Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: YA / Paranormal / Dystopian
Series: Monsters of Verity
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. (taken from Goodreads)
I had to wait a while before writing a review for this because reading it left me on a book high. Holy shit, am I in love. This Savage Song is the type of book that’s neither mind-blowingly amazing nor bad. But I wouldn’t describe it as average, either. It’s a great book, the type that’s lacking in some aspects and objectively is kindaaaaa generic, but you end up not really giving a crap because it’s just so damn fun to read.
I always make it a point to take notes when reading and this is the first time since I’ve started posting reviews that I wasn’t able to fill at least half a page in my notebook. I was just so engrossed in the story. It goes by so fast, I didn’t realize I’d already gone two hundred pages without writing a single comment, which speaks volumes about how enjoyable it is.
Schwab described it as Sin City plus Romeo and Juliet minus romance plus monsters, and I can attest to that. Probably the most refreshing thing about the book is that there is zero romance. Like none at all. Maybe if you squint really, really hard, the possibility of it is there, but there really isn’t anything I would label as blatantly romantic.
The book lacked a certain bang that would’ve made it a hundred times better. With a premise that involves a dystopian world filled with monsters, you’d expect the book to be epic but in reality, the scope of the story is actually quite narrow, limited within Verity, Kate, and August. A number of things go unexplained, some parts fall flat, and honestly? Nothing really happens in terms of plot. I feel like if you don’t care for these characters, then you’d probably have a difficult time enjoying the book. It definitely requires a ton of emotional investment… which wasn’t a problem for me, but it kinda was, too? I mean, I think anyone would have a problem with having sharp nails rake their heart every couple of chapters.
Usually, one aspect of a novel stands out among the others. Could be the world or the characters or the plot but as hard as I think about it, I can’t pinpoint anything. Nothing specific pops up but at the same time, everything goes together so well. I don’t know how to properly describe it, but it’s a book where you have to take it as it is. You kinda have to look at the bigger picture rather than stress over every little detail. It’s definitely an experience, and I was so, so glad I gave this book a shot. Though I think I need more time to recover before starting on Our Dark Duet.
This portion of the review is a slightly more in-depth discussion of the book and will contain spoilers/rants/raves. Read at your own discretion.
I love the world the book is set in. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything like it before. Then again, I never really read horror/paranormal so I suppose that’s on me hahaha! But I love the entire concept of violent deeds creating monsters (and I definitely wouldn’t mind if Schwab wrote more books set in this world). The world-building was kind of confusing at the start, and I did have a bit of a hard time understanding how the world functioned, what was what, and why things were the way they are. But that was quickly remedied about a quarter into the book, though I still feel that of all the criteria I base my reviews on (world, characters, plot, and writing style), the world-building is one of the weaker points. As intriguing as the world is, I’m also left with so many unanswered questions. What is the Phenomenon? How did it happen? Did the monsters suddenly start to appear out of nowhere? How did Callum Harker manage to gain control over the monsters? How did Henry Flynn find the Sunai?
This Savage Song is set in a dystopian world and for the most part, I do understand the divide in Verity City. One side pays for safety while the other hunts down monsters. But I want to know how exactly that happened. We’re given only vague glimpses of the past but nothing solid and though part of me is kinda digging the idea of the entire thing being a mystery, the part of me that has an inherent need to know everything craves more. Like I said in my short review, it didn’t affect my reading experience all that much. I enjoyed the world as it was. Verity can actually be incredibly creepy at times, and the characters certainly make the world all the more interesting.
I haven’t been this emotional over a bunch of characters in the longest time. And I think that says something about Schwab’s skill in writing. She is able to create characters that are easy to empathize with and root for, even if you have very little in common with them. Reading this reminded me of my experience with Vicious. It takes on the same morally ambiguous tone, the entire what-is-good-and-what-is-evil ordeal, and even has a similar sense of irony: August is a monster who longs to be human and Kate is a human who is seen as a monster.
Kate Harker is a fierce, badass heroine who just wants her father’s approval. I honestly don’t think Kate is anything new—there’s no shortage of cutthroat female protagonists in YA. She does what she has to and doesn’t give a shit about anything or anyone. But that fierceness is nothing more than an act, which is what makes her character intriguing and sad. She hardens herself for the sake of her father, pretends to be someone she isn’t, only to find out at the end that her father never even gave a shit about her. It’s so tragic.
August Flynn is the epitome of precious cinnamon rolls. How in the world can a monster be so fucking adorable? I love that he wasn’t aggressive or mysterious. He’s just a kid, same as any other. Well, except for the fact that he isn’t human, but it’s pretty evident that he doesn’t need to be a human to be a person. August is a monster who cares about others. He has human foster parents, and other Sunai siblings (again, the pain of irony; Kate is a human with a father that doesn’t love her while August is a monster with adoptive parents that treat him like their son). I found the idea of the Sunai going dark super interesting, and I was lowkey terrified that August might end up losing himself completely. Thank god that doesn’t happen but I still have one more book to read (I don’t think I’m ready for it yet).
I can’t really say if I like one of them better than the other, but I can say that I absolutely love them together. Not together together, in a romantic way but you know… whatever their relationship is. Should I call them friends? I don’t even think they consider each other friends. I don’t know if their relationship will evolve into something romantic in the second book and in all honesty, I don’t really mind if it does. I’m just thankful that Schwab doesn’t make it the focus of the story. Their relationship with each other, of course, plays an important part in the plot, but isn’t overshadowed by any angsty descriptions of attraction. Anyway, I am in love with their tandem and all I want is for them to be happy. Buuuut I feel that I might be getting my hopes up too much, judging by the various reactions I’ve seen re: Our Dark Duet.
Just like with Vicious, Schwab managed to make me love her minor characters as well. Ilsa is a personal favorite and I love her sibling relationship with August. The others, I didn’t end up as emotionally invested in, but I enjoyed having them in the story, if that makes any sense. Leo, Henry, Colin… and yes, even Callum Harker, as much of a bastard as he is. Leo and Callum came off as sketchy from the minute they were introduced but of course, I still ended up hoping for something good. God. How does Schwab do it? She has an uncanny ability of making me hope for happy endings. Strangely enough, even if I don’t get those happy endings, I still end up satisfied. I’m convinced she’s a sadist with a mission to break hearts and ruin lives using her books.
Plot-wise, nothing much happens. The book is very character centric and focuses on how Kate and August fit into the world. So yep, caring about these characters is vital. They spend most of the time on the run, hiding from both the Harker and the Flynns (very Romeo and Juliet, eh?), and basically getting to know each other, and taking comfort in how they both see the truth about the world that everyone else doesn’t seem to. They find strength in each other but in the end, they part ways. And then we get that brutal cliffhanger at the end that had me screaming. No joke, the day after I finished reading, I went out just to buy Our Dark Duet because I wanted to dive right into it (though I still haven’t gone past the first chapter cause I’m scared).
Schwab’s writing is, of course, fantastic. Easy to read and straight to the point, but impactful when needed. I’m starting to regret not reading her books sooner. I definitely consider her to be a favorite author now, though I don’t think I can bring myself to trust her, especially with Our Dark Duet. Yeah, nope. My heart is definitely not ready for more pain.