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Review: Gallant

Updated: May 19

3/5 stars

Gallant, by V.E. Schwab (2022)

I really love the worlds that V.E. Schwab creates - while also recognizing that all of her plots and themes are very much alike. Gallant is like a Darker Shade of Magic series light. It's YA, and more simplistic in it's plot, world-building, and character development. This would probably make it a good entrée into Schwab's particular creepy, somewhat vicious atmospheres, themes of death and magic, and spunky, "unique" female protagonists.

Olivia Prior is a non-verbal young orphan (she uses ASL to communicate with those that know it) living at Merilance School for Girls - who sees ghouls in every corner. She knows nothing of her previous life except that her mother left her there. She has nothing from that life but her mother's journal - a collection of increasingly disordered thoughts, and drawings so blackened with ink that it's hard to even find the shapes and subjects. The final words of the journal are a warning to Olivia - you will be alright as long as you stay away from Gallant.

One day she receives a letter from an uncle she knew nothing about inviting her to - where else - Gallant. Despite her mother's warning, she can't turn down an opportunity to get out of Merilance, to meet family members, and find out more about her parents. Upon arrival she finds that the only family is a hostile cousin, Matthew, who knows nothing about her, and the two employees that work in the massive, mostly abandoned mansion. Her uncle is long dead, and no one knows who wrote to her with the invitation.

Schwab loves an alternate universe, so Gallant has one... a mysterious other Gallant mansion behind the garden wall. We don't get a whole lot of exposition about the magic of this world - why/how does she see ghouls everywhere, how does the wall work, why is there another Gallant... it's all almost there, but falls a little short.

If you know a teen who you think would enjoy a vivid, gothic, magic-filled fantasy-thriller - this is it! The writing is beautifully vivid, haunting, and provocative, as is always the case with Schwab. But if you, as an adult, have never read Schwab, I wouldn't start here. In general, I think her adult fiction has been better-developed than her work for young adults tends to be.


UP NEXT: When Women Were Dragons, by Kelly Barnhill

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