Wednesday Books
May 07, 2018 at 11:00 AM EDT

Fresh off of her New York Times middle-grade best-seller Aru Shah and the End of Time, author Roshani Chokshi is ready to unveil her next big fantasy series.

The Gilded Wolves kicks off an alternately glamorous and dangerous adventure, set in Paris near the end of the 19th century, with the world on the cusp of industry and power, and ancient secrets starting to get dredged up. The book centers on treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie, who keeps tabs on secrets better than anyone. When an all-powerful society seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin enlists a band of experts to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris.

Having successfully launched Rick Riordan’s new Disney imprint, Chokshi has proven herself as one of the most exciting voices in her field. To preview her anticipated new series, the author has exclusively shared with EW the official Gilded Wolves book cover (above), as well as an excerpt. Read on below, and pre-order the book ahead of its Jan. 15, 2019 release here.

Excerpt from The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi

Fléctere si néqueo súperos Acheronta movebo
If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.
Virgil

Once, there were four Houses of France.

Like all the other Houses within the Order of Babel, the French faction swore to safeguard the location of their Babel Fragment, the source of all Forging power.

Forging was a power of creation rivaled only by the work of God.

But one House fell.

And another House’s line died without an heir.

Now all that is left is a secret.

Prologue

The Matriarch of House Kore was running late for a dinner. In the normal course of things, she did not care for punctuality. Punctuality, with its unseemly whiff of eagerness, was for peasants. And she was neither a peasant nor eager to endure a meal with the mongrel heir of House Nyx.

“What is taking my carriage so long?” she yelled down the hall.

If she arrived too late, she would invite rumors. Which were a great deal more pesky and unseemly than punctuality.

She flicked at an invisible speck of dust on her new dress. Her silk gown had been designed by the couturiers of Raudnitz & Cie in the 1st arrondissement’s Place Vendôme. Taffeta lilies bobbed in the blue silk stream of her hemline. Across the gown’s low bustle and long tulle train, miniature fields of buttercups and ivy unfurled in the candlelight. The Forging work had been seamless. As well it should be given the steep price.

Her driver poked his head through the entryway. “Deepest apologies, Madame. We are very nearly ready.”

The Matriarch flicked her wrist in dismissal. Her Babel Ring — a twist of dark thorns shot through with blue light — gleamed. The Ring had been welded to her index finger the day she became Matriarch of House Kore, successfully beating out other members of her family and inner-House scrambles for power. She knew her descendants and even members of her House were counting down the days until she died and passed on the Ring, but she wasn’t ready yet. And until then, only she and the House Nyx patriarch would know the Ring’s secrets.

When she touched the wallpaper, a symbol flashed briefly on the gilded patterns: a twist of thorns. She smiled. Like every Forged object in her home, the wallpaper had been House-marked.

She’d never forget the first time she’d left her House mark on an artifact. The Ring’s power made her feel like a goddess cinched to human shape. Though that was not always the case. Yesterday, she’d stripped the mark of Kore off an object. She hadn’t wanted to, but it was for last week’s Order auction, and some traditions could not be denied . . .

Including dinners with the head of a House.

The Matriarch marched toward the open door and stood on the granite threshold. The cold night air caused the silken blooms on her dress to close their petals.

“Surely the horses are ready?” she called into the night.

Her driver did not answer. She pulled her shawl tighter, and took another step outside. She saw the carriage, the waiting horses . . . but no driver.

“Has everyone in my employ been struck by a plague of incompetence?” she muttered as she walked toward the horses.

Even her courier — who was merely to show up at the Order auction, donate an object and leave — had failed. To his lists of clear cut errands, he’d undoubtedly added: get fabulously drunk at L’Eden, that gaudy sinkhole of a hotel.

Closer to the carriage, she found her driver sprawled facedown in the gravel. The Matriarch stumbled backward. Around her, the sounds of the horses stamping their hooves cut off abruptly. Silence fell like a heavy blade through the air.

Who is there— she meant to say, but the words collapsed noiselessly.

She stepped back. Her heels made no sound on the gravel. She might have been underwater. She ran for the door, flinging it open. Chandelier light washed over her and for a moment, she thought she’d escaped. Her heel caught on her dress, tripping her. The ground did not rush up to meet her.

