Title: This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: July 5, 2016
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Quick Synopsis: There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books. Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives. (Goodreads)
My Review: This Savage Song is the first Victoria Schwab book I’ve read, despite her being such a popular author these days. Something about this book in particular really intrigued me in a way her previous ones haven’t as much, so I picked it up on a whim and proceeded to read it in a single sitting. I think this was the perfect introduction to Schwab, and now I definitely feel more inclined to pick up her other novels.
This book is nothing like I expected. All I knew going in was that it was about monsters. I don’t think I’ve ever read a YA book that focuses on monsters, of all paranormal beings, and Schwab paints these monsters as gritty and untrustworthy, but also as surprisingly complex beings. The human/monster dynamic is interesting and rich with history and past war. There is misunderstanding on both sides, and it’s all portrayed so wonderfully. This book was the perfect set-up for a sequel; it gave plenty of backstory and world-building, but there was definitely room for further development to be explored in the next installment. This, folks, is how slow-burning development is done.
The two main protagonists, Kate and August, could not be more different from each other, but I found myself sympathizing with a routing for them both. Kate took me a few chapters to warm up to, but in the end, I loved her and August equally, and I truly cared about both characters’ journeys and struggles. The friendship that blossoms between Kate and August is unlikely and dangerous, but oh, I so approved of it from the start. The son and daughter of two opposing political figures deciding to team up? Yes please. The fact that they both come from such different backgrounds and hold such different views of their current world makes them such a compelling pair, and it really made me question what the right side truly was. Kate and August’s relationship made the line between good and bad much more blurred. This book is another example of morally gray characters within a dark, rigid world. However, if you think this is going to be a story of Kate and August putting everything on hold, rejecting their beliefs, and running away to be lovers, you’d be absolutely wrong. The relationship between Kate and August is strictly platonic (there’s no romance at all in this book), and the roles they play within society remain a big part of their identities. The relationship each character has with their families and their people is thrown into the limelight more so than anything else.
One of my favorite parts about this book, besides the characters and the plot, was the writing. I sped through this story because of Schwab’s ability to seamlessly weave together sentences. I was truly taken on a journey, feeling the emotions of the characters. And when one of the characters goes through a traumatic physical transformation, I felt like I was being transformed right with them. This Savage Song is an incredibly immersive novel. Here are just a few quotes that were memorable to me:
‘It hurts,’ he whispered.
‘What does?’ asked Kate.
‘Being. Not being. Giving in. Holding out. No matter what I do, it hurts.’ Kate tipped her head back against the tub. ‘That’s life, August,’ she said. ‘You wanted to feel alive, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re monster or human. Living hurts.’
Whatever he was made of — stardust or ash or life or death — would be gone.
Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
In with gunfire and out with smoke.
And August wasn’t ready to die.
Even if surviving wasn’t simple, or easy, or fair.
Even if he could never be human.
He wanted the chance to matter.
He wanted to live.
August groaned inwardly.
Mind over body.
Mind over body.
Mind over body over bodies on the floor over tallies seared day by day by day into skin until it cracked and broke and bled into the beat of gunfire and the melody of pain and the world was made of savage music, made and was made of, and that was the cycle, the big bang into the whimper and on and on and none of it was real except for August or all of it was real except for him. . . .
These characters just have so much self-awareness, and I really enjoyed their inner thoughts and conversations, but I also enjoyed their humor and wit.
I’m really glad I decided to pick up this book. I always hear people talk about how fantastic Schwab is, but I never gave her a chance. I desperately want to read her Shades of Magic series now. I have a long TBR right now, but hopefully I can get to that soon. This Savage Song is a perfect Halloween-time read, and if you want something with excellent, layered characters, paranormal beings who make you question the difference between human and monster, and fabulous writing, I highly recommend This Savage Song. I will be eagerly waiting for the sequel.
Have you read This Savage Song? Have you seen the Our Dark Duet cover and synopsis? Let’s chat!
Until next time,