Read an eARC from the publisher
Content warning: dead parents, dead sibling, self-harm for blood magic, body horror
2022 is really delivering on the haunted house books. In this ghoulish fantasy, a mute girl named Olivia receives a mysterious letter from a previously-unknown Uncle Arthur calling her home to an estate called Gallant. Having lived in an orphanage all her life, she’s excited to be welcomed into a place she can call home. But between the missing residents and the ghouls haunting the halls, there is more undead danger afoot than she could have ever predicted.
Told in Schwab’s signature precise prose and featuring spooky illustrations, this book is a whimsical ride through a scary fairy tale of two houses, where Death resides.
Disclaimer up front: I am not mute and, as such, cannot comment on the quality of the rep. I will want to say, that Olivia is never suddenly given the ability to speak via magic. She signs, and sign language is common among the people around her. There is an instance of Matthew, her cousin, venting frustration about her inability her to speak, but this is challenged.
It’s been a minute since I read a Schwab book, and it truly felt like coming home. The language throughout is both familiar, but unique to this particular tale. There is a precision that is simply unmatched in other work. You can’t confuse this one for any of her other books. The rhythm between the journal entries and Olivia’s own narration play so nicely together.
This book is as magical as it is spooky. There is a visceral detail to the ghouls and an air of mystery that, even with the final act of reveals, you’re not even sure what answers get presented. There’s no world-building outside of the immediate story, which fits this standalone The single location of this plot definitely gives a vibe of isolation that shouldn’t still keep catching me by surprise, and yet. For something where the terror might be coming from inside the house and within journal pages, it works really well.
If you’re looking for a book without a romance subplot that’s all about finding a place to call home even when it’s haunted as all get out, this one is for you.