But a knife did.

She never saw the blade, only felt the consequence of it — a sharp pressure digging into her knuckles, the snap of finger bones unclasping, hot wetness sliding down her palm and wrist and staining her expensive bell-sleeves. Someone prying her Ring from her fingers. The Matriarch of House Kore did not have time to gasp.

Her eyes opened wide. In front of her, Forged moth-lights with emerald panes for wings glided across the ceiling. A handful of them roosted there, like dozing stars.

And then, from the corner of her vision, a heavy rod swung toward her head.

PART I 

From the archival records of the Order of Babel
The Origins of Empire
Master Emanuele Orsatti, House Orcus of the Order’s Italy Faction
1878, reign of King Umberto I

The art of Forging is as old as civilization itself. According to our translations, ancient empires credited the source of their Forging power to a variety of mythical artifacts. India believed their source of power came from the Bowl of Brahma, a creation deity. Persians credited the mythical Cup of Jamshid. etcetera. The art of Forging is as old as civilization itself. According to our translations, ancient empires credited the source of their Forging power to a variety of mythical artifacts. India believed their source of power came from the Bowl of Brahma, a creation deity. Persians credited the mythical Cup of Jamshid. etcetera. 

Their beliefs — while vivid and imaginative — are wrong. 

Forging comes from the presence of Babel fragments. Though none can ascertain the exact number of fragments in existence, it is the belief of this author that God saw fit to disperse at least five fragments following the destruction of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4-9). Where these Babel Fragments scattered, civilizations sprouted: Egyptians and Africans near the Nile River, Hindus near the Indus River, Orientals from the Yellow River, Mesopotamians from the Tigris-Euphrates River, Mayans and Aztecs in Mesoamerica, and the Incas in the Central Andes. Naturally, wherever a Babel fragment existed, the art of Forging flourished.  

The West’s first documentation of its Babel fragment was in the year 1112. Our ancestral brethren, the Knights Templar, brought back a Babel Fragment from the Holy Lands and laid it to rest in our soil. Since then, the art of Forging has achieved levels of unparalleled mastery throughout the continent. To those blessed with a Forging affinity, it is an inheritance of divinity, like any art. For just as we are made in His image, so too does the Forging artistry reflect the beauty of His creation. To Forge is not only to enhance a creation, but to reshape it.

It is the duty of the Order to safeguard this ability.

It is our task, sacred and ordained, to guard the location of the West’s Babel Fragment. 

To take such power from us would be, I daresay, the end of civilization.

Ch. 1: Séverin

One week earlier . . .

Séverin glanced at the clock: two minutes left. Around him, the masked members of the Order of Babel whipped out white fans, murmuring to themselves as they eagerly awaited the final auction bidding.  Séverin tipped back his head. On the frescoed ceiling, dead gods fixed the crowd with flat stares. He fought not to look at the walls, but failed. The symbols of the remaining two Houses of the French faction hemmed him on all sides. Crescent moons for House Nyx. Thorns for House Kore.  The other two symbols had been carefully lifted out of the design.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the Order, our spring auction is at its close,” announced the auctioneer. “Thank you for bearing witness to this extraordinary exchange. As you know, the objects of this evening’s auction have been rescued from far flung locales like the deserts of North Africa and dazzling palaces of Indo-Chine. Once more, we give thanks and honor to the two Houses of France who agreed to host this spring’s auction. House Nyx, we honor you. House Kore, we honor you.” Séverin raised his hands, but refused to clap. The long scar down his palm silvered beneath the chandelier light, a reminder of the inheritance he had been denied.

Séverin, last of the Montagnet-Alarie line and heir to House Vanth, whispered its name anyway.

House Vanth, I honor you. 

Ten years ago, the Order had declared the line of House Vanth dead.

The Order had lied.

While the auctioneer launched into a long-winded speech about the hallowed and burdensome duties of the Order, Séverin touched his stolen mask. It was a tangle of metal thorns and roses gilded with frost, Forged so that the ice never melted and the roses never wilted. The mask belonged to the House Kore courier who, if Séverin’s dosage had been correct, was currently drooling in a lavish suite at his hotel, L’Eden.

