Honestly, what more could I ask for?
From the first page, GALLANT swept me off my sofa and dropped me into a grim-gray Dickensian orphanage, where the main character – Olivia – who, for all her uniqueness (like being able to see the half-rotting, yet charming ghouls around her, or having a mysterious journal belonging to an unknown mother) is heartfully relatable. Olivia is vulnerable and so, so strong. She’s a character who has definitely made it to the ‘favorite protagonists’ list I keep somewhere in my head.
With such graceful pacing, and prose that procures gooseflesh from the simplest sentences, V.E. Schwab had me flipping easily through the pages of this story that truly felt like home – for not long after the story begins, Olivia receives a strange letter inviting her to ‘come home’ to a grand estate called Gallant. And although Gallant is dilapidating and frightening at times, with its ghouls and innumerable secrets, it is a comfort to be there, having toast and stew in the kitchen with Edgar and Hannah.
Mostly, it is a cozy read, and despite its more macabre and Gothic tone, it reminded me a great deal of one of my most beloved stories, The Secret Garden. Olivia is so like Mary Lennox (to me, at least) and her sickly cousin, Matthew, is reminiscent of Colin.
Almost all my favorite story elements are here: the fully-fledged characters with intense desires, the atmospheric mansion setting, the mysteries (that are answered), the unpredictability, the full-swinging range of emotion, the spookiness (of course!), and then, what I had not expected, was the deep theme of love and family. This is a story that is always fierce, and in the belly of its fierceness lies a tender sweetness, thus raising the stakes even higher and making the reader feel part of the blood-and-found family.
I tend to avoid reading YA – or, really, most anything contemporary – but this particular story transcends its genre and feels like a classic already.
Have you read this novel? What did you think of it?
Are there any titles like this one you'd recommend me? Let me know in the comments!