Title: Gallant by V. E. Schwab
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dark
Rating: 3.75 Stars
The opening to Gallant was interesting as it setting seems to be in a more historical period, we are introduced to Olivia Prior who has been living at the Merilance School for girls since she was two years old. Her mother seems to have left her there because of a mental illness which Olivia learns about through her mother’s journal and that her father died before she was born, Olivia is also mute making her life at the home difficult but at 14 she has learnt to live with her situation. However, there are a few strange things about her like the fact she can see ghouls and even in extreme pain has never uttered anything louder than a gasp despite wanting to on many occasions. One day a letter is sent to the school from Olivia’s uncle, Arthur requesting that she return home to Gallant but her mother’s journal warned her against the place but she is overjoyed at finally having somewhere to belong that she doesn’t really think about it. We also get a brief introduction to the Master of the House was from the synopsis I gather lives in an alternate version of Gallant and is looking for a way through and this might have been where her mother disappeared to but I can’t wait to find out.
As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel, Olivia is taken to Gallant but she isn’t expected as the letter said since Arthur, her uncle had been dead for a year. His son, Matthew had quite a violent reaction to Olivia being there but Hannah refuses to throw her out because she knew Olivia’s mother, Grace. The first night Olivia learns that the ghouls she is used to seeing are different at Gallant since they don’t disappear when she looks directly at them and they seem to be stronger around her which might be why her mother warned her away from the house. She also begins experiencing dreams and nightmares for the first time in the house but it seems she’s going to have to earn her place in the Prior family especially with Matthew in charge. I really didn’t like Matthew and his introduction as he doesn’t even get to know Olivia before leaving out at her but I’m excited to see where the novel goes now. Now we are seeing Olivia’s powers or abilities coming into action and there is just a creepy atmosphere around Gallant that might come into play a little more later on.
As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel, Olivia seems to be settling in at Gallant but Matthew still wants her to leave although we don’t know why. Olivia also knows that everyone is keeping secrets about Gallant and the Prior family since they don’t talk about anyone or the house really and they play things off. Like, when Olivia sees the ghouls others make it out just to be the house making noises unaware that she can see the ghouls and she can’t communicate that she can really or doesn’t want to. Matthew does end up telling her that the family is cursed but nothing more than that and Matthew’s tired appearance does seem to confirm this partly. However, while explore the grounds Olivia gets the strange sensation that someone is watching her from the other side of the wall but there is no one there and when she explore the study which must have been Arthur’s she learns that he was looking for her and he must have wrote the letter but whether or not he sent it is another question or maybe someone posted it after he died. Matthew also makes remarks about him not being around much longer like he is going to die soon but I don’t know where that is going. In the other house, the Master of the House also seems to be wasting away but is interesting in “her” and I think this means Olivia, the same way he must have been interested in Grace and lured her away.
As we approach the halfway mark in the novel, Olivia is finding her place in Gallant but not in the way she expected. She soon learns about Matthew’s nightmares as she begins experiencing her own strange and disturbing dreams which means that rest is becoming impossible very quickly. However, she also finds a second journal belonging to her mother that begins to unravel the mystery of the house. In second journal she learns that her mother felt trapped in the house and wanted to be free so against the warnings she crossed the wall into a darker version of Gallant and is haunted by what she saw there but there was some good to come of it. One of the four shadows belonging to the Master of the House helps Grace and through it/him she falls in love and eventually becomes pregnant with Olivia. However, the shadow begins to fade after that possibly because of the Master and his influence which he then extends to Grace presumably called to her or Olivia making Grace abandon her daughter because she no longer trusts herself. The journal are a form of communication as the writing belongs to her mother but the drawings belong to her father. After this Matthew becomes softer towards Olivia seeming to accept the fact that she isn’t going to leave Gallant but he is upset because he thought he was the last Prior and that the curse would end with him.
As we cross into the second half of the novel, Olivia begins unravelling the mysteries of the journal and her curious nature becomes too much for her. Despite the warnings her mother gave and Mathew’s of keeping away from the wall she decides to cross it one evening after her mother’s journal falls to the other side. When she does and darkness falls she finds herself in the shadow version of Gallant where she encounters ghouls that can touch her but she also discovers her own power. Possibly because she belongs to both worlds, Olivia brings things back to life in the shadow version of Gallant which eventually draws the attention of the Master and his shades, the same shades her father once belonged to. She tries to escape the house but gets lost and is eventually aided by a ghoul but loses one of her mother’s journals in the process but she also has to leave behind a boy who she knows is alive and doesn’t belong in that world. When she returns Matthew seals the gateway and demands that Olivia leaves Gallant because of what she has done.
As we approach the ¾ mark in the novel, Matthew realises he can’t make Olivia leave but he can explain what she is going to be facing and when he does she reveals to him that Thomas his brother is still alive and trapped in the shadow version of the house. Matthew intends to go and save his brother who has been trapped there for two years but Olivia knows given what she can do in that world if any of them stand a chance of going there and coming back alive it is her. Preparations are made from her to cross the boundary between the world once more but Olivia has no idea what she is going to face there but she is comforted by the fact she can summon the ghouls of the previous Priors to aid her should she need it and Matthew has given her the knowledge of all the secret passageways within the house since they are exactly the same in both worlds. When Olivia crosses over again she is more confident armed with a knife and the reassurance that Matthew is waiting for her on the other side. However, the Master knows she is returning and has hidden Thomas away in order to draw Olivia into the house. While he does explain what she is truly and how she belongs to both worlds he wants her to revive his side at a cost to herself but he underestimates how strong her will is. She temporarily manages to escape him and find Thomas but now they need to get back to the gate and home to the real Gallant without being caught and that is going to be hard.
As we cross into the final section of the novel, I was really excited for the final showdown and how Schwab was going to conclude the novel. I won’t talk much about the ending of the novel but the final showdown between Olivia and the Master was very anticlimactic and I expecting a lot more from it since it was built up as this big showdown between death and those that defy it. While I did appreciate the sentiment I felt there were a few unnecessary elements that were thrown in purely because the author could and they didn’t have any real impact. The twist at the end also felt flat since there wasn’t much to it and it would have been better if the author had fleshed out those characters a little more. Overall, I did enjoy Gallant but the ending was a big let-down after all the build up.
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