The Silvered Serpents, Roshani Chokshi (Wednesday Books 978-1-250-14457-7, $18.99, 464pp, hc) September 2020.
The Silvered Serpents is the second book in Roshani Chokshi’s Gilded Wolves series. To get the obvious out of the way, you must read the first book, The Gilded Wolves, before you read the sequel. Not only will you be almost hopelessly lost otherwise, you will also find the novel’s emotional heft greatly diminished. Just as in the first book, The Silvered Serpents takes the central characters through an action-packed series of events but, even more importantly, it reveals significant facts about their pasts. Chokshi thus proves that she is adept at crafting both heavy drama and page-turning suspense, while keeping it all wrapped up in an alt-history narrative that is an adventure unto itself.
The five-member crew of treasure hunters readers came to know and love in The Gilded Wolves is barely intact as The Silvered Serpents opens. Their leader, Séverin, is as smooth as ever, crafting his plots and plans with dedicated precision, but he has lost the family of friends he grew to love and rely on. They are all reeling from the loss of one of their own in the first book, and their relationships now are tenuous at best. Laila, Enrique, Zofia, and Hypnos are still in his orbit, but missing the ease with which they once filled each other’s lives. Séverin thinks the way to fix this is to find a very specific treasure, The Divine Lyrics, which is rumored to be in a long-lost treasure house known as the “Sleeping Palace.” It was the property of the dangerous Fallen House, a splintered group who previously threatened all of their lives and whose remnants remain much maligned. A lot of people would like The Divine Lyrics for their own reasons, but none are as steely smart as Séverin. The problem is what he intends to do once he has The Divine Lyrics and what his friends would do if they knew.
In relatively swift fashion, Séverin brings his group back together, makes an uncomfortable alliance or two, and is off to Russia where the palace is rumored to be hidden. Once there, the crew is in their dangerous element, where clues are followed, mysteries solved, and near-death experiences proliferate. In the midst of all that action, they try to find their way back to the solid cohesive group they used to be, but that road is seriously rocky. Then the true villain is revealed, everything goes to hell, and Chokshi drops a major cliffhanger. While readers may momentarily lament the loss of a tidy ending, the author knows what she is doing. The crew remains splintered (perhaps) and in deep peril, but the set-up for the next book is outstanding. Yet again, Chokshi shows how she excels at telling a good story and, this go-round, she makes readers fall even harder for her delightfully complex set of characters.
As for that cliffhanger, while I must acknowledge that it is tough to bear, what it promises for the future is a degree of literary richness that few authors can match. This gorgeously written series is one of the best things going in YA fiction, and I can’t wait to see how everyone gets saved, what the secrets of The Divine Lyrics reveal, and how the group comes back together.
Colleen Mondor, Contributing Editor, is a writer, historian, and reviewer who co-owns an aircraft leasing company with her husband. She is the author of “The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska” and reviews regularly for the ALA’s Booklist. Currently at work on a book about the 1932 Mt. McKinley Cosmic Ray Expedition, she and her family reside in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. More info can be found on her website: www.colleenmondor.com.
This review and more like it in the November 2020 issue of Locus.
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