Gallant by V.E. Schwab
Narrated by Julian Rhind-Tutt
Reviewed by David T. Valentin
Fans of V.E. Schwab missing the beautiful poetic prose of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue will find themselves enchanted by the same prose once again in Gallant, this time with a bit of a horror twist.
Gallant follows around Olivia Prior, a mute, orphaned girl living in a boarding school who doesn’t quite get along with the headmasters nor the other girls. While dealing with being an outcast. Olivia’s situation isn’t made any better with the fact that she can see ghosts, or ghouls as the novel calls them. Her only solace is the journal of her mother, the only thing she has left of her parents which contains strange writings of whispers driving her mother mad. One day, Olivia receives a letter from her uncle Arthur, inviting her into the home of Gallant. Only problem is, in her mother’s journal she warns Olivia she will be safe so long as she does not return to Gallant. Faced with staying in a boarding school with her bullies or returning to a home and a family where she might not be safe, Olivia agrees to go to Gallant only to find her family’s dark past.
With Schwab’s descriptive prose and narrator Julian Rhind-Tutt’s enchanted storytelling voice, Gallant keeps the tension and mystery of the novel from the first page to the very last page. The combination of the two gives the book a dark fairytale feel, a feeling that could be likened to an almost dark telling of Alice and Wonderland. Fans of Coraline by Neil Gaiman will find this book very similar to Gaiman’s novel, sometimes almost a bit too similar as if it’s an extension or retelling of that tale as well.
Fans of Schwab are all too familiar with her slow beginnings, something that might not hold all readers. I tend to enjoy the slow beginnings as it almost feels like a slow seduction where you become well acquainted with the characters and the world around them. Many fans said Gallant was vey slow, but by the middle the book picks up and moves full steam to the ending. I actually didn’t like this switch in gears, because I found it sacrificed the mystery that captivated me, but that’s no fault of the author, but more so that they had to begin to provide answers to to the horror elements of the novel. And even when sacrificing that slow pace for a more action-packed ending, the eeriness of the reveal of the true villain of the novel is the pillar that holds up the climax and ending of the novel.
With a mystery on our hands and a kick ass protagonist all sorts of different readers can relate to, the book really is a recipe for success, and I for one would easily recommend this book even to readers who are not fans of the fantasy genre. With a little bit of mystery, a little bit of horror and a little bit of fantasy, Gallant has something to offer to everyone.