Author: V. E. Schwab
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: March 1st, 2022 (Greenwillow Books)
Synopsis: 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?
Thank you to the publisher, Harper Collins Canada, and HCC Frenzy for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Orphan Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School with no knowledge of her past or family, save for her mother’s journal which is full of cryptic notes that seem to grow increasingly mad over the course of time. When she receives a letter from a long lost uncle, inviting her home to Gallant, Olivia accepts without hesitation, hoping to at last find her family. When she arrives however, not only is no one expecting her, but there’s no sign of the uncle, and her cousin Matthew is outright hostile at her presence. But Gallant is the first place that has felt like home to Olivia, and she is determined to unravel every secret the manor house holds. When she crosses a ruined wall in the garden, she discovers another Gallant, but a very different one, a the house in ruins and haunted by ghouls, solid where the ones she sees in the real world are not, ruled by a mysterious and powerful force. As she uncovers the secret of what has ruined generations of the Prior family, and continues to threaten it still, she must decide whether to take a stand and protect Gallant.
“Home is a choice.”
If there was one ARC I had been wishing for this winter, it is this one, and I was literally counting down the days until it was time to start reading it. Ever since I read The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and Shades of Magic, Victoria Schwab has become one of the authors whose books I will pick up without hesitation. She has a distinct style that I’ve come to enjoy and her stories are guaranteed to sweep you up into magical worlds. Gallant did not disappoint on that note. It’s actually a rather straightforward story, and is pretty much what the premise indicates – think, a dark fantasy version of The Secret Garden. But the beauty of Gallant is in the writing and presentation. Schwab’s lyrical writing flawlessly sets the stage and brings to life the haunting and eerie backdrop of this huge estate with secrets in every shadow. The magic system is a different kind, more subtle and spooky and it suits the mood well. The vibes are absolutely perfect and now that I think about it, this would make a great Halloween read.
The author’s note explaining the basis of this story and what it means to her was a nice addition. I also like the way the pages from Olivia’s mother’s journal were interspersed throughout the story along with the drawings from it, and where initially they seem like the scribblings of a madwoman, it was marvellous how the pieces began to come together. I’m really curious to see what the drawings will look like in the final version if they were so good in an ARC. Ordinarily, a book like this that only starts moving around the fifty percent mark, would be an annoying read for me, but not this one. I was so caught up in the world and plot, and the air of secrecy and mystery had me practically bursting with questions, that I barely noticed myself turning the pages.
Olivia was a brilliant protagonist. Though she was raised at Merilance, she has been bullied for not being able to speak and ignored by the others, and hence has never felt like she belonged there. The plot is definitely a very character driven one and follows Olivia’s journey as she discovers her past and heritage and the dark secrets that the Prior family guards. Her’s was a magnificent arc and she was a character that was easy to root for. She is undoubtedly the main character, but her mother’s haunting presence throughout the book was equally important as her story unfolds in parallel, moving between past and present, providing the clues needed for Olivia to piece everything together. The side characters were also well written, particularly Matthew, who is much more than he initially seems.
As to why I’m rating this only 4 stars, I don’t know that myself. All I can say is that, compared to her other books, there was just something missing in this one that I can’t quite put my finger on. The ending, while typical for this type of story, was not as dramatic as I expected either and it was a bit disappointing compared to how strong the rest of the book was.
Overall, this was a beautiful read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The intriguing plot made this an unputdownable read which I finished in under 3 hours, and it left me wishing that the book was longer. If you’re a fan of this author, this is definitely a must read, and even if you haven’t tried any of her works before, this would be a great choice for any fantasy fan. I can’t recommend this book enough!
Gallant releases on March 1st, 2022.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
All quotes in this review were taken from an advance reader’s edition and may differ from the final version of the book.