Sunday, January 23, 2022

Review: Gallant by V.E Schwab

Today, I have another double-review. See how busy the book world is? The first one swings into the direction of fantasy with a slight bend toward horror/thriller. When I saw the blurb on this one, I was more than intrigued and excited to take a look. Shadows are always spooky (aren't they?), and the idea of a parallel world where ghouls exist does promise a few chills. Will there be romance? Hmmm...I'm not sure, but I have a feeling it won't play a huge role in these pages. Maybe I'm wrong? It's been getting amazing reviews and the author is a New York Times

Let's see what this one was about! 

by V.E. Schwab
Greenwillow Books
YA Horror / Fantasy
352 pages

MARCH 1st!!!

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.

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?



First, don't read the blurb on this one (which is ridiculous to say, since everyone probably already did before diving into the review). But in this case, the blurb tells the entire story, leaving little left for the discovery. But here's my blurb:

Olivia has spent almost her entire childhood at the Merilance School for Girls, which is, for all intents and purposes, an orphanage. She never really befriends anyone, much of which has to do with the fact that she can't speak (is dumb). Her world rotates around a journal left be her mother, which holds ramblings as the woman slowly lost her mind, but Olivia has memorized the entire thing. When her day for 'release' comes, a strange letter arrives from a so-called uncle, who has been searching for her all these years. With no other place to go, she heads off to his house. It's a mansion and estate with a huge sign displaying its name, Gallant, and that's the one place her mother mentioned in her journal with a warning to Olivia that she should never ever go there.

The writing in this book is beautiful, and to say that the author knows her craft is an understatement. She words things in a way, which brings them to life and lets the details sit with tons of emotion and atmosphere. She plays and handles the wording and phrases in ways, which makes an impact and embraces an almost poetic feel. It is a treat to experience the writing style, and this alone made it well worth the read.

As to the tale, it's an interesting mix of paranormal, other worlds, and a bit of a thriller with an evil darkness waiting to drain the life from everything. The tale starts with Olivia at a bit younger age and her life at the girl's school as she faces off one of the bullies. The details sit and the world building is well done. Unfortunately, however, I didn't ever really connect to Olivia even then, when her situation should have made the sympathy soar. I think the problem was simply that she's strong, can take care of herself, misses a mother she never knew, but has no qualities which make her 'nice' or warm-hearted or show more than her and herself. This didn't really change the entire book, and even the other characters never really gained enough depth for me to care outside of the household staff...which were very sweet, by the way!

Also, I loved the idea of letting artwork be the communication from one end. That, you'll have to read the story to understand because I'm not going to give away the few surprises that are there, but this was amazingly well done and...well, I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's exactly this type of thing which made this book stand out and show a love for the art and story-telling mastery. 

The world holds a delicious, gothic flair with a perfect, mansion setting, a spooky wall, flower gardens...and well, it is a treat. Then, throw in the idea of a shadow world which mirrors everything in its own way, and there's tons to sink into and enjoy. But while the dark vibes run high and danger comes in, again, the depth is missing. There's a bit of explanation as to the background of Olivia's parents and her relatives, but not really. Why her relatives are drawn into this over everyone else is never explained. The reason the other world came and exists there is another mystery without even a dusting of reason. How the evil came into being, the thought that it could drift away someday, or even what its purpose with Olivia included and her special 'blood' didn't really make sense. So much time is spent with the journal and longing and poetic flair that the plot is left like a shiny shell, which could hold something great but is empty.

So, what do I think of this book? I'm not disappointed that I picked it up because the writer's style and wording is amazing. I did read this in one sitting and didn't want to put it down...because I kept hoping everything was coming. But I can't say it was an amazing book, either, because that 'coming' never happened. Plus, it was weird for a YA and I believe older readers will have more from this one (although it even felt like an MG read in the beginning).

True book lovers will enjoy this read. It is beautiful, it is dark, and there are so many amazing aspects to it. But if you're all in for plot and a good story, it won't quite fit the bill.

1 comment:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing your honest review. It's hard to really like a book if you don't connect with the characters.