★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Title: Gabriel and the Swallows
Author: Esther Dalseno
Series: The Volatile Duology
Publisher: Of Tomes
Date: 12th March 2016
Source: Amazon AU
Synopsis from GoodReads:
A lonely farm boy.
A girl with swallow’s wings.
An ancient city buried in a volcano.
A mystery old as blood and bone.
There is more to Gabriel than the life he’s ashamed of – the son of peasant winemakers, bullied relentlessly on account of his disabled mother. For Gabriel has a secret: the elaborate dream world he descends into at night – a grandiose, vivid existence – is becoming more real than his waking life.
Everything changes for Gabriel when he rescues a wounded creature – a miraculous girl with swallow’s wings – from the voracious pursuit of Alfio Gallo, a dangerous old enemy. Aided by the beautiful and mysterious Orlando Khan, Gabriel is conflicted by unanswered questions: who is the Dark One that dwells in the medieval tunnels beneath their city? Is he just a figment of Gabriel’s powerful imagination? And is the foundling really who she says she is?
Wrestling with manhood whilst beckoned by ancient rites and foreign lands, Gabriel is about to make a deadly decision that changes the course of life as he knows it…as long as he can decide which reality he’s in.
I loved this book. The writing was enchanting and haunting at the same time, and I completely fell in love with the characters. Such a great story, wonderful setting, and perfectly written characters. I am keen to re-read this one, and am eagerly awaiting the next book in this duology.
Esther Dalseno has this incredible way with words; the way she describes a scene is detailed yet it never feels bogged down or slow, and her storytelling is overall, just incredible. I’m sitting here trying to figure out if any other book has made me feel so immersed or involved in the story, but I can’t think of any.
All of the characters in this book are very real, even the side characters are well fleshed out and have their own moment in the spotlight, and this created a very immersive experience. You feel like you know each and every character personally, and you develop a strong opinion of them straightaway; be it a good or bad one.
Gabriel, the main character, grows up over the course of this story, so you grow very attached to him. His thoughts and actions aren’t always perfect nor likeable, but he is very real. His personality develops as you follow him through his life, and you get to see what shapes and influences him. I think he is one of my new favourite protagonists, as despite his mistakes and imperfections, I still appreciate him.
Magical realism is a very central part of this story, and I think that it has been perfectly executed. It is mysterious and keeps you guessing until the very last page, at which point you wonder, ‘is that it?’ But in saying that, the story is well wrapped up by the end, giving you a subtle but adequate resolution to the mystery in the story. There is also a well done opening for the duology to continue on from.
I also feel that Esther’s writing lends itself well to developing the world, with each and every part of Gabriel’s life occurring in beautifully described Italian settings. It has truly made me want to visit Italy, and see all of these amazing, ancient towns and cities, and just to experience everything that is captured in this incredible book.
This is one of the only books that I have ever NEEDED to pick up as soon as it was released, and I don’t regret it one bit. It was perfect for me, and I loved it, and I’ll be recommending it to all my bookish friends from now on. A wonderfully haunting, profound, magical read. Well done.