“Home is a choice.” And it’s clear from the first page of Gallant that V.E. Schwab made that choice. Because this book is a sort of home. One where Schwab pushes life into dead things. One that grabbed me with its florid, musical prose and didn’t let go, even after the last page was closed.
Gallant has been out a few weeks now and it may be my favorite of V.E. Schwab’s to date. It’s beautifully haunted – the perfect mix of The Year of Shadows, The Secret Garden, and A Conjuring of Light.
“Free – a small word for such a magnificent thing.
I don’t know what it feels like, but I want to find out.”
Picture this: the final remnants of a family estate, a garden with strange grey tendrils choking the flowers, an echoing dance hall with a grand piano, a door to nowhere. This is Gallant, and the way Schwab writes the place made it come alive so vividly, I could have sworn I’d just watched it all unfold on a screen when I closed the book. She makes use of all the senses (especially sound & music) so beautifully, that a place becomes its own character. I loved exploring its corridors (on both sides of the door) as the adventure unfolded…
slowly. But to me, slow is a good thing. It’s sumptuous – like sipping a milky hot chocolate made with the real thing. And it allows you to fall in step right alongside Olivia as she finds her way home, to a sense of understanding, of belonging, of family. Even if some of that family are ghouls.
“Ghosts were people once, and people come in all ways, good and bad and what’s between. Sure, maybe some are out to frighten, but others, I think, are just watching, wishing they could help.”
I loved that these ghosts gave Olivia an avenue to communicate and a quiet companionship, especially in the days at the orphanage prior to Gallant. I mention this because Olivia is non-speaking, representation which I don’t often see, but thought was handled quite well, in a way that is intrinsic to Olivia’s character without being a ‘superpower.’ There are moments that it isolates her, of course, but mostly I found a certain gentle power in how it affects her approach to the world.
“She has always made a point of making noise, everywhere she goes, in part to remind people that just because she cannot speak, does not mean that she is silent…”
I could go on and on about how this story sits in my soul, but I worry that I’ll spoil the experience were I to continue. So I’ll leave you by simply saying that Gallant is a beautiful balancing act. Expect friendly ghouls, malevolent shadows, dreams come alive, and death knocking on the door.