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

Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up

Sunday Post

I’m trying to get back into the habit of doing a round-up of the week just completed and also take a look at my plans for the forthcoming week.  I rather got out of the habit of doing this but I would like to reinstate this type of post as I feel it keeps me on track.  So, I’m linking up to The Sunday Post over at Kimberly’s  Caffeinated Reviewer.  Without further ado:

Last week I mentioned that I was pressing on with my SPFBO finalists and those plans managed to stay on track.  I completed the book I was reading and also managed to fit in another SPFBO book which means I’m now at the halfway point. In review books I read The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley which I really enjoyed and already reviewed earlier this week.  I also read Gallant by VE Schwab and my review for that one shall be posted soon.  I do have some catching up to do.  I’ve not been responding to comments and I’ve not been keeping up with my buddy read or blog hopping – I thought I had to push on with my SPFBO and make some headway and also I can’t deny that recent ‘world events’ have definitely had a very negative impact.  I won’t go into that on here though.

Books read this week:

Next Week’s Reads:

I shall of course be starting another SPFBO book.  I’ve started Sundial by Catriona Ward and I’m also hoping to pick up Last Exit by Max Gladstone.

  1. The Hemlock Cure by Joanne Burn
  2. The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

Outstanding reviews:

Gallant by VE Schwab

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Gallant by VE Schwab

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is: Gallant by VE Schwab:

Gallant

Everything casts a shadow. Even the world we live in. And as with every shadow, there is a place where it must touch. A seam, where the shadow meets its source.

#1 New York Times–bestselling author Victoria Schwab weaves a dark and original tale about the place where the world meets its shadow, and the young woman beckoned by both sides. The Secret Garden meets Crimson Peak in this stand-alone novel perfect for readers of Holly Black and Neil Gaiman.

Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home—to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home, it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.

Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.

Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?

New York Times bestselling author Victoria Schwab crafts a vivid and lush novel that grapples with the demons that are often locked behind closed doors. An eerie, standalone saga about life, death, and the young woman beckoned by both. Readers of Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Melissa Albert, and Garth Nix will quickly lose themselves in this novel with crossover appeal for all ages.

Expected publication : March 2022