Gothic Shadows

Gallant by Victoria Schwab

Publication Date: March 1, 2022

Summary from NetGalley:

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?

ARC provided by Harper Collins via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

I did like and even appreciated this story, I did not love it as much as I usually enjoy this author’s works. For me there was just something missing from this one and it never quite captivated me or drew me in.

The story is mostly told from Olivia’s point of view, with a few short chapters from Death’s view point. I liked Olivia, she is determined and brave, but yet curious and she wants to find where she belongs. She is mute, which hindered her sometimes, yet she always managed to make herself understood when it was needed. It was wonderful to experience mutism through her eyes and it made the story more interesting and descriptive due to the lack of dialogue. The one thing that kind of bugged me is that we never knew her age. Which usually is ok, but I just couldn’t decide if she was closer to 13 or to 20. She sometimes felt like she was really young and then other times she acted older. It made it hard to decide how I felt about some of her actions because of this.

The other characters in the story were fleshed out well enough, and I really liked many of them, even the creepy ones. The ghouls that Olivia can see were somewhat disturbing, but appeared to be benevolent enough that you soon got over their creepiness. I really liked her cousin Matthew, even when he was being kind of mean to her. He was only trying to protect her.

The setting and the writing is what really makes this story shine. Ms. Schwab, as always, does a superb job of describing the setting and making it totally feel real to the reader. I will think twice before opening unknown doors from now on, especially those I find in gardens. The other world was also nicely done in the way it mirrored reality, but not quite. The added pictures were wonderful and really added something to the story.

The plot was somewhat simplistic, in that what you read in the summary is pretty much the story, no real surprises here. A little more explanation as to how Olivia’s family fell into the role of keeper would have been nice, but not totally necessary. The pacing was good, but got a little bogged down in the middle and there was some repetition of plot points that seemed unnecessary. The ending also felt a little rushed and I didn’t feel like there was full closure either.

A well done gothic story aimed at young adults. I would not hesitate to give this to a young teen either, even a more mature tween could handle this easily. I just wish it had spoken to me more like her other books.

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