I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was last week. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about.
First up, I’d like to talk about Gallant by V. E. Schwab. Thank you so much to Titan Books for allowing me to read an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Sixteen-year-old Olivia Prior is missing three things: a mother, a father, and a voice. Her mother vanished all at once, and her father by degrees, and her voice was a thing she never had to start with. She grew up at Merilance School for Girls. Now, nearing the end of her time there, Olivia receives a letter from an uncle she’s never met, her father’s older brother, summoning her to his estate, a place called Gallant.
But when she arrives, she discovers that the letter she received was several years old. Her uncle is dead. The estate is empty, save for the servants. Olivia is permitted to remain, but must follow two rules: don’t go out after dusk, and always stay on the right side of a wall that runs along the estate’s western edge. Beyond it is another realm, ancient and magical, which calls to Olivia through her blood…
Publication Date: 8th March
TW: ableism, suicide, child abuse, child death, animal death, murder, blood, death, grief, self-harm, alcoholism, strangulation, bullying
Gallant was a perfectly creepy, spine-tingling and darkly entrancing tale that satisfied my Gothic loving heart.
Schwab really digs into the standard tropes of the genre and subtly undercuts them, inverting your expectations at every turn with something that little bit more fresh and original. Of course, it helps that their writing is so beautifully crafted and spell-binding. It is infused with this dark sensibility, that touch of something unknowable and just out of our reach. This elevates the Gothic nature of the book that much more. With every page, you can feel the sinister, lurking presence of something monstrous.
This is epitomised in that perfectly creepy, intriguing and slightly horrific opening. Right away, I was hooked and I knew this was going to be a one-sitting read. You are so instantly entrenched in Olivia’s headspace and character. I loved her tenacity and ferocity, with that endless will to survive and an appetite for knowledge. The way Schwab seamlessly integrates elements of her signing was wonderful to see as well and that casual representation was brilliant, while also obviously carefully considered. All of this culminates in even more fear when the darkness encroaches even more. I loved how fantastically Gothic this book is. Familiar beats are hit, but with a renewed focus on found family and intergenerational trauma. This is a book with so much heart at its centre and you can feel the sensitivity and nuance poured into its pages. I loved the stylistic flourishes and the way Schwab wastes no time in creating a claustrophobic, ominous atmosphere. The interluding switches in narrative help create that suspense and add some intriguing details that are even better upon re-reading.
Gallant was like the oncoming storm. It was spell-binding, strangely magical and just everything I wanted it to be. Schwab holds no prisoners with this inventive take on the genre, packed full of heart and soul.
Next up, I’d like to talk about An Arrow To The Moon by Emily X. R. Pan. Thank you to Hachette Children’s Group for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Hunter Yee has perfect aim with a bow and arrow, but all else in his life veers wrong. He’s sick of being haunted by his family’s past mistakes. The only things keeping him from running away are his younger brother, a supernatural wind and the bewitching girl at his new high school.
Luna Chang dreads the future. Graduation looms ahead, and her parents’ expectations are stifling. Then her life is turned upside down by the strange new boy in her class, the arrival of unearthly fireflies, and an ominous crack spreading across the town of Fairbridge.
As Hunter and Luna uncover hidden secrets and navigate the feud between their families, everything around them begins to fall apart. All they can depend on is their love… but time is running out, and fate will have its way.
Publication Date: 12th April
TW: violence, abuse, death, child illness
An Arrow To The Moon is a tragically beautiful match made in heaven between mythology and romance.
I loved the way this book really blends fantasy and romance in a way that feels effortless and natural. From the very first page, Pan begins with a romantic note but it still has a fantastical edge to it. I initially was drawn to this book because of how deeply I loved The Astonishing Colour of After. In particular, I fell in love with her fantastic characterization and the way Pan manipulated language to create these beautiful images that were just sublime and so entrancing. Here, Pan proves that it was no fluke. The prose is once more effortlessly gorgeous, in a way that you just get lost inside. It felt like a cocoon of beauty and danger was being created around me and utterly swept me off into another world.
This is actually quite a dark and tricksy tale, with a heart-wrenching element to it. The way Pan discusses family and the complex relationship between expectations and reality was devastating. Both Hunter and Luna are enmeshed in these complicated situations, with fraught and fractured relationships to those around them. Their characterisation was excellent as they felt so three-dimensional and real. I loved the way Pan used multiple narratives to fully immerse you in the wider concept of this world, fragmenting your reading experience in a way that forces you to reconsider what has gone before and disrupting every last one of your expectations. Similarly, I really enjoyed the way Pan interwove romance, fantasy and mythology in a way that felt exciting and new, while paying deep homage and respect to the original tales.
An Arrow To The Moon felt like a love letter to those star-crossed lovers, while also presenting a complex tale about legacy, family and loss.
Finally, I’d like to delve into Blood To Poison by Mary Watson. Thank you to Bloomsbury YA for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Seventeen-year-old Savannah is cursed. It’s a sinister family heirloom; passed down through the bloodline for hundreds of years, with one woman in every generation destined to die young. The family call them Hella’s girls, named for their ancestor Hella; the enslaved woman with whom it all began.
Hella’s girls are always angry, especially in the months before they die. The anger is bursting from Savannah – at the men who cat-call her in the street, at her mother’s disingenuous fiance, even at her own loving family. Each fit of rage is bringing her closer to the edge and now Savannah has to act to save herself. Or die trying. Because the key to survival lies in the underbelly of Cape Town, where the sinister veilwitches are waiting for just such a girl.
Publication Date: 14th April
TW: murder, violence, death, racism, slavery, segregation, references to rape and sexual assault, self-harm
Blood To Poison is a book that deserves to be picked up and discussed by everyone. It is striking, original and endlessly fascinating.
First things first, this is a phenomenal concept. I was utterly sold on Watson’s vision of a family curse born of anger in a South African urban fantasy with veilwitches and prophecies. In fact, I really enjoyed Watson’s exploration of anger. A lot of this book sits with the idea of anger, its righteousness and the way it bubbles up and over into fury. This is a book that unlocks the power of anger when channelled through the correct sources. It is a book writhing with righteous fury and sadness at the historical and institutional injustices confronted by this book.
This is a very thought-provoking book in terms of its ethical considerations. There is a lot of scope for discussion and debate, which Watson actively encourages throughout the narrative. Personally, I loved the message of this book and the way magic was depicted in a nuanced, considerate way. Magic here is a force for both good and evil, but it also is far from as simplistic as that description. The magic here is messy and flawed, with categorisations such as good and evil being constantly challenged and updated by the narrative. Watson’s writing is so immersive and spins this creative, magically charged world around you. It is also emotionally complex and challenging, with a few plot twists and turns that will definitely hit home. This is not a book that plays it safe, with some extremely dark and graphic scenes. Watson is unrelenting in her presentation of this world of betrayal and trauma passed down through generations. The anger here is an anger stretching back through time, speaking to unresolved injustices and the way they still pervade into current society.
Blood To Poison builds on its excellent concept to create a fresh, challenging and fantastical narrative.