Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab (V.E. Schwab)
Date completed: 15th July 2017
Goodreads rating: 4 stars
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.
Victoria Schwab is coming to Edinburgh at the start of August for a book signing, which was the perfect catalyst for me to finally read some of her books. I started with the Monsters of Verity duology purely because it was easier for me to decide which covers I preferred, and I could just buy them from my local bookstore.
I thought I’d try a different method of reviewing for these two books, so let me know what you think. I’m going to split my discussion into ‘characters’, ‘plot’, ‘world building’, and ‘other’.
I’m going to start with world building because the world was my favourite thing about This Savage Song. It’s like our own, except every act of violence creates a monster – a Malachai, a Corsair, or a Sunai. These monsters have begun to take over Verity (one of the supercities in this semi-dystopian world), and the humans of Verity have to decide how to handle them. Verity has been split into North and South along ‘the Seam’. In the North, Callum Harker provides protection from the monsters to those who pay him, and life continues on relatively normally. In the south, Harry Flynn has declared war on the monsters, and alongside his task force he seeks to rid Verity of monsters. The world Victoria Schwab created was so rich and complex. I loved how unique the three types of monsters were, and particularly the Sunai. Unlike the other two types of monsters, the Sunai feed on human souls, and can only ‘eat’ the souls of sinners, which they discover primarily by using music to entrance their victims and bring their souls to the surface. This world was just so incredible and unique, and I loved exploring it.
The main characters, August and Kate, were fantastic examples of morally grey protagonists. Watching their character development both together and separately was really enjoyable, particularly as they began to question their own judgements and values as they learned more about their world and each other. It was nice to see a friendship, rather than a romantic relationship, emerge, and the way it was written and developed felt really genuine, rather than rushed and forced. The supporting characters were fascinating, but I wish they’d been given slightly more screen time. They were all such interesting characters, and I just wanted to experience their own stories along with Kate and August’s. I suppose this is a compliment – it’s not often you get so invested in the side characters. I was particularly intrigued by Leo and Isla, August’s ‘siblings’ and fellow monsters.
The plot of This Savage Song took a while to develop. It definitely began as a character-driven novel, rather than plot-driven. It takes about 2/3 of the novel for the events of the blurb to be covered, and the first half did feel like it dragged on slightly. I could tell where we were headed, but I would have preferred less time spent on establishing the characters, and more spent on the final third of the plot. That’s just me though, I do tend to prefer plot-based novels. Once we got to the action, it was incredibly dynamic and fast paced. If I’d been watching a movie, I would have been on the edge of my seat.
Although the pacing felt slow in places, Victoria Schwab’s writing made up for it. I’d heard a lot of hype about her writing style, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. Even the slower scenes didn’t feel like they dragged, and honestly I’d happily read page after page of her writing, even if not much was happening.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed This Savage Song. The world alone was enough to draw me in and make me excited for Our Dark Duet, but the characters, plot, and writing kept me thoroughly hooked.