I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.
Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone
Sixteen-year-old Olivia Prior is missing three things: a mother, a father, and a voice. Her mother vanished all at once, and her father by degrees, and her voice was a thing she never had to start with.
She grew up at Merilance School for Girls. Now, nearing the end of her time there, Olivia receives a letter from an uncle she’s never met, her father’s older brother, summoning her to his estate, a place called Gallant. But when she arrives, she discovers that the letter she received was several years old. Her uncle is dead. The estate is empty, save for the servants. Olivia is permitted to remain, but must follow two rules: don’t go out after dusk, and always stay on the right side of a wall that runs along the estate’s western edge.
Beyond it is another realm, ancient and magical, which calls to Olivia through her blood…
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
GALLANT is a strange little book. The best way I can describe it is “what if there was something a lot less pleasant behind the wall in The Secret Garden?”
There is such a sense of mystery and foreboding about the wall and the house and the family secrets. Olivia slowly ferrets them out. Each time you think you know what’s going on and what will happen next, there’s a subversion of expectations – particularly at the ending. I really liked the ending, the not-quite-settled-and-resolved feeling of it. It fits the tone of the book so well.
Also, non-verbal main character! I loved seeing that rep, someone who’s interacting with body language and signing (with those who can sign.) The contrast between the school and then two of the people at Gallant really helped make Gallant feel more like a home, like a place Olivia wanted to fight for. There’s also a dyslexic side character.
There are illustrations and diary entries throughout. We see all the images three times, and the diary extracts (formatted to look like pages) twice. It’s very interestingly done, but does take until the chunk of dark-edged pages in the middle to work out the why of them.
At first the heavy ink drawings (it’s hard to describe them – some of them look like ink blots at first, and then the longer you look, the more detail comes out) and journal extras feels randomly scattered between chapters, more a memory of her mother and not telling a consistent narrative.
And then comes the section in the middle (which due to formatting has black page edges – if you glance at the page edges, it’s a very clear midpoint, something that you’re wondering what it will be when it comes.) The journal extracts and illustrations come in order, right on the heels of a revelation about them. That’s when their meaning clicks, when they tell a story of their own.
After that, the illustrations are used to reflect what’s happening in the story, adding another layer of meaning to the images. It is honestly such a clever use of images.
This is a book that I could not help but think “this is not a book that could have sold without the smash-hit success of DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC.” The format/structure with the illustrations and journal extracts are really unusual – I might even go as far as experimental. It’s really, really clever, but it’s not the sort of thing that would be likely to be acquired without guaranteed best-seller status because of that experimental nature.
I’m now really interested to see what else V. E. Schwab will write now success means she’s able to play with the writing sandbox. It’s pushing the bounds of conventional (publishing) storytelling approaches, and that’s quite fun to imagine what else might come from that approach. I hope that this book will open up the opportunity for other authors to be able to use an approach like this – because this book is pretty much guaranteed to sell well.
Read my reviews of other books by V.E. Schwab:
- THE ARCHIVED (#1)
- THE UNBOUND (#2)
- CITY OF GHOSTS (#1)
- TUNNEL OF BONES (#2)
- BRIDGE OF SOULS (#3)
- NEW BEGINNINGS (#1)
- SECOND CHANCES (#2)
- LAST WISHES (#3)
Shades of Magic:
- A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC (#1)
- A GATHERING OF SHADOWS (#2)
- A CONJURING OF LIGHT (#3)
- THE SHADES OF MAGIC COMICS
One thought on “ARC Review: GALLANT by V. E. Schwab”
Interesting! The cover is gorgeous, and I’m definitely intrigued by your descriptions of the interior. There’ve been a few YA books recently that have pushed the envelope of what a novel can look like. I thought Illuminae was quite effective. Again, best-selling authors, so they were able to be experimental. The popularity of graphic novels is also probably helping publishers be more open to new formats. Exciting to see what people will come up with!
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