Gallant by VE Schwab

Posted On 3 March 2022

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : A Difficult Book to Review

Gallant

Let me explain myself a little more clearly.  On the one hand this is a beautifully rendered story, it’s surprisingly easy to read and it definitely took me down the path of nostalgia.  On the other hand I can’t help thinking that the plot itself was a little lacking in substance somehow.  Actually, that’s probably a little misleading, it’s more that there’s a simplicity to this which makes me ponder as to whether this is aimed at a slightly younger audience, in which case, I wouldn’t really be the target reader.  Just to be contrary though, sometimes it’s good to read something that makes you feel wistful and this book certainly achieved that and then some.

So, I’m not going to say too much about the story itself.  Our MC is a young girl called Olivia who has spent almost her entire life at the  Merilance School for Girls.  Orphaned from a young age Olivia remembers little about her parents, her only reminder is a journal that she keeps that belonged to her mother.  Now sixteen her time at the School is almost complete and is in fact brought to a swift conclusion when the school receives a letter from a previously unknown family member asking Olivia to return to the family estate, Gallant.  Gallant is an unusual place.  A hugh house with many rooms, most of them closed with furniture ghosts shrouded in dusty sheets and a garden that takes much upkeep to keep death and rot at bay, not to mention a strange wall that must not be crossed for fear of what lies beyond. Oh, and the odd ghoul, floating about beneath the stairs or sat at the edge of a bed (although these are only visible to Olivia).

Okay, then.  My thoughts.  This has lots of elements that I loved.  It takes me back to a perhaps more enchanted period of reading where secret gardens lay beyond high walls and young orphan girls dreamt that they were really princesses and would one day be found by their real family (having been taken away by a villainous type).  On top of this it has a decidedly fairytale feel to it, which I love although that style  doesn’t come without some issues (more below).

The writing is absolutely gorgeous and emotive.  The whole story is drenched with a certain melancholy element that remains consistent throughout and definitely feeds the gothic vibe.  Schwab is without doubt an author who has the whole sensory writing ability nailed on.  She really knows how to appeal to the senses and this is made even more poignant by the fact that there is actually quite little dialogue throughout the book.  Olivia doesn’t speak.  She uses sign language whenever possible or comes up with more inventive ways to make her feelings known.  You can feel her frustration when she wants people to stop ignoring her.

The other thing I really enjoyed is the way this put me in mind of so many books that I’ve loved over the years.  It made me feel a connection with the author which isn’t something that happens often – as though we have a shared love of similar works of fiction and as though Schwab was almost giving a nod to many different books by trying to recreate the feelings that they once inspired.

I also couldn’t help wondering if you could read more into this story.  It has a definite feeling of finding oneself and discovering a new family. I couldn’t help wondering if the fact that Olivia doesn’t speak is somehow a metaphor for the way young people are sometimes overlooked or their opinions are not given any merit.  That could just be a pure flight of fantasy on my part though – looking for meanings in things when they’re not there and quite often finding them whether they were intended or not.

In terms of criticisms.  I mentioned above that this has a fairytale feel – which is something I do love – however this is probably why the plot feels a little slim it also means that the characters are a bit flat.  Not that I disliked Olivia, just more I didn’t really feel like I got to know her as well as I would have liked. There’s also an element of feeling rushed at the end, I don’t feel like everything was tied up in quite the way I’d hoped.  I think if I’m going to be totally honest though, and fair to the author, I think I would have loved (and perhaps was anticipating or desperately hoping) this tale to have a darker, perhaps more sinister and  adult feel to it and that’s all on me because the book description doesn’t make such promises.  It’s more a case of me leading myself down the garden path with this one.

As it is, this is a story that I enjoyed.  It might not have been quite what I was expecting but it was an easy read and a tale beautifully told.  Be aware that this has errs on the younger side of YA (in my opinion) but that doesn’t make it any less a beautifully told tale that could work well for everyone.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars

4 Responses to “Gallant by VE Schwab”

  1. Tammy

    I have a copy to read, but to be honest there are lots of other March releases that take priority over this one. Still, I am curious, although I might have issues with it if it feels like it’s for a younger crowd.

  2. evelynreads1

    I’m currently in the middle of this one! And I agree, the writing is absolutely gorgeous! I think I can see what you mean with the plot feeling slim, but so far the writing is overshadowing it for me!
    Great review!

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I think I will still check this out, I don’t mind a slim plot if I know to expect it! Thanks for the review!

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Books gifted with a fairytale mood require a particular frame of mind, when we want to reconnect with our inner child, so I might give this book a chance when my need for some sense of wonder comes to the fore 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

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