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.
~ Jay Austin
Published Apr. 26, 2019 in Aspen Daily News
Not everyone gets as worked up as I do about the topic of Seed Saving, but they should. It’s a radical, kick-ass skill that has value far beyond that of just providing gardeners with free seed year after year for their gardens. It is also a political statement, an act of self-reliance, and an activity that connects one deeply with nature and the cycle of life.
"The trick is to let the pot boil slowly. ... Let them think you're just average or ‘good for a girl’ and then slowly, slowly, slowly begin to let your true self shine. That's the only way to avoid feeling the jealous, embarrassed rage of a dude who's been beat."
“The Falconer” presents a refreshingly worthy protagonist: Lucy Adler, a champion 17-year-old Jewish-Italian basketball player coming of age in New York in the mid ’90s and secretly in love with a boy who’s been her best friend since preschool.
Lucy is street-smart, vulnerable, cynical, thoughtful – a multi-layered outcast who is destined to get her heart broken. “Mostly I like talking to him. Because the world rains arrows and honey whenever he’s near me. Painful and sweet.” Lucy’s pain is palpable but not overdone. Bad things happen, but some good things happen too. And Lucy takes it all in stride. She’s a girl to love.
Percy, the object of her crush, remains oblivious to the feelings of young women, outwardly resistant to the entitlements of his wealthy family but destined to lead a life of convention. Lucy, on the other hand, grapples with what kind of young woman she wants to be. Luckily she is surrounded by some compelling examples in her mother, her friends and her cousin Violet. Violet, a struggling painter, lives in a loft with an avant-garde feminist artist and supplies Lucy with books that seem to come with perfect timing, such as Simone de Beauvoir’s “Second Sex.”
Lucy yearns more than anything to play ball and to be free like the boy falconer in the city statue she admires. But she can’t escape wanting to also be the kind of girl that attracts Percy, a more obvious beauty or even “the kind that infiltrates the mind and heart gradually ... the kind of beauty that doesn’t register at first, but then you find it lingering in your senses.”
She moves past the hurt of his inevitable rejection, receiving good advice from her friend Alexis, another square peg, “You’ve got añoranza, Loose. Now that the reality of who he is has been revealed to you, from now on, when you miss him, you’ll only be missing the dream of him. I don’t know a word for that in any language.”
Czapnik’s background as a sports journalist serves her well in this debut novel. She not only captures an era and a city with beautiful, vivid detail, her descriptions of bodies and movement on and off court are true art.
Published April 5, 2019 in Aspen Daily News
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