Last Updated on March 10, 2022
Gallant charmed me from the first page to the last. It is no secret that I adore V.E. Schwab’s books – just check out my review for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue here. But it feels like Schwab is entering a phase in her career where her books are based on vibes and atmosphere, something that was true of Addie LaRue but is even more the case with her latest release, Gallant. Her books have always had a strong emphasis on character and setting over a fast-moving plot and I think that’s where her writing really shines. A book that is compelling enough to make me forget about plot and manages to keep tension throughout without much action? That’s a fantastic book for me.
Gallant is a special book, one that is ostensibly published as a YA or crossover title, but in essence is an all-ages story. It has just as much to offer to an adult audience as it does to one reading up from their usual diet of middle grade. It is creepy, it is dark but it is also comforting, tender and utterly absorbent. It tells the story of Olivia Prior, a non-verbal teen, abandoned in a school as a baby after her mother’s passing. When she suddenly finds out that she does have a family after all, one who lives on a vast estate, she is drawn into a world of secrets and magic. As I mentioned, the story relies on character and atmosphere over plot and so this is a slow-paced exploration of identity, family and what you are willing to sacrifice those you care about.
Schwab has managed to write another book that is a five star read without reservations. And this one is not merely a written story – there is a significant chunk of story told through gorgeous illustrations. This, and Olivia’s non-verbal nature make Gallant an interesting read in terms of communication. This means that much of the story relies on interior monologue and we get a lot of insight into the characters’ thoughts. Despite the added difficulties for the characters, Schwab manages to write them in ways where they do manage to communicate effectively and clearly – avoiding a trope that, to me, is extremely frustrating to read. It would be so easy to fall back into moments of communication lost in translation, but this is so much more satisfying.
All in all, Gallant is an excellent investment of your time and a continuation of everything that I’ve been loving about Schwab’s writing for years. But at the same time, it’s not really like anything I’ve read and that is a huge achievement. Five stars and a reread is already calling me.