Thursday, September 23, 2021

Review: GALLANT by Victoria Schwab

Rating: 4/5 stars

Olivia Prior is an orphaned girl living at the Merilance School for Independent Girls, passing her time by observing the ghouls only she can see, and reading and rereading her mother’s journal—the only piece of her that remains. She’s a bit of a rebel, always getting in trouble and dreaming about running away, until one day she gets a letter from a relative she didn’t know existed, and suddenly she’s whisked away to a new home and a new family that isn’t quite what it seems. 

Olivia is not hard of hearing but she uses sign language because she cannot speak. I always love when characters in books or tv shows use sign language, as I have a soft spot in my heart for it. However, we never found out why Olivia couldn’t talk. I was expecting the reasoning to be something like a curse, somehow related to her family or to Gallant, but it is never explained, which was a little disappointing. 

Olivia ends up at an estate called Gallant, where ghouls wander the halls and she is forbidden to step foot outside at night. Then there is also a place that is basically the upsidedown and reminded me of the alternate world in Coraline, and I wish we got to see more of that place and learn about how it came to be and how the gate to it formed. I also wish we got to know more of the history of the Priors and how their family is tied to Gallant in the way that it is. A lot of the background details weren’t really explained, sadly. 

I really loved the whole book right up to the last fifteen or so percent, in which the ending fell a bit flat for me. It felt like there was no resolution, no sense of what’s to come after. The story itself could have been longer as well. Gallant isn’t a very long book, and while part of me enjoyed that about it, part of me also wished for more depth to the characters and more depth to the world Olivia lives in, particularly surrounding the house of Gallant. None of the characters besides Olivia are very fleshed out either. 

I don’t know what it is about V. E. Schwab’s books—I’ve read almost every single novel by her, and while I really like most of them, I have yet to really love one of them. I’ve rated her books between 2 and 4 stars, but never 5 stars. I thought at the beginning of Gallant, like I thought at the beginning of Addie LaRue or the Shades of Magic trilogy, that this would be a 5-star read for me. But there’s always something that just gets in the way and keeps me from rating it a full 5/5. I don’t know what it is. I consider Victoria one of my favorite authors, even though I’ve weirdly never loved one of her books. I just love her writing style and I love her as a person and consider that good enough, I guess. Her books, though, always feel like they’re missing something. Her ideas for stories are always amazing and combine her special mix of being a little dark, a little fantastical, and a little spooky, and I love that vibe. But every book of hers I’ve read always feels like it’s missing a crucial element—a piece of the puzzle left out and the rest of the novel formed around the missing space—but I can never pinpoint exactly what that is. I hate to feel that way, but I always do. 

I will continue to buy and read every book Victoria writes even though I keep feeling this way. I can count on her to have a consistent style and atmosphere in all her books, and I really like that. Even though the ending of Gallant wasn’t as conclusive as I wanted it to be, I still really enjoyed this book and would consider it one of my favorite Schwab books. One thing I especially enjoyed about this book and even LOVED about this book is the black and white watercolor illustrations present throughout the novel. There are a handful of them that reappear at different points in the story, and each time the image is given new meaning based on what is happening at that point in the book, and I loved that. The drawings really added a nice touch to the novel. 

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