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.
“When you are who they expect you to be, they never look too closely. If you’re furious, let it be fuel.”
So, um. Well. It’s been, what, three weeks since I finished reading this book, and I’m only right now getting around to writing the review? Because I procrastinate at literally everything although this is kind of next level procrastination because what do I even remember about this book three weeks later? Nevertheless!! I will try valiantly to review it!!
So it has to be said–everyone is saying it–but this book feels very similar to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Part of it is I guess just the whole six person heist thing that Bardugo made extremely popular and successful, and I really loved that! In that aspect, I was glad that this book was so similar to that book because I loved that one and so that shows that the premise really works and thus I really enjoyed this one as well! On the other hand, the characters felt very, very similar to the other characters, and because of that I couldn’t help but to draw constant comparisons and come up, well, short. But now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about this phenomenal book!
First of all, I absolutely adored the world this was set in–180os Paris! I’m one of those people who is obsessed with Paris and Europe haha. Furthermore, that would be cool enough as just a historical novel, but the magical aspects thrown in were amazing! In this world, people have the ability to Forge, sort of create magical objects like dust that can make you look like someone else or even be basically invisible, and statues that can move about on their own.
Our six main characters have to carry out a heist, steal an object on a practically suicidal mission, and I loved seeing the way they worked as a team, and was truly on the edge of my seat in some stressful situations where I really wasn’t sure if the characters would succeed–or even survive!! In addition to the heists themselves, there was a lot of logic as characters deciphered codes and puzzles to unlock secrets and figure out their plans. I loved seeing these puzzles figured out, trying to figure them out myself since I’m a nerd, and then realizing that I’m nowhere near as smart as these guys and giving up and letting them figure it out for me!
Of course, what really carried the novel for me was all the characters. There’s Severin, a wronged leader and treasure hunter determined to carry out impossible missions; Laila, a dancer and baker with a mysterious and terrible past leading her to have an essential goal; Tristan, a adorable gardener with a fierce love for his pet tarantula; Zofia, a sweet girl with a haunted past and an incredible ability with numbers, math, and patterns; Enrique, a fun historian always surrounded by books and knowledge, and Hypnos, an aristocrat who longs for friendships.
All of these characters were fantastic on their own, but I just really loved their relationships with each other more than anything else. It was so amazing, from seeing Severin and Laila’s romantic tension, to Laila and Zofia bonding over cookies, to Tristan lecturing everyone about his tarantula. These characters had so many moments that made me smile, from their funny comments to their deep family-like bond, and I just loved them all to pieces.
Of course, the representation in this book is truly incredible! It’s been a while since I read this book so I don’t recall exactly what everyone was, but there are queer characters, Indian and Filipino and Black and more characters, and a Jewish character. (And there’s probably more that I’m forgetting). But also! There are two biracial characters!! I’m biracial myself and I very rarely come across biracial characters in books so I was so excited to see not one but two!! And it was talked about too, with one character especially trying and wanting desperately to fit in with one culture, to join a group and help his people, but being unable to and being marginalized because he was seen not enough of that culture. Talk of never fitting in to either group really, not quite enough to either of the cultures and ending up sort of in the middle and not quite accepted by either group. I FEEL THIS SO MUCH!!! Honestly there is just so much representation in this book and if for no other reason (although there are definitely other reasons!!) you should read this book for that.
The reason I didn’t give this book five stars was because there were parts, especially in the beginning, that I was really bored. I didn’t really start getting into this book until around 100 pages in or so, and had a harder time connecting to the characters in the beginning, probably in part because there are so many different POVs in all the chapters (although I definitely grew to love them by the end!). Overall though, it was still very good!!