Review: This Savage Song
This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab
Published: May 16th 2017 by Greenwillow Books
Paperback, 468 pages
Genre: fantasy, urban fantasy, dystopian, YA
From the publisher:
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.
After the U.S. fell, the state boundaries were redrawn into a few large and self-sustaining territories. Life went on and then came the monsters.
“Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.
Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all!”
The monsters in Verity are born from crime and sin. They are the manifestations of physical violence between people, and in turn these monsters prey on humans.
Three types of monsters live in the city: The Malchai, Corsai, and Sunai. The Malchai are quasi-vampires. They feed on blood and avoid sunlight. Corsai are a shadowy hive-mind who feed on flesh. They live in complete darkness and are drawn to the fear of humans. The Sunai are the most rare of all the monsters. They almost appear human, except when feeding on the souls of sinners.
Kate Harker is the only daughter of criminal lord and leader of the northern half of the city. She wants to be as ruthless and cunning as her father to keep the monsters under control. August Flynn is the adopted son of the military commandment of the southern half of the city, but he’s not just an heir to the leadership: he is also a monster. Their parents are the warring leaders of the two broken halves of their city. Verity City has been split in the middle: on one half, the monsters roam free, but in the other you can pay for your safety. Kate and August forge an unlikely partnership against political upheaval and deadly conspiracies.
When I finished reading this novel, I was unsure how I felt about it. This Savage Song wasn’t the most original plot I’ve read, but it was a good story. It had a great setting and I was engaged through the entire book. Victoria Schwab demonstrated her signature fantastic writing and superb world-building. That being said, there wasn’t a lot in terms of plot or character development.
Here’s what I found enjoyable: Kate Harker. She is an unlikable anti-hero. She’s gutsy and strong is doing her best to push everyone away in order to win the favor of her father. I may not agree with her motivation, but as a character she was true. Every part of her wanted to be accepted as a ruthless leader by her father, and she had the determination and strength to go for it.
On the other hand, August’s character was a little more flat than Kate. I can’t decide if it was because he’s a monster or if he just wasn’t as developed as her. He was her opposite in every way: A lot needier. A little more unsteady. He is a monster with a pretty strong pinocchio complex. He so badly just wants to be a human.
As a side note, I suspect that August’s character resonates with some people, but I don’t think I’m the target audience. His sensitivity and internal conflict has been thought through. I was impressed at that being manifested by his reaction to sensory overload, but again — this isn’t a character trait that I can identify with.
Besides the characters, I also thoroughly enjoyed Schwab’s writing, as always. She is an excellent storyteller and it shows in all of her books. The beginning of the book was a bit slow, but it picked up in momentum throughout the story. She knows how to write a story, but I felt like there could have been more there. I still had a lot of questions by the end.
Here’s the problem. Despite the excellent writing and fascinating world-building, there really wasn’t much plot. The story didn’t really pick up until after halfway through the book and by then, it was almost too little too late. Here we are in yet another dystopian America that fell after getting too big for its britches, and yet nothing is happening? Both characters seem to be searching for their purpose in this place, but nothing really happens until they actually team up.
Back to what I enjoyed, I adored the musical theme in This Savage Song. As implied by the title, music is present everywhere. Kate uses music as a way of drowning out the world and expressing her emotions. August even uses his violin to lure dirty souls to him so that he can devour them.
While this is solidly a YA book, I truly appreciate that Schwab didn’t stick with the usual format. For example, This Savage Song is a full story with an actual beginning, middle, and end. It’s refreshing to read a YA story that’s not just the build up to book two. You could actually be satisfied with only reading the first.
Another point in the novel’s favor is the non-romantic relationships. Enemies to platonic friends should be done more frequently, especially with male/female friends. I get so tired of insta-love and teens who more focused on the next kiss and his brooding eyes instead of running away from the bad guys. Well done, Victoria!
Bottom line: I really like urban fantasy and this book was no exception. The plot was thin and much of the monster development felt a bit arbitrary to me, but I still had a great time reading it. I think it fits in nicely among other YA dystopian novels, yet fulfills the much needed niche of platonic relationships.
For fans of: The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner
Grade: B/3.0 stars
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