Author: V. E. Schwab
Release Date: 8/3/22
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 52
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free ARC copy fromTitan in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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…
I think, this might be my favourite V.E Schwab. I enjoy V.E Schwab’s writing but I do find that in a lot of her books her characters, especially her female characters, can push the "I’m not like other girls" line into caricatures a bit much. They run very close to being Mary Sue’s and if they do have weaknesses they are easily forgotten or overcome. This is not the case with Olivia Prior. While she does have the typical tenacity and stubbornness of a lot of Schwab’s characters I found Olivia to be a lot more relatable. Her inability to speak and therefore her need to find other ways of expressing and communicating leading the internal frustration with others and herself sometimes was a really well structured ebb and flow through out the book. To me she did read younger than her 16 years of age. I felt that she read more like a 14-15 year old especially when it came down to her physical description, also in her behaviour, which can be viewed as cruel and juvenile. This adds so many layers to her character, it speaks to her upbringing at the home for girls, her sense of abandonment, and how she built her defences against that. How her behaviour and personality intertwines with how she interprets the only thing she believes she has left of her family, her mother’s journal, and how she uses that to guide her. I love the journey Olivia goes on and she learns more about her family, what they have gone through, what he mother was really like and what it is like to build a home for herself. It just is a really beautiful development for a character and one of V.E Schwab’s strongest.
The plot is not overly complex most of it is given in the blurb and that is fine as the complexity comes in Olivia’s internal journey but also that of the worldbuilding. All of the worldbuilding is gorgeous. Schwab is a powerhouse at worldbuilding but this just goes a step beyond. Again Olivia having to communicate through drawing and her internal monologue we get a really deep sense of her world and what she is experiencing. It is so atmospheric. The fact the book itself is also physically structured with excerpts and drawings from Olivia’s mother’s journal just adds to the immersive feeling of the two opposing Gallant’s that Schwab has built. It made you want to urge Olivia to explore more so you the reader could learn more and more about these buildings and their occupants.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. Schwab’s writing style is so easy to dive into and wrap yourself up in, so while it is a slower paced plot with very few typical ‘action’ scenes it is still a well paced read that I found difficult to put down. I do think it aligns better with her middle grade books and would be a great step into YA for someone that has enjoyed those books.