Book Review: Gabriel and the Swallows by Esther Dalseno

Gabriel and the Swallows
by Esther Dalseno
The Volatile Duology #1
Young Adult, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths
Expected publication: March 11, 2016
Published by OfTomes Publishing
Source: Author/Publisher
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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.

Clearly, when reading a novel by Esther Dalseno, one should expect to be taken on a fantastic journey into realms where the mythic gently touches the mortal pages and whose lyrical words creates a story that just sweeps you away. 

I first discovered Esther Dalseno's writing in her novel Drown and fell in love with her beautiful and haunting rendition of the classic tale The Little Mermaid

Now, with Gabriel and the Swallows, once again readers are treated to a gorgeous story and, this time, the focus is on young Gabriel, a peasant boy to a local winemaker, who discovers a foundling girl who is no ordinary girl, but one with swallow wings. This is very much a coming of age story and touches on family, friendship, and first love. 

When we first meet younger Gabriel he is shy, sweet, and likes to create these lavish dreamscapes that overlap the real world as he tries to maneuver between boyhood and manhood.  There's so much to love about Gabriel and I felt all his bittersweet moments and triumphs. Gabriel is surrounded by a cast of wonderful characters, each becomes fleshed out, even the most mysterious one, the sweet swallow girl, and readers will be surprised by some creative twists and clever plotting. 

A truly inspired setting makes Gabriel and the Swallows something unforgettable. Set not in some mythic world, but upon the very ruins of an old Italian Hill Town named Orvieto, readers are transported to a place where time seems to stand still. A winemaking country that sits majestically atop a big chunk of volcanic stone, gazing down the valley floor of the Umbrian plains. I love the bits and pieces of culture and local folk stories that are entwined within Gabriel and the Swallows. With atmospheric writing and vivid details, readers will feel like they have been transported to this land where labyrinth tunnels meander beneath the town and legends of the swallows are whispered about. 

This is the sort of tale that makes you feel as if you're being handed down a bit of local lore and it has just the right amount of whisperings of something enchanting, a story that once you hear it, you cannot forget.

Book ReviewsKimComment