Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Gallant - V. E. Schwab

I've set myself the goal of reading through a chunk of the books that have been hanging around for ages and that I'm not overly excited about (not necessarily the same thing) in the hopes of clearing some serious space before peak season brings lots of unmissable new books through the door. 

Quite a few of these are proofs from work picked up with the intention of widening my reading range so I can better recommend things. Honestly, it's a lot easier in the wine trade where you just have to taste something, a process that takes a couple of minutes including the time to make a more or less intelligent note about whatever you've just tried. 

It maybe doesn't help that I'm old enough to know my reading tastes fairly well, and also to have limited tolerance for what I consider bad or lazy writing. 'Gallant' didn't fall into either of the latter categories, and I've been curious to read Schwab for a while. When I actually got down to it though, this will likely be the only book of hers I ever read. 

The blurb promised that it's great for fans of Neil Gaiman, The Secret Garden, and Holly Black. I more or less like all of those things, but I rate Holly Black by far the highest on the list and Schwab was more at the Neil Gaiman end of the scale for me. I enjoy his storytelling but I haven't loved it since I was a teen reading The Sandman. If you wanted a dark fantasy that explores issues about family and belonging that mixes the gothic with the Secret Garden though, you'd definitely get what you paid for.

It's an easy book to read too, once I'd decided I'd finish it, it was easy to read 100 or so in what felt like no time at all (a little over an hour maybe?) and I got through it fast. Olivia, the main character is compelling, the story was sweet, but in the end, it made very little impact on my imagination. In part, this was because as intriguing as I found Olivia, nobody she interacted with really came off the page. Not her newfound friends, or foes, and the ending fell flat for me too, there just wasn't any depth to any of it.

On the other hand, there will be people who quite rightly love this book, but I think they might be younger readers. And this is something I find mildly annoying about how a lot of fantasy fiction is currently marketed - this book is about a 16 year old girl trying to find a family and a home - to me that's teen/young adult fiction. Schwab writes books that are marketed in both categories - this one goes into the adult section which I feel does it a disservice.

Or maybe our current classification system no longer adequately describes books - possibly science fiction and fantasy need to be split, certainly, a lot of the books that involve young women in fairytale or gothic settings having fairly chaste adventures seem like they should have their own category. Oh to have a bookshop of my own where I could get really granular about how things should be shelved.


  1. Granular shelving - now there's an idea! There's so much fantasy that's really YA oriented, and so little fantasy written for mature adult readers these days. I won't bother with Schwab either.

    1. She's a perfectly good writer I just found this on the bland side. Teen and young adult need to be separated into 13 - 16, 16 - 25 I think, and fantasy needs to grow up again and not get dark romance foisted upon it. Romance should have it's own section where fantasy that's really about sex (all those dull Hades and Persephone retellings) can go comfortably. Book Tok has changed things a lot.