The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi - Review
OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Roshani Chokshi is the author of commercial and critically acclaimed books for middle grade and young adult readers that draws on world mythology and folklore. Her work has been nominated for the Locus and Nebula awards, and has frequently appeared on Best of The Year lists from Barnes and Noble, Forbes, Buzzfeed and more. Her New York Times bestselling series includes The Star-Touched Queen duology, The Gilded Wolves, and Aru Shah and The End of Time, which was recently optioned for film by Paramount Pictures.
FORMAT/INFO: The Bronzed Beasts was published by Wednesday Books on September 21st, 2021. It is 400 pages split over 41 chapters, a prologue, and an epilogue. It is told in third person from multiple POVs, including Séverin, Laila, Zofia, and Enrique. It is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook formats.
OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The race to godhood is on. After seemingly betraying his friends at the Silver Palace, Séverin has joined Ruslan and the Fallen House in Venice to find the entrance to the one temple where Séverin can play the Divine Lyre and wield its powers without damaging the art of Forging. Séverin has a plan to stop Ruslan, one he carefully laid out in a message to his friends when he left them. But after revelations came forth about how Séverin manipulated the group so they’d support his hunt for the Divine Lyre, his allies from L’Eden are no longer so quick to trust his plans. Laila, Enrique, Hypnos and Zofia embark on their own quest to find the hidden temple, hoping to beat the Fallen House there and stop anyone – including Séverin – from using it. With godhood up for grabs, Séverin hopes to prove that he only wants power in order to help his friends – but some bridges, once broken, can’t be mended.
The Bronzed Beasts is a finale that relies on your love of the characters to keep with the book and the trail of MacGuffins leading to the final showdown. To be clear, there’s a lot of great character work here. Séverin spent The Silvered Serpents acting with blinders on, callously manipulating his friends both professionally and emotionally, treating them coldly and expecting them to keep trusting him through thick and thin. He never once thought his friends would ACTUALLY believe that he betrayed them, but they do. Everyone’s emotions are jagged and raw as they try to work through the pain of mistrust. No one lets Séverin off easy (except perhaps for Hypnos, who just doesn’t want to deal with any kind of confrontation) and watching the characters interact with shattered friendship between them is heartbreaking.
Séverin’s betrayal also forces the rest of the crew into character growth, as they become determined to stop relying on his leadership and take matters into their own hands. Enrique is no longer content to sit quietly while others talk over him, and Zofia learns to work through her panic attacks – she’s not cured of them, but she is able to manage them better. Laila doesn’t particularly have an arc, but is there to provide most of the emotional angst of the group. Séverin’s betrayal hurt her the most, which he doesn’t understand because in his mind, he’s done this all for her. I liked that Laila largely realizes by this point how unhealthy their relationship is and is able to compartmentalize her feelings, but the ending does undercut this growth somewhat.
But while the character work is great, the plotting of this final book is less so. The Gilded Wolves series has always required readers to buy in on the treasure hunt premise, where obscure clues and mechanisms lead to hidden relics. The last few books I was more than happy to go along for the ride, but this time I found the clues and puzzles strained my personal credulity. For instance, the crew’s first hunt is to find a safehouse left to them by an ally before her death. She insisted it was too dangerous to speak the location of the safehouse, so instead she gave them a riddle. And that’s the thrust of the book: a patron left them answers, but only if they pieced together obscure hints and hidden mechanisms to figure out things like a party location. Moment to moment it’s fun, but taken together, the plotting just didn’t connect with me. It felt like stalling for time before the book's climax, rather than a journey to the end.
CONCLUSION: I still very much enjoyed The Gilded Wolves series, and the characters and their dynamics are among some of my favorites. But it has also always been a series where the strength of the characters made up for weaker elements of writing. I’m glad I made it to the finale, but have ended up a bit lukewarm on how everything is resolved, especially since the critical moment seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. In short, The Bronzed Beasts will give readers closure for this adventure series, even if it doesn’t do it with the same aplomb as previous books in the trilogy.