Gabriel and the Swallows By Esther Dalseno

A lonely farm boy, A girl with swallows wings, An ancient city buried in a volcano, A mystery as old as blood and bone.

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There is more to Gabriel Laurentis than the life he is ashamed of – the son of peasant winemakers, and bullied on account of his disabled mother. But Gabriel harbours a deep secret, the elaborate dream world he descends into at night. The vivid dreams become more real than his waking life. Things begin to change for Gabriel when he rescues a wounded creature from the ravenous pursuit of a dangerous old enemy, Alfio Gallo. The creature is a girl with swallows wings; aided by the beautiful and mysterious Orlando Khan, Gabriel is conflicted by a series of unanswered questioned, one of them being, is the foundling really who she says she is?

Gabriel and the Swallows is just as gripping and enchanting as Drown. Esther transports you back to Italy between the 1950s and 1980s. The story keeps you hooked from beginning to end as questions formulate in your mind. Having read the intriguing tale that will make you thirsty for more, there are things that I would like to know and hopefully I’ll find out in the second book.

The story is told from the perspective of a young farm boy, Gabriel Laurentis, who has no friends. When we are first introduced to Gabriel, he is ten years. It’s interesting to witness, or rather read, Gabriel’s journey from a ten year old boy to a University student enjoying the life of a student in Rome. We witness his first love, his understanding and experiences of love, sex, heartbreak and loss. It’s quite interesting as both Drown, and Gabriel and the Swallows deal with the concepts of self-discovery and first experiences of love, sex, heartbreak and loss. This is something that a young audience can totally relate to.

We watch Gabriel turn into a responsible young man who takes on the responsibility of his parents’ farm and winemaking. He starts to slowly take control of his life, but does he take control of his life to the point where he is able to look after himself? To the point where he can distinguish and retain a balance between the vivid dreams he has and reality?

It was a relief knowing Gabriel doesn’t spend much time as a loner as he befriends the mysterious Orlando Khan, who like Gabriel doesn’t have any friends. As the ending was drawing nearer, I began to become more intrigued by Orland as he seemed to know a lot more about the swallow girl, called Volatile. He seemed to be aware what she truly was. His mysterious disappearance made me wonder if the second book will tell me more about Orlando, what he knew, and why he knew so much. Was he as mysterious as Volatile, whom he had some similarities to? He was similar to her in the sense that he shared the duty of protecting Gabriel.

That was something that annoyed me slightly, Gabriel always needed protecting and watching over first by Volatile then by Orlando and then lastly by the daughter of his old enemy, Darlo Gallo. There was a time when I wished he would take control, but then I guess this is kind of reflecting the idea that there is always someone watching over us. It was intriguing to see references to god and religion mentioned in Esther Dalseno’s novels. In Drown, the unnamed protagonist considers the sun to be god. She first discovers churches and hears the story of Jesus during her life as a human. On the other hand you have Gabriel Laurentis praying to the Greek god Zeus, while Orlando Khan prayed to Allah. The people that watched over Gabriel like Volatile and Orlando seem to take the form of guardian angles. It’s interesting to read about different forms of faiths and beliefs in Esther’s stories; they fit swimmingly in each story.

Esther Dalseno has this delicious way of making a story feel so natural as if it really did take place in reality rather than in a fictional world. Gabriel and Swallows felt like a real Italian myth that had just been unearthed. It is easy to see how Esther’s travels have had an impact on her story as she mentions real places like Rome and the Trevi Fountain. The mention of ice cream in the story made me drool as it transported me back to the time I had wandered near the Trevi fountain savouring my gelato with delight. Reading Gabriel and the Swallows made me want to go to Italy again.

Gabriel and the Swallows is a gripping and intriguing tale, and I can’t wait for what is to come in the second book!



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