Gallant by V.E. Schwab

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Interspersed with intriguing illustrations, V.E. Schwab has delivered an absorbing gothic tale about a sixteen-year-old orphan, Olivia Prior, who is without a voice. Olivia has lived in Merilance, an orphanage, ever since she had been abandoned. Unable to speak, she has become sharply observant, and is clever enough to fight off the bullies that try to prey on her and to see the ghouls that haunt the orphanage. When she receives a letter from an uncle of whom she has no knowledge, inviting her to come to Gallant, she jumps at the chance to have a home of her own. The only thing that she possesses is a journal that had belonged to her mother, and she desperately wants to know why she had been left alone as a baby.

When she arrives, she is not welcome, especially by her cousin Matthew who wants her to leave immediately. But Olivia is curious about the poorly kept house, the family portraits and the ghouls that haunt the rooms. Then there is a strange doorway into another world and unable to curb her inquisitive mind, she enters a strange world where there is another version of Gallant, beautifully illustrated on the front cover of the book. Here a mysterious evil master cruelly rules all. Is this what her mother wrote about in her journal? Is this where her father came from?

Schwab is an expert at building up tension and describing ghostly places. Olivia is intrepid, an unforgettable hero, and Gallant has a ghostly presence. There are dark moments, sad scenes, and complex decisions to make, but the reader is swept along with the vivid writing and fascinating illustrations.

Gallant is for an older audience than City of ghosts and Tunnel of bones, and will be welcomed by fans of Holly Black and Neil Gaiman. Readers wanting more gothic fiction may like to try Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl or move to books like Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfeld or Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

Themes: Gothic fiction, Ghosts, Orphans.

Pat Pledger