Book Review: Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Welcome, book lovers! 

In this post, I discuss a hauntingly eerie YA gothic fantasy, Gallant by V.E. Schwab. If you’d prefer to listen to this review, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. (This is a spoiler-free post.)

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Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Published: March 2022
Genre: YA Gothic Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
My Rating: Read it BUT go in with low expectations
My GR Rating: 3/5 ⭐

Book Synopsis: 

Olivia Prior has grown up in an orphanage, where she’s not treated very well, doesn’t really have any friends, and holds onto the only thing her mother left her with, a journal, which sounds like the ramblings of a mad woman. But then one day, a letter arrives for Olivia, inviting her to her family’s home, Gallant. However, when she arrives, the two housekeepers aren’t expecting her. Then she meets her cousin, Matthew, and he’s absolutely livid that she’s there and wants nothing to do with her. He acts very hostile toward her, but she’s determined to make this her home where she can feel safe and protected, even though she sees ghouls haunting various parts of the house. Olivia is determined to uncover the secrets that she knows everyone is hiding from her. 

Then Olivia learns about the door in the garden that is really a portal into another realm that’s like Gallant, but not. The manor is faded and crumbling, the ghouls are real, and there’s a mysterious figure that lurks within the shadows that rules over everything in this other world. Soon, Olivia learns what has haunted and cursed generations of her family and where exactly she comes from. She has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she choose to protect our world against this shadow world, or become part of it?

Overall Opinion:

This book really perplexed me. I had high hopes going into it because 1) it’s by a beloved author in the book community and I was eager to read one of her books, and 2) it’s a super popular book and even won a GoodReads award last year (2022) for Best Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction. I’d seen many, many BookTubers talk about this book, so I really thought I was going to love it. Plus, the plot sounded very intriguing and right up my alley because I love anything spooky, eerie, creepy, and supernatural. Many people were saying it was a mix between The Secret Garden and Stranger Things, which I completely agree with, and would also add The Haunting of Hill House with all the ghosts and ghouls lurking everywhere. The author herself even said it’s a mix of The Secret Garden and Crimson Peak, which I could see that as well. 

However, while I did really enjoy parts of the book, overall, it was a huge disappointment. I thought it would be better than it was, unfortunately.

Book Details:

  • Length – I read the hardcover edition, and it was 334 pages. It didn’t take me long to read this because I was really caught up in the story and just wanted to know what was going to happen. I think I read this in just a few days. 
  • Writing Style – This is top-notch writing, and I really enjoyed her writing style. It’s immersive and descriptive, which really drew me into the story. It’s in singular POV, third person, which is my favorite perspective. 
  • Cover Art – Beautiful cover. It’s weird and creepy but yet, intriguing. There are also beautiful illustrations throughout the entire book that help tell the story. I really enjoyed this artwork as I was reading it.

What I Didn’t Like About It:

  • The biggest letdown was the lack of creativity and imagination. I appreciated the concept and idea behind the story, but unfortunately, it really fell short for me. There was SO much more that could’ve been done with this story, but ultimately, nothing really happens. I really wish the concept was thought out more because it was pretty slow and boring at places. I wanted more action, or just more plot to shine through because there was so much potential left on the drawing board. For me, the execution was pretty lackluster. 
  • I also wished we got to the “other” world sooner because it did drag on for a bit before things really moved forward. It took up to about 50-60% of the book for the big progression of the book when things were finally starting to happen. But even then, it was disappointing. I wanted more story in the other realm or between the two worlds. I kept hoping something more would happen, but it never did, and then it ended. 
  • I also wanted more interaction between Olivia and Matthew. Here, we have two estranged family members who are meeting each other for the first time. Between both of their personalities, we get conflict and see this clash between them. However, they start to come around and open up to each other, and I wished it happened sooner and we saw more of them interacting with one another. I wanted to feel a deeper connection between the two of them. 
  • There is not a lot of dialogue, which you’ll understand why if you read the book, so there is a lot of description. At times, it got a little tedious to read so much filler, but at least there weren’t chunky paragraphs. I appreciated that many paragraphs and sentences were split out to make it easier to read since there wasn’t much dialogue, which I missed.

