There are about a million things I love about 'The Silvered Serpents,' the latest in the Gilded Wolves series by Roshani Chokshi, and one thing, I absolutely detest. We'll save that for last though, because in no way do I want to allow it to overshadow the rest.
Though the series seems to be billed as Young Adult, the themes are actually very mature and fully developed, as are many of the scenarios the group of characters find themselves in. The relationships don't lack depth or physical contact, the author simply.. easily manages to convey it without getting down into the 'smutty details.'
Her prose is elegant and she deftly swings between intimate emotional sequences and moments of fast-paced action, without interrupting the flow of the story. The pace is constantly in flux, yet not disjointing. This is a genuinely talented writer and I loved the references to the legend of Laila and Majnun.
Severin, the focal point in much of the story, is absolutely sexy. He's the perfect mixture of beautiful, brooding, self-loathing behavior. The darkness and conflict in him, only serving to draw those around him (as well as the reader, in my case), closer and closer with every glimpse. Truly, he breaks my heart, and not just when he's good.
Laila.. is a lovely combination of strength and vulnerability. She has weaknesses, as we all do, but she's a tough girl. Not physically imposing or annoyingly overbearing. She doesn't overcompensate by trying to intimidate or insult (as a rule).. no. She's just tough enough to build those walls out of pride and the self-awareness that sometimes letting things through, might break her.
I often struggle to like more than a character or two in a story.. finding the others to be grating or insubstantial, but that's really not the case with any of Chokshi's characters. I am just as drawn to Hypnos' understated neediness, as Enrique's desperation for recognition, and Zofia's struggle to see things in the same ways as those around her. Even the antagonists and supporting characters are likable in their ways. Good, bad, or neutral, they're all vivid characters that I won't soon forget.. and.. don't wish to.
Now, remember that thing I said I hated? It's a cliffhanger. An utterly unnecessary.. mistake.. in my opinion. If this were some short, weekly serial a la the original release of Stephen King's 'The Green Mile?' Acceptable. If the writer/story were weak.. and the author needed something to capture the reader and bring them back for the next book.. at least understandable. But it's a tactic and nothing more.. and in this case.. it cheapens the work.
The cliffhanger takes a stunning story, filled with rich characters, creative mechanical and magical/alchemical elements, and gorgeous scenic imagery.. and rather than trusting in what it has to offer to draw the reader back.. it forces the issue. I understand that there's a continuing arc here that will carry throughout the books, but there's no reason to double down on that and give us an incomplete Act either. And that's how this feels.
All that being said, I highly recommend this novel. I'm going to go out and buy the first in the series, and I'll buy this one too when it releases in physical formats. I'll eagerly wait for news of a third. I didn't want to put 'The Silvered Serpents' down.. and I'm willing to bet.. you won't either..