According to his intelligence, the object he had come here for would be on the auction block any moment now. He knew what would happen next. Light bidding would take place, but everyone knew House Nyx had fixed the round to win the object. But though House Nyx would win, that artifact was going home with Séverin.

The corner of his lips tipped into a smile as he raised his fingers. At once, a glass from the champagne chandelier floating above him broke off and sailed into his hand. He lifted the flute to his lips, not sipping, but once more noting the ballroom’s layout and exits just over the glass rim. Tiers of pearly macarons in the shape of a giant swan marked the East exit. There, the young heir of House Nyx, Hypnos, drained a champagne flute and motioned for another. Séverin had not spoken to Hypnos since they were children. As children, they had been something of playmates and rivals, both of them raised almost identically, both of them groomed to take their fathers’ Rings.

But that was a lifetime ago.

Séverin forced his gaze from Hypnos and looked instead to the lapis-blue columns guarding the South exit. At the West, four Sphinx authorities stood motionless in their suits and crocodile masks.

Sphinx authorities were the reason no one could steal from the Order. The mask of a Sphinx could sniff out and follow any trace of an object that had been House-marked by a matriarch or patriarch’s Ring.

But Séverin knew that all the artifacts came to the auction clean, and were only House-marked at the auction’s conclusion when they were claimed. Which left a few precious moments between time of sale and time of claiming in which an object could be stolen. And no one, not even a Sphinx, would be able to trace where it had gone.

A vulnerable un-marked object was not, however, without its protections.

Séverin glanced at the North end, diagonally from him, where the holding room — the place where all un-marked objects awaited their new owners — lay. At the entrance crouched a gigantic quartz lion. Its crystalline tail whipped lazily against the marble floor.

A gong rang. Séverin looked up to the podium where a light-skinned man had stepped onto the stage.

“Our final object is one we are most delighted to showcase. Salvaged from the Summer Palace of China in 1860, this compass was Forged sometime during the Han Dynasty. Its abilities include navigating the stars and detecting lies from truth,” said the auctioneer. “It measures twelve by twelve centimeters, and weighs 1.2 kilograms.”

Above the auctioneer’s head, a hologram of the compass shimmered. It looked like a rectangular piece of metal, with a spherical indentation at its center. Chinese characters crimped the metal on all sides.

The list of the compass’s abilities was impressive, but it was not the compass that intrigued him. It was the treasure map hiding inside it. Out the corner of his eye, Séverin watched Hypnos clap his hands together eagerly.

“Bidding starts at 500,000 francs.”

A man from the Italian faction raised his fan.

“500,000 to Monsieur Monserro. Do I see—”

Hypnos, of House Nyx, raised his hand.

“600,000,” said the auctioneer. “600,000 going once, twice—”

The members began to talk amongst themselves. There was no point trying in a fixed round.

“Sold!” said the auctioneer with forced cheer. “To House Nyx for 600,000. Patriarch Hypnos, at the conclusion of the auction, please have your House courier and designated servant sent to the holding room for the customary eight-minute appraisal. The object will be waiting in the designated vessel where you may mark it with your Ring.”

Séverin waited a moment before excusing himself. He walked briskly along the edges of the atrium until he made it to the quartz lion. Behind the lion stretched a darkened hall lined with marble pillars. The quartz lion’s eyes slid indifferently to him and Séverin fought the urge to touch his stolen mask. Disguised as the House Kore courier, he was allowed to enter the holding room and touch a single object for exactly eight minutes. He hoped the stolen mask would be enough to get him past the lion, but if the lion asked to see his catalogue coin for verification — a Forged coin that held the location of every object in House Kore’s possession — he’d be dead. He hadn’t been able to find the dratted thing anywhere on the courier.

Séverin bowed before the quartz lion, then held still. The lion did nothing. Its unblinking gaze burned his face as moments ticked past. His breath started to feel sticky in his lungs. He hated how much he wanted this artifact. There were so many wants inside him that he doubted there was room for blood in his body.

Séverin didn’t look up from the floor until he heard it — the scrape of stones rearranging. He let out his breath. His temples pulsed as the door to the holding room appeared. Without the lion’s permission, the Forged door would have remained unseen.

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