- This Savage Song, V. E. Schwab
Rating: * * * * *
Series: #1 Monsters of Verity
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: June 2016 (July in the US)
Goodreads 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.
I’m tempted to just write a review for this book simply saying ‘READ IT!’ Seriously. This book blew me away. The characters, the world-building, the plot…everything is spectacularly done. I absolutely loved it and it has officially secured V. E. Schwab’s place as my favourite author.
I love the world of the Shades of Magic series and V. E. Schwