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

A Slightly Different Review : A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by VE Schwab

Today is a slightly different format for a review.   This is my second buddy read with Mayri at the Bookforager blog.  If you haven’t visited Mayri before I heartily recommend you do so, she’s a wonderful blogger. Our first buddy read was Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier.

Slight spoiler alert – this didn’t really work out as well as we both hoped.  It’s a good book for sure and probably a few years ago I would have adored this but at this stage we probably won’t continue with the series but will instead look for a new book to start.  Read below for our thoughts.

We decided to post our review during Wyrd and Wonder the details of which can be found here.  This is a celebration of fantasy  It’s a fantastic event and it’s never too late to join in the fun.

W&W

Similar to our last buddy read this review will take the form of our chat back and forth.  This time round Mayri is posting the opening chapters and I will be going with the conclusion – so, ideally you might want to step away and go read Mayri’s post before continuing to read on.   

Also, before I start, I would mention that given the nature of our ongoing conversation during our read this post will contain spoilers so if you’re planning on reading this book you might want to avoid both posts.

Mayri has posted our conversation for week 1 and 2.  The conversation below follows weeks 3 and 4:

A Darker Shade final for IreneWeek 3 – Chapters 9-11

Mayri : Is it just me, or did the pace just kick up a notch? I even wrote down the page number (page 261) where I felt things started to get … not interesting, it’s been interesting from the beginning, but … more urgent, I guess. Like the vague threat of what the black stone can do suddenly became immediate. What do you think, Lynn?  

Lynn : The pace definitely picked up in fact when I read this section I almost pressed on because I felt like I was finally getting into the stride of things.  I didn’t though, I showed massive restraint! 

Mayri : (I’m so proud of you!) I was wondering when the Dane twins were going to rear their heads again, but wasn’t expecting Astrid to turn up inside Rhy! That was pretty cool. 

Lynn : Oh yes, I definitely didn’t see that coming.  What a surprise.  I think the only downside that I felt about that was if it’s really so easy to infiltrate a member of the royal family then that really isn’t very good.  In fact anybody could be taken over and manipulated.  But yes, such a shock – and I do like a good shock.

Mayri : Good point. Why haven’t they guarded against this possibility? They know about magic, so they know what can be done with it…

And I’m not sure that the magic in the stone is going to be wield-able. I’m pretty sure it’s got its own ideas. I really like the way it’s growing itself now it’s found people with more magic in them to burn. 

Lynn : Yes, that stone is pretty scary and quite tricksey too.  Is it just me or does it seem to be finding itself more ‘capable’  bodies to take over.  The last chapters definitely make me think that the stone poses a greater threat than I first suspected.  I wonder what will happen if Kell and Lila manage to take the stone back.  Will it’s presence fade then from the other Londons or will it keep on growing in strength.

Mayri : Good question. It’s interesting how power seems to be distributed differently across the Londons. I liked the description of the people of Grey London as only having a candle’s worth of life in them. And I think we’ve now got a pretty good idea of what happened to Black London, if not why. I’d like to know how the magic got the way it is now – sentient and hungry. 

Lynn : Yes, why did the magic change.  This black stone is certainly very hungry and incredibly willful!

Mayri : And Lila. She definitely remains the more interesting of the two. I love that she recognises the cunning of the stone. 

Lynn : Yep, I like Lila.  I mean, to be fair, I don’t dislike Kell but considering how much he knows and his experience he comes across as a little naive in some respects and you just can’t help thinking that he’s really put his foot in it.

Mayri : Definitely. I still find Kell bland, even this far in and think Lila makes the more compelling character. I love when she gets to dress up! That was awesome! I can picture her in her horned mask – what a badass look! 

Lynn : It was a good scene and I loved her choice of outfit. She’s very calm in most situations isn’t she, even managing to swipe an invitation for herself. I had a horrible sort of dread that the young ladies she took the invite from would figure it out and be lying in wait. You have to admire her too. Walking into this elaborate, royal party, on her own, and with no real qualms. Go Lila.

Mayri : Yeah, go Lila! 

 

Week 4 – Chapters 12-14

Mayri : Man, I still don’t really know how to feel about this story! On the one hand, I love the four Londons, I love Lila, and I was fascinated by Holland and what had been done to him. But on the other, I feel it’s been an uneven ride, slow to start and now, in this last section, all in a hurry to finish. Holland is vanquished like that *snaps fingers* when I wanted so much more from him. Rhy dies, but oh, nope, it’s OK, Kell’s done a spell. And Athos and Astrid never quite got the room or time to make their menace truly felt before Kell and Lila defeated them, (although they’ve definitely left an impression).

I sound like a right moaning min, I know, but my overall feeling is one of disappointment. There were a lot of promising ideas that didn’t ever get off the ground. And I don’t know if I can be bothered to read on. The only story I want more from is Lila’s …

Perhaps I feel this way though because we weren’t grabbed from the beginning, and so we never gained any momentum?

Thoughts?

Lynn : To be honest I couldn’t agree more.  Like you say, on the one hand there were so many promising ideas and people and yet on the other I feel like they weren’t given a fair shot somehow or just failed to reach their potential.  All the threats that loomed were easily defeated and the twins were definitely a disappointment. And I can’t help wonder why Holland had to die?  It just seemed such a shame.  I do like Lila and I loved that she walked away at the end and didn’t even glance back.  She has a lot of potential especially now she has discovered she has a small glimmer of magic herself, but much like you, I’m not really interested in continuing this one.  To be fair, I don’t think I’m the target audience and these days I’m less inclined to be bowled over by the promise of a dreamy relationship, which, I realise didn’t happen here – but it does hold the potential for a love interest in future instalments, even maybe the dreaded love triangle.  

I vote we move on and see if we can find something that will really blow us away.

Mayri : Ha! I second that! I’d much rather discover something new than read something because it might get better. 

And, yeah, I felt this wasn’t really written for me either. I can see how everything that happened in this book could whet the appetite for some (especially that possible romance *shudder*), but unfortunately, it didn’t grab me.

And there are so many books out there … waiting for us. 😁

 

So, there we have it.  All wrapped up.  It’s a shame this one didn’t quite work out for us both.  There are some fabulous ideas here and to be totally fair – I recently read and adored The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue by the same author so it could be that my expectations were unrealistically high going into this one.  This book does enjoy a lot of love though so don’t be put off by the fact that it didn’t quite win us over.

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. 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 : The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab.   Here’s the description which sounds amazing:

InvisibleFrance, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever-and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore, and he remembers her name.

In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Life After LifeThe Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab’s #1 New York Times Bestselling Author genre-defying tour de force.

Expected publication : October 2020