Gallant by V. E. Schwab
Titan Books, Hardback, £17.99
Reviewed by Mikaela Silk
Olivia’s parents are a mystery. Having lived at Merilance School for Girls since she was two, all Olivia knows about her parents comes from the journal that her mother left her. The main things the journal tells Olivia is that her father is dead and her mother very possibly went mad afterwards and that she should never ever go to Gallant. So, when a letter from an uncle she never knew she had arrives and invites her to live at Gallant with him, Olivia is torn. Does she listen to her mad mother’s final words of caution, or does she jump at the chance to finally have a family? In the end, the Merilance matrons don’t give her much choice; her bags are packed almost before she has finished reading the letter. When Olivia arrives at Gallant, she finds that her uncle is long dead, and the mystery has barely begun.
The tension in this book really plays the long game, building and building with each chapter and then exploding in the final pages. In contrast, whilst the mystery grows and grows, there is no final revelation where everything is solved. We are given the grand picture of it, but the inner workings remain a mystery even to those most intimately involved. I was left with so many questions still at the end of this book, but it was actually quite refreshing in a realistic kind of way. Rather than watching Olivia from an objective distance, I feel that I lived these experiences along with her and shared her own frustration at the holes in her own history.
As a character, Olivia was fairly simple; she wanted a family, and she wanted answers. Yet her inability to talk added a powerful depth to her character which culminated in a sort of unique inner-strength. It also provided a useful insight into other characters by comparing the different ways that other people interacted with Olivia, as either lesser or equal, and the various efforts they made to communicate with her.