Saturday, 5 March 2016

Gabriel and the Swallows (Interview & Review!)

Hi there!

Title: Gabriel and the Swallows (The Volatile Duology #1)
Author: Esther Dalseno
Publisher: Oftomes
Published Date: 11th March 2016
Rating: 3 Stars

*Thanks to the publisher for the review copy*

 Synopsis: 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.


What was the hardest thing when it came to writing Gabriel and the Swallows?

I wrote the first three chapters of Gabriel years before the rest of the novel.  The hardest part was taking those first three chapters and transforming them - they were initially based in a town in France and when I stumbled across Orvieto in my travels, I knew Gabriel had to be based there!  Another thing which is unique to Gabriel is that it began with no plot.  I wanted the book to be character-based so as the characters grew, their actions caused the plot to develop.  Gabriel was very experimental for me, as I had no idea where anyone was going to end up, and I am glad readers seem to think that gamble paid off.

What was the easiest thing for you while writing?

I can write enormous amounts in one sitting - if I am given the time!  I can literally churn out a 100,000 word novel in the space of 6 weeks - but those 100,000 words are not particularly good.  In fact, they are frightful!

What's one of your weirdest writing habits?

I need absolute silence to concentrate.  I am sadly not one of those writers who can write in public - a cafe or a town square or even a library.  I need to be in the same boring old place, in the same boring old room with nothing to look at on the walls and no window to distract me.  I find that music and imagery affect and influence the tone of my narrative, and I prefer to write out of infinite nothingness and let the characters speak through me without external influences.

What are a few top tips you can give to wanna be writers?

Never give up and write what you want - not what you think will sell.  

If there was one thing you could do differently about your writing process, what would it be?

I wish I had no more time these days.  Since I became a mother, finding time to write is a very difficult task.  The minute I organise my notes and edit what I’ve previously written, my daughter wakes from her nap!  By the end of the day, when I have the time to write, I am often so exhausted I can barely chew my dinner.  This cycle continues, so this summer, I am hoping to lock myself away at my in-laws lake house in Canada to work exclusively on the sequel to Gabriel, Orlando and the Spirits.

If you could only write in one genre for the rest of your life, which would it be?

This will sound very odd coming from a writer with two YA fantasy books out there - but literary fiction!  I never set out intending to write YA - my first novel Drown was written for adults, but as it was a fairy tale retelling, my agent at the time marketed it to publishers as YA.  The “voice” (and also, the voice of Gabriel) isn’t your typical YA voice, but I love writing young characters and about their often haphazard and graceless coming of age!  After The Volatile Duology, I will be focussing on writing adult books - but that’s not to say I wouldn’t return to YA as I love the genre so much! 

Review: Gabriel and the Swallows is a fantasy novel which intrigued me as soon as I heard the premise. The idea of a girl with wings in a world where that doesn’t happen caught my eye instantly. I’ve also really been in the mood for fantasy lately, so of course I wanted to read this one. And it only took me three hours to finish as I sat down to read this one and finished it pretty quickly. I was engrossed in knowing how it was going to end.

I was a bit thrown at the beginning because this book starts off with Gabriel as a child. He remains that age for the entirety of the first part of the novel. I quickly realised this was going to follow the classic bildungsroman style – where the main character starts as a child and matures through the novel and hopefully, at the end, are a bit wiser than they were at the beginning of the novel. Bildungsroman novels have been catching my eye lately as I am studying one for a yearlong project at school – so it drew me in all the more.

The cover to this novel is amazing and suits it perfectly. It captures the idea of swallows which comes back a lot in this novel, and the colours remind me of dreams. The dream world is involved quite a lot in this novel and the decision between two realities as well. I found that the dream world baffled me a little, as did the spirit world. We did get a bit of insight into them and their meaning but I get the impression that book two is going to involve that aspect a whole lot more and I am looking forward to that! 

As well as this, the novel is set in beautiful Italy. We get to see the town life, but the main character does travel to Rome at one point, during the time period where the old fashioned is shifting a little into modern technology. I loved the setting like crazy. The descriptions were beautiful and made me wish I had the money to jet off to Italy right about now.

This book was certainly unique. At times I felt it a little strange, like I couldn’t quite grasp the deeper meaning that was supposed to be there… but then at other times I really liked the uniqueness of it, and how it was something I have never tried before. If you do try this novel, you’ll be going into something fresh which you haven’t experienced before.

I only had two issues with this book. One being that at times I felt it was a little plotless? Usually I wouldn’t mind, because I’m such a character driven reader. But for this novel, it hindered me a little and I wondered where the story was going in different parts. So I would classify this one as more of a character driven novel. And the second thing would be that I didn’t like Gabriel – the main character – all of the time. Sometimes I found him to be a little bit selfish and unnecessarily cruel. You could argue that he is a victim to the way he has been treated, or that not everyone is perfect. But at times it did get to me.

However, the ending of the novel was satisfying. When I turned the last page I was left smiling and in the end, I do think Gabriel learned a lot from when he started out at the beginning of the novel. I’m looking forward to trying book two, especially as the author is currently in Turkey and is busy researching for the second novel!

Links: Goodreads and Amazon!

Olivia’s Question: Have you ever been bird watching or had an interest in birds?

Olivia-Savannah x


  1. Great review. Wish there could have been more of a plot, even though I know you like character detail as much as I do. I've never been a bird-watcher, but my grandmother seemed to know a lot about birds and I tended to pick up some of that knowledge from her. ;)
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews

    1. I wish I knew a bit more about birds. It's great that you were able to infer a little from your grandmother :)

  2. fab review Olivia, as always ;)

  3. No bird watching for me.I'm not really afraid of them,but wings freak me out. This does sound interesting.

    1. I don't think I have met someone who wasn't a fan of wings before. But then it makes sense why there is no bird watching!

  4. [ Smiles ] Another book that is worth reading!

  5. I hadn't heard of this one before. Glad you enjoyed it. The interview was very interesting. I liked hearing how the story developed over time and about Esther's writing advice. Wishing her all the best!

    1. Esther has some brilliant writing advice and it always intrigues me to know how authors go about building up their novels :)

  6. Oh you're so right, that cover is definitely precious <3
    I'm glad you enjoyed this! It's a shame about the plot though, I hate it when it seems that a story is going nowhere.
    You know, when I read your question at the end I had to go read it a second time, because I thought it said "Have you ever been a bird...?"... I think I need to go get some sleep now...

    Lipstick and Mocha

    1. I think this is one that character driven readers will enjoy a whole lot more. Go get some sleep, girl! ;)

  7. Great interview. This book sounds interesting.

    1. Thank you! I hope you look into it :3

  8. It's so nice to hear about a writer's habit. I am surprised when people can concentrate in absolute silence - I am definitely not capable of that. And I think adult and YA are not really genres, but more target audience.

    My boyfriend and I started being into birds when we moved in together in a big city and started feeding the pigeons at our window. We can feed them from our hands now and even pet them. Then we got into other birds like crows, wild ducks and more.

    1. Sometimes I can concentrate in silence and in other times I just can't. And you're right actually, YA or adult fiction is more target audience than anything else. And it's cool that you have been into birds for a while now :)