sass and laughs. He grew on me soooo much. He’s also the son os a Frenchman and a slave woman, so he has to deal with so much more awfulness than his white patriarchs do. He’s amazing.
“That boy looks like every dark corner of a fairy tale. The wolf in bed. The apple in a witch’s palm.”
The plot was like part heist, part puzzle, and part “we have no idea what we’re doing but we’re going to do it anyways” and I loved every moment of it. The worldbuilding was done very well. We learned quite a bit from being told, but also due to Enrique being a historian. Chokshi did an excellent job at creating an alternate world with magic, and while I was a little thrown at first by the pacing, it evened out in the end.
Also, one note on the audiobook, the narrators had the loveliest French accents. There was a female narrator and a male narrator, and both did incredible voices.
And the writing! Roshani Chokshi has gorgeous writing, brimming with imagery.
“Nothing but a symbol? People die for symbols. People have hope because of symbols. They’re not just lines. They’re histories, cultures, traditions, given shape.”
The pacing was a little…wonky*. I wasn’t totally invested at times, because everything would slow down for a while!! Then speed right back up!! Then, it would switch perspectives, and slow down again. It wasn’t quite as high-stakes as I wanted it to be.
*my sugar high brain: WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
So that’s it! This was a great first book in a series, and I’m excited to see where the sequel goes. The cast of characters and the heist reminded me of Six of Crows, but with it’s own unique spin and a dash of National Treasure.