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?
| Goodreads |
“When people see tears, they stop listening to your hands or your words or anything else you have to say. And it doesn’t matter if the tears are angry or sad, frightened or frustrated. All they see is a girl crying.”
This book was quite a journey of thoughts for me, it’s obviously a short book to what the author has us used to, but very effective, and very well written above all, so it still takes you through a captivating story with aspects of mystery at times, with a game of suspense at others, and above all, with a dark touch that I loved. At first, you don’t quite know what’s going on and that kept me wondering if this was really the book for me, but its incredible atmosphere and unique plot make it worth reading. It will be one of those books that you’ll either love or hate, I can feel it, but for me, it was very good, another great job by the author!
The Plot Explained in My Words: In this book, we follow Olivia Prior, a young girl who has lived all her life at Merilance School for girls, where her only company has been the diary of her mother, whom she has never met, where you can clearly see her descent into madness through her words that seem to make less and less sense. All Olivia has ever wanted is a family, but after so long alone she has begun to feel more and more invisible every day and her dream has been forgotten, until one day an unexpected letter arrives in Merilance, a letter that invites her to return home to Gallant. And even though this place isn’t what she expected, she doesn’t think of giving up a possible home, no matter how hostile her cousin is or even the ghosts that haunt the place. Olivia also knows that Gallant hides dark and strange secrets, and she’s determined to find out what they are. Mysteries slowly begin to unfold as she tries to discover where she really comes from. Who are her parents? What is the “curse” that has haunted generations of her family? And in the end, will Olivia be able to protect her new home? Or will she end up joining the dark?
The Plot: Once again I’m coming across a book with a very gripping, very atmospheric, and totally enchanting plot in a creepy way at times. It has a very unique magic that only V. E. Schwab can express with her unique style, but it also gives you an uncertain way, as you never know what will happen. I honestly didn’t understand what was going on until about half or so into the book, where everything gets a little clearer , and although this may be unfortunate for some readers, it wasn’t something that discouraged me from reading, as I was having a good time overall and was trying to figure out on my own what was going on, which you know I love to do lol. Lots of dark undertones, lots of mystery surrounding the setting especially, very atmospheric throughout with beautiful visuals, and really though I think the plot is great, and was what kept me watching what would happen, the characters also manage to grow on you once you know the true motives for their actions.
This is a plot where the theme of family and inheritance is explored a lot, but it’s also about finding your place in the world and fulfilling a purpose that completes you.
Characters: The characters are fine, there aren’t many, though, in fact, we focus a lot on a few characters. This, considering it’s a book of only 330 pages, makes a lot of sense. I really liked the grimness of most of the characters, and I feel that’s something interesting to highlight, we also have some very distinctive and strong personalities that make the plot move forward very well. Olivia is our main character, she doesn’t have the ability to speak, and at no point is it mentioned that she’s mute as such, but I think it’s obvious that’s what happens with her, and I must say I found this a positive point as I’d never read about a mute character before, and obviously, I feel that representation is necessary and I always highlight that. She as a character is interesting to follow, I felt very bad for the fact that her life has been so hard at such a young age, and also for the fact that her path is still tragic and difficult even when she finds that family she wants so hard. She searches for something as simple as family love and there are many obstacles and many sacrifices that will be presented in between, plus, we see her discovering things about her mother and her family in general. She’s a very dynamic character because she’s a very curious being, and never still, but it’s also interesting to see her internal dialogue and how she communicates with others, I liked that this is a strong and somewhat daring character and she doesn’t let herself be intimidated by anything, I love that. I also think the secondary characters bring something to the table and aren’t just there for filler, also all the personalities add a lot of color to the plot, these standout characters are Matthew, Hannah & Edgar. Also without a doubt, I highlight a lot the construction of the character of “Death” that I found brilliant, very visual, I can easily see him in a movie.
Setting & Writing: The setting is spectacular without a doubt one of my favorite things along with the atmosphere that the author has created for this story, and I think that even though it may not be for everyone, it’s ideal for me. I love when the stories are set in such particular places as this time it was Gallant, but I also love when this place comes to life and they give it a spooky paranormal twist, I love that. The dark atmosphere that gives it a lot of tension, also helps the story come alive. And it also plays a lot with contrasts, on the one hand, we have a wonderful world with lots of color, and life, and on the other hand, we have a fascinating description of a grey and gloomy place, provided with life. Amazing work there! About the writing style, I can’t say much that I haven’t already said before, truly V. E. Schwab will always be one of my favorite authors, she’s a wonderful mind, and although this time I noticed a different touch when telling this story as always she managed to wrap me, captivate me and catch me at the end.
Book’s Weaknesses: This is the part where I comment on some of the weaknesses of the book, situations, events, or aspects that I wasn’t really sure about. This time I can tell you that this book is very good, obviously, but I think it lacks time to tell the story, it’s very short and that makes it rushed at times. You always understand what’s going on, but it still lacks development in many aspects to make it feel like a complete book and not so much like a short novel, even so, it’s very effective and fulfills its function, which is to tell a fascinating and very original story, but I do would have liked to have more time with the characters, know the family background a little more and perhaps something more of the paranormal aspects, all this to make this story a 5 star, in my point of view, of course. I liked the ending quite a bit, but I think it lacked coherence in the final “battle”, everything is resolved in a quick and convenient way, you know? Even so, the epilogue is a great touch and almost makes me forget about that fact, even so, I wanted to mention it since I feel it’s a weakness that this book has.
Book’s Strengths: I’ll mention it again because… OMG, THE ATMOSPHERE! Beautiful, without a doubt, very well developed, thought out, and described. Both the setting of the orphanage and Gallant and the darker parts are also wonderful, as well as the descriptions of them, so I could say the descriptions are another of the points I would highlight. This book takes you through a very meaningful and dark story through desolate roads, shadows, and creepy places and then gives you a cozy place, full of light, and color, a garden worth getting lost in. Always while reading this book you feel very well what Olivia is going through and you can understand her search for a place to call home and that’s really the most touching part. Something I haven’t mentioned so far but I think it’s a great plus, is the “magical” or “supernatural” aspects, very nice and dark as well. A book that reads very fast and leaves you with a lot to analyze, which is always a good thing.
To conclude this review, of course, I really liked the book, it’s a story that feels a little short at times, and in certain aspects, I think it should have been more detailed, but I think that as a whole it’s very worthwhile, it’s very captivating, has a great plot that combines horror and family ties in a poetic and beautiful way, we also have characters that are worth reading, a very positive and necessary representation and a more than beautiful setting accompanied with catching descriptions and an atmosphere worth mentioning. I understand that this isn’t going to be a book for everyone, I’ve heard that it’s not a story that stays with you, and although I don’t agree with that, I can understand that it’s particular, perhaps a style that you’ve read before, but from the pen of the author is worth reading, and I think it has aspects that still make it unique, although I agree that perhaps it’s a story that feels brief for all that it covers and tries to tell. It also has some very emotional moments from the hand of Olivia and her family, which will make you empathize a lot with her and the reason for her actions in this story. I think Gallant as a book is simply charming, spooky, and atmospheric.
Do I recommend it?: Yes, of course, I would recommend it, especially if you want to read a short story, dark and supremely atmospheric focused on inheritance and family.
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