Gallant: V.E Schwab At the Height of Her Powers

A few years ago, I went through a very intense VE Schwab phase. She’s the author of Vicious and Vengeful, and the bestselling Shades of Magic series. I haven’t read all her books. I DNF’d The Near Witch (Life got in the way. I plan to read that again soon), and I haven’t picked up Addie LaRue yet (I’m not too enthusiastic because I’ve heard mixed reviews of it). But anyway, I was recently gifted Gallant on my birthday, which came out earlier this year. I hadn’t even known she’d written another novel. I was both excited and intrigued to get into it.

V.E Schwab’s whole literary aesthetic is dark. Not horrific or gruesome–I wouldn’t even describe it as gritty–but her stories have a kind of elegant eerieness about them. Even Shades of Magic, which is an adventure/fantasy, is slightly unsettling. It lingers in the mind.

Gallant has that darkness turned up to 100.

Gallant is somewhere between Stranger Things and The Haunting of Bly Manor. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I first opened it, but the novel swept me away without warning. I started it in the evening and finished it before 11 am the next day. It also helped that the weather was overcast and rainy–the perfect storm in which to enjoy this gloomy, unsettling, spooky world.

This is the blurb:

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?

Gallant is a horror, there’s no mistaking that. But it is so much more. It’s a profound reflection of family, and choices, and what it means to belong to a home. I found myself aching for the doomed Prior family, especially Matthew (favourite character alert!)

The prose is outstanding. I usually underline or mark quotes I like in a book, and I found myself drawing pencil lines over half the text. Schwab has always been a good writer, but the prose in this novel has to be her finest. The story is tight and terrifying. And tragic.

I have rediscovered VE Schwab after four years. It’s wonderful to rekindle a love for a favourite author. I’m excited to reread The Near Witch, and get my hands on a copy of Addie LaRue.

If you want to read anything this weekend, pick up a copy of Gallant. This is a novel by a writer at the height of her powers.

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