Publisher: Titan Books
Published: 01 March 2022
Genre: Young Adult Gothic Fantasy
Everything casts a shadow. Even the world we live in. And as with every shadow, there is a place where it must touch. A seam, where the shadow meets its source.
Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home—to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home, it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.
Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.
Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?
If it weren’t for my buddy read with Leslie @Books Are the New Black, this probably would’ve ended up sitting unread on my shelf for a while. Sadly, she didn’t have as great a time with this one as I did and although I liked it, I can totally understand why she didn’t!
TL;DR: I had a bit of a hard time figuring out how I really felt about this book. Although I did end up enjoying it, I can also really understand why people wouldn’t like it. While I don’t think this fully lived up to the hype for me, I was still able to get on board with Olivia’s search for the truth about her family and for a place to call home. If you like slow-moving plots and spooky atmospheric writing, not to mention a pretty quick read, I’d recommend checking this out!
CW/TW: child abuse & neglect, mutism, blood depiction, recounted death of family, death of family (on-page), murder suicide, bullying, animal death
“Home is a choice.”
I’m a sucker for Schwab’s writing and I love her ability to make me care for her complex underdog characters who might not always be likeable but who I will end up rooting hard for anyway. What Gallant really proved to me is that it doesn’t matter whether the plot is slow or meandering because as long as I’m invested in the characters and their journey, I will most likely end up enjoying the story and that’s exactly what happened here!
“I am so happy. I am so scared.
The two, it turns out, can walk together, hand in hand.”
As the Ultimate Chicken™️ when it comes to stories full of ghosties/ghouls this technically shouldn’t have been my jam but somehow Schwab made it work for me. I was thoroughly creeped out but at the same time, I loved who these ghouls represented and the role they played in Olivia’s story. Yes, they were creepy and I got chills reading about them but I also absorbed Olivia’s nonchalant attitude toward their presence which made it easier to read about them. 😂 Schwab’s writing was incredibly atmospheric. She did a fantastic job bringing this haunting gothic manor to life and created a creeping sensation of unease that built up through the mystery of the Gallant house and the curse of the Prior family. I was in turn fascinated and creeped out by the idea of the alternate shadow reality beyond the wall but I do think certain elements could’ve been further expanded to make the story feel more well-rounded.
“Safe does not mean happy, does not mean well, does not mean kind.”
That said, it was Olivia who made this book for me. She was orphaned at a young age and has grown up surrounded by people who fear her, hate her or simply don’t care about her, until one day she receives a letter from her uncle inviting her to come home to Gallant—and so the mystery begins. It was interesting to experience this story through a character who can’t speak and I think her inability to speak contributed to the weight of silence that ran throughout the story and to the quiet sense of foreboding that grows as Olivia unravels more family secrets. I really felt her desire to be part of something, to belong to a family, and to be loved and it wasn’t hard to root for her. I also found her cousin Matthew to be really interesting and I felt his emotions starkly—the devastation, fear and anger were palpable. Though I wish the secondary characters had been better developed and their bonds more fleshed out, I was still able to care for them which made this story all the more bittersweet.
“Stay with me. Stay with me. Stay with me.
I would write the words a thousand times if they’d be strong enough to hold you here.”
Last but not least, it’d be remiss of me to not mention the mixed-media format with the whole of Olivia’s mother’s journal included in the book. The illustrations were fantastically creepy and I think Manuel Sumberac did a brilliant job in creating art that further intensified the gothic atmosphere of the story. The cover art also made it so easy to picture certain elements and I loved all of it!
Have you read Gallant or is it on your TBR?