A lot of the time, I tend to think of magic as a force capable of creating large explosions. It often seems that such abilities are judged by how much damage they can cause, as we see in superhero movies or in books like Percy Jackson, where all characters have abilities that are measured by their usefulness on quests or in battle. This, however, is not always the case, and in Roshani Chokshi’s The Gilded Wolves, magic most often appears in the form of art.
The Gilded Wolves follows Séverin, a former member of House Vanth of the Order of Babel, which contains House Kore and House Nyx as well. Their world centers around the Babel Fragments, objects that grant their users an ability known as Forging. Séverin seeks to regain his house, leading him to complete heists with his group of loyal friends, leading to the uncovering of danger and secrets.
Forging is not technically magic, but it’s close enough that it might as well be. Practitioners can manipulate materials or the mind, crafting objects or illusions to create impressive displays of their abilities. The following includes a few examples of what they can accomplish:
A few members of Séverin’s group have Forging abilities. One – Tristan – forges that liquids within plants. His abilities make him an extreme gardener, and garden he does. His creation for Séverin’s hotel L’Eden is, somewhat ironically, based on the seven deadly sins, with different parts of the garden representing specific sins. Does its theme make it disturbing or more enticing? Whatever the case, L’Eden’s gardens are a work of art, intricate enough that’s it’s difficult to conjure images to represent it.
L’Eden’s Secret Bar
L’Eden’s secret bar is another Forged area, this time created through the combined efforts of both Séverin’s friends with Forging abilities. Drinks are held on vines like flowers, and the chandelier is partial made of actual flowers and anemone. The secret nature of the bar probably prevents it from being spotted by many L’Eden’s guests, but having less visitors most likely means that the space’s artful design is well preserved.
House Nyx specializes in collecting Forging objects that can affect the mind. Their current leader , Hypnos, is especially focuses on illusion. Erebus, therefore, while being impressive on its own, has the potential to be further enhanced – though the enchantments are not necessarily for the benefit of the visitor. The protagonist’s visit has a hall transforming into a forest covered in snow. The hall can probably be anything, from a mountain-side with a beautiful view to a pastry shop, though the latter would be disappointing without real pastries.
Though House Kore can probably look many different ways, when the protagonist’s visit it, it’s designed to look like the Greek Underworld, complete with a false River Styx in place of an entrance hall and three Forged dog faces that finish each other’s sentences – or even words – like twins in horror movies.
Reading this book feels a bit like being caught in a dream world, where landscapes shape themselves to the minds of the artist. It makes me wonder why magic as a horde of fireballs is more popular than this. Why is magic more often destructive than creative? I suppose it comes down to what reader’s expectations are, what authors expect them to find exciting. There are so many different ways in which magic is expressed, and it’s interesting to see which stick, and to wonder why. We are raised on action films, and fantasy’s best way to appeal is by mimicking them? Fantasy can encompass other genres as well – perhaps I just haven’t found the subgenre for it.
Have an instance of magic as art? Unique portrayals of magic? Share in the comments!