What I Liked About It:

  • This is a darkly haunting, spooky, and eerie story. It’s kinda creepy but not scary, and extremely atmospheric. It would be perfect for Halloween or Spooky Season because it’s bleak, gloomy and gray – very much autumn vibes.
  • I also enjoyed unraveling this mystery that Olivia is trying to figure out, and then discovering these dark family secrets.
  • It was a slow-burn, but it kept me interested because I had to know what would happen next, so it was a page-turner in that sense. 
  • As mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed how the illustrations were seamlessly weaved throughout the book, but they did start to repeat toward the end and I didn’t know if we needed that repetition. But they are beautiful black and white illustrations. 
  • I was surprised by a certain trait of Olivia’s (no spoilers), which made her more of an interesting character to me. I found myself wanting to know more about her. The author said she wrote this story in the first few months of the pandemic and called it, “a quiet story for an unquiet world.” This makes more sense once you read the book. But she’s a very sweet character, and my heart just went out to her. She has had such a traumatic childhood and has been left all alone, so I had a lot of compassion and empathy toward her, and just wanted her to be able to find that family she’s been longing for. She’s pretty mature for her age, but I think she’s had to grow up quickly due to the environment that she grew up in. Being in the orphanage, where she was bullied and treated poorly, she had to defend herself, become independent, and really look out for herself. I wanted her to finally feel safe and protected and she felt like she belongs somewhere. 
  • I love being immersed in a story and really getting a deeper sense of characters, which can help readers relate and connect more to the characters. This book did a wonderful job of this because we get an in-depth look of being in someone’s head who feels alone, abandoned, forgotten, lost, and forced to keep her secret of seeing ghouls.
  • I love anything gothic, old, mysterious manors, estates, or mansions, and anything ghostly or supernatural. This book has it all. I would love to see this made into a movie because of the creepy ghouls that Olivia sees, and the setting is very Crimson Peak or The Haunting of Hill House
  • I enjoyed seeing Matthew begin to open up toward the end, telling her the story of the house and her family, showing her around the house, and trying to protect her. He becomes like an older brother figure that is watching out for his younger sister, which is really sweet, especially how we meet him when he’s so uptight, angry, and stubborn.
  • The ending is bittersweet, and I had a feeling it would end the way that it did. It’s satisfying but sad. I didn’t cry but it was emotional and touching. 
  • I read this book back in May when my reading theme was spring vibes or cottagecore. When I read that this was like a creepy The Secret Garden, I knew that I wanted to read it. So I read it in the same month as Mandy, which is another story about an orphan. But this book was a complete opposite look of an orphanage from what I read in Mandy. This one is more like your stereotypical orphanage – cold, dark and gloomy, treated poorly, and the employees aren’t very kind. So it was interesting to read such different orphan stories in that month.

Why You Should or Shouldn’t Read It:

If you enjoy haunting, eerie stories that are very atmospheric with a bit of mystery to unravel, then you’ll absolutely love this book. If you don’t mind a slow burn with not a lot of action, then you’ll also probably enjoy this one. I’ve also seen many reviewers say that if you’re a fan of Holly Black, Shirley Jackson, or Neil Gaiman, then you might enjoy this story. 

But if you like a lot of conflict or action to happen quickly, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re expecting a horror story or want to be highly disturbed, you won’t be and won’t get that here.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed Gallant by V.E. Schwab to a point, but I was hoping for much more than what I got from this story. I know it’s a standalone book, but I almost wish there was a sequel coming so we could explore the other world more and watch a quicker-paced story unfold. But I’ll just have to be content with how this story ended, which was bittersweet and sad, but yet, satisfying. 

Was this a booktrap from all the rave reviews and the award it won on GoodReads? Yeah, a little. Would I go back and read this book? Sure, if I ever feel like I want to read a beautiful, haunting story. I really enjoyed her prose and writing style. Any book that’s extremely descriptive, almost lyrical, where I’m completely immersed in the story, I would go back and read again. 

I am interested in reading more by this author. I know she’s very popular in the book world, and has around 20 books or so that she’s written. I think she’s been writing since she was 19, and now, she’s in her mid-thirties. As someone who has dreamed of writing books for over 20 years and just hasn’t done it yet, she’s very inspiring. So yes, I do have a lot more of her titles in my TBR lists. I’m interested in reading more of her adult books than middle grade or YA, though. So you might hear about those in the future.

If you’re interested in this book, you can purchase it here.

*Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and a member of other affiliate programs. I may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made through links in this article.

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