When I tell you that this was my most anticipated book of the year, I mean I also pre-ordered two copies and bought a Waterstones edition. Yes, I have three editions of this book - all three signed but one is personalized, which means V.E. Schwab has written my name.
I haven’t read much of her work geared toward young people, but then again, Gallant is a book that crosses age groups. Most of my experience with Schwab’s stories are her adult fiction, though I also own her YA duology and Middle Grade trilogy.
When ARCs became available, I immediately went to request one from NetGalley. My first request was rejected, but I kindly emailed the publisher and they told me that I could make a request when the UK site posted their ARC. So I did that and waiting impatiently to see if I got it.
And I did! I downloaded the ARC immediately and flew through the book so I could post about it on its pub date.
Author: V.E. Schwab
Pub Date: March 1, 2022
Book #7 of 2022
Reading Time: 3:34
Date Finished: February 28, 2022
Content Warnings: Death of a family member, bullying, child neglect & abuse, suicide, death of a parent
What Worked For Me: Writing, illustrations, mixed media storytelling
What Didn’t Work For Me: Pacing toward the end of the book
One of the first things I noticed about this was the writing. I’ve always loved Schwab’s way of writing because it’s beautiful without trying hard. In this book, the writing feeling like a blend between her usual style and Addie LaRue.
Gallant is beautiful in that it’s soft and almost lyrical, but not to the point where pretty words don’t make sense. The writing very much feels like the physical location of Gallant, a grand place with haunting beauty and a deeper story to tell.
The book follows Olivia Prior, a mute girl who has lived her life in an orphanage. When she receives a strange letter from an uncle she never knew, Olivia is whisked away to the grand mansion of Gallant. For the first time, she has a family, and along with that, the secrets they’re keeping from her.
My excitement about this book entirely made me forget that Oliva was a non-verbal character. It was a pleasant surprise to see how Schwab tackled that and showed that spoken words weren’t always necessary to communicate.
Her being non-verbal meant that we understood a lot more about what was happening through her observations. Things normal people wouldn’t pick up on were easy signals to her. Learning to see small details like she did made the story that much more intriguing.
While I cannot speak for the representation, Schwab has definitely done her research. I could feel the thoughtfulness in how she wrote Olivia’s interactions with other characters and how it never meant that Olivia was dumb or lacked understanding.
The story itself is quite simple. It’s the exploration of Gallant as a location that makes everything interesting. I got mild Beauty and the Beast vibes as Olivia wandered through the house and out into the gardens. The more she ventured around, the more we got to see that nothing at Gallant is quite as it seems.
I wish the simplicity meant that Olivia got to spend more time with some of the other characters. I would have loved to have seen more of her interactions with them, even if they were small things. Sometimes, it felt like they only talked during meals or when something was about to happen.
It would have been nice to see more bonding happen as Olivia settled into Gallant and learned about her family from the very people who knew her family.
Part of buying one of the copies of Gallant was getting to attend a virtual author chat between V.E. Schwab and Melissa Albert. It’s been ages since I’ve been to any kind of author chat, so getting to attend this one for my favorite author was really cool.
I loved hearing her talk about the writing process. It gave me a different perspective since I’d finished the book by the time the author chat happened. One of the things she talked about was how Oliva was always meant to be non-verbal. There was never a version of the story where she spoke or used magic to wish for a voice.
Knowing that made me think more about how Olivia’s voice still manages to come through in everything else she does and how speaking doesn’t necessarily mean she will be heard. The communications she did have became more meaningful too.
Something the author chat helped clear up was Olivia’s age. I might have missed it in the beginning of the book because I was too excited when I got my ARC, so it was never fully in my head what age Olivia was. I thought she was around 12 or 13, but it turned out that she was 16. I supposed that’s a little to do with how this book isn’t meant for a specific age group.
On some level, it makes sense that she’s 16 and has finally found her family after spending the majority of her childhood in an orphanage. On the other hand, she did feel quite young for her age. It could be explained that her orphanage didn’t give her the best education, and therefore, it was hard her to seem her age when there was so much she hadn’t learned or experienced.
I know a few other people who read this said the same thing. Olivia feels like a very young character. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s not. Realizing that she’s nearly done with her teens does feel somewhat strange, but it’s also slightly comforting to know that these things aren’t happening to a child.
The end of the book felt a bit rushed. I wanted more tension to build before it all reached a peak and got resolved. There was a moment near the end where I thought something bigger was about to happen, and then it didn’t. Slightly disappointing, but this also isn’t the kind of book I’d expect a big battle in.
I was left feeling not entirely satisfied with the story. There were things I wanted more of, perhaps because I wanted to spend more time with the characters and Gallant itself. The fun of reading the story and how easily I flew through it still made it a great time, but I do wish there was just a little more to the ending.
While it’s not my favorite book, Gallant was a very fun story to read. I’d like to re-read it later this year to see how I feel when I’m not rushing through it for a post. Reading it in a physical format would also change the experience I have with it.
Was I a bit disappointed in how it left me feeling considering this was my most anticipated book of the year? Slightly. I might have overhyped the story for myself, leaving me expecting more than it was.
It’s not to say that I disliked the book, but I do think part of me was hoping it would be grander. That being said, I did read an ARC so the final version could be different. I doubt it since the ARC went up two weeks before release day, but who knows when that ARC was formatted?
Gallant is a story I think would be interesting for me to re-visit every few years. Knowing that Schwab meant it as a story that people can get something from no matter how old they are, it makes me wonder how I would react to it as more time passed.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC of Gallant in exchange for an honest review.