I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Gallant by Victoria Schwab. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Gallant, Olivia Prior has lived at Merilance School for Independent Girls for years, but she has never been at home there. All she has to her name is a diary that used to belong to her mother, but it is a strange object—full of unusual illustrations and increasingly unhinged words. Then, one day, she learns that she might not be alone in this world after all; her uncle is looking for her, and invites her home to a place called Gallant. When she arrives, though, she finds a haunted place. And outside in the garden stands a crumbling wall, which houses a door made of iron, and Olivia cannot help feeling something is calling her from the other side.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know that Victoria Schwab is one of my favorite authors, so I was delighted to get one of the early ARCs for this new book!
This story has a fantastic atmosphere. It’s such a sensory story, relying on sound and touch nearly as much as sight. As you read, you really seem immersed in the eerie darkness, hear the crackle of debris underfoot, feel the shiver of something watching you from the shadows. On the other hand, you also feel the sunlight and soft grass, hear the sounds of piano music. Schwab is so great at creating imagery, and here gives a lot of contrast to her settings.
I liked the characters, though there isn’t much in terms of diversity (but that could lead to a whole discussion about this and plenty of other books, and is a lot to get into here, which is just a brief summary about my overall thoughts of this particular book). Olivia’s interactions with Hannah, Edgar, and Matthew were good, and I enjoyed watching them all grow closer. Olivia isn’t the most interesting protagonist, though, and really some of the most intriguing characters are those who are no longer present—Olivia’s parents. Unraveling the mystery of their lives and deaths was one of the most compelling parts of the story.
As for the antagonist, I kind of wish we could have seen more of him. Not to say he wasn’t vividly drawn or insufficiently sinister, because he was, I just wanted to have more interaction with him. For that matter, I would have liked to see more between Olivia and Matthew, because what was there was wonderful. I think if there had been a bit more time taken to really get deep into these relationships, this book would be one of my favorites. That said, this is still an entertaining story, and the characters still made me feel.
On a different note, this book has illustrations throughout it, and they are stunning! They are a perfect fit for the story, and I love them all. Props to Manuel Šumberac, who I’ve never heard of before now, but am glad to be aware of their talent.
In the end, Gallant is an atmospheric book with good characters and a haunting setting. The story is vivid and emotive, the magic interesting, and the action by turns eerie, sinister, and thrilling. The ending, while bittersweet, is satisfying. I just think it could have benefited from being a little longer, but I still liked this!
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Gallant will be published on March 1st, 2022!