Review for Gabriel & the Swallows by Esther Dalseno!
Quick View Review
Overall Rating: *** (3/5)
Amazon Rating: **** (4.7/5)
One Sentence Review: This novel was somewhat lacking in the plot and character department; however the writing was flawless and encouraged me to read this book until the end.
Our story begins with Gabriel as a young boy living in a small town in Italy: he’s the son of winemakers, and he enjoys wandering and frolicking among the grapevines. As he is called into dinner, he hears a painful tormented scream. He runs towards the sound, unable to handle the utter pain the scream was conveying. Little did he know that the creature behind the scream would change his life.
This creature, named Volatile, was a girl with swallow’s wings. She was accepted into Gabriel’s home and lived with his family during the warmer seasons and migrated with her flock during the winter.
Meanwhile, we follow Gabriel’s life both at school and at home, skipping over the unimportant years and learning of what happened to him after his discovery of Volatile. He’s bullied at school, but soon finds a friend in mysterious and dark Orlando Khan; he’s tempted to never leave his vivid dream world; he aspires to follow a true love to Rome. Overall, this novel follows Gabriel’s general and relatively normal life journey as a boy in Italy, but with a few fantastical and mysterious elements sprinkled in to add individuality.
This book was definitely not what I expected. What I thought I was getting into when I picked up this novel was an epic journey of a boy struggling to differentiate between his dream world and reality; a boy who would launch himself on some life-changing essential adventure in his psychedelic dreams, with maybe some dreary moments of real life added in purely for comparison and a break from the heart-racing action. This was not, in fact, at all what ended up transpiring throughout this book.
I’ll start with the characters. I thought Volatile was undervalued even though she ended up being one of the main protagonists. I just felt like the story was Gabriel, Gabriel, Gabriel, and although I did appreciate his development throughout the book, I wish Volatile had made more of an appearance and played a more significant role in the life of our main character.
Like I said, though, Gabriel was wonderfully crafted. Although I did wonder at his bravery as a six-year-old running toward a mysterious scream, I loved his transformation from a fearful young boy to a confident man. The one shift I thought was lacking in Gabriel’s character was his willingness to stray outside his comfort zone. He was constantly searching for safety and predictability, and I was left waiting for the moment he would opt for the “road not taken”, the twisted path rather than the straight road. Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel like that moment ever came, so I never felt like we got the true excitement I had been anticipating.
The plot. Like I mentioned earlier, I wish we had gotten more of his dream world. Yes, this book did possess some magical realism, but I would almost categorize it into the contemporary genre because I felt like the sole focus of the book was Gabriel’s personal struggles in his real life, further demonstrated by the fact that his dream life was only an enhanced and more perfect version of the life he was living while awake. Overall, I just wish there had been more suspense, just one thing that would make me want to race to the last page instead of leisurely getting through the chapters.
What this book definitely had going for it was Dalseno’s writing. Although I don’t feel she perfectly captured the mind of a teenage boy (but I probably shouldn’t be saying this, because how could I know?), her style was beautifully captivating. Similar to the prose present in The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Dalseno’s descriptions were breathtaking and had me wanting to get on the next flight to Orvietto; so even though the plot may have been lacking, her writing was what made me keep reading each page and want to reach the finish line.
Overall, this book does have its flaws, but the writing within it was exceptional. In my opinion, with the right plot and idea, Esther Dalseno could write a novel that would be cherished by many.
Make sure to come back next Wednesday for a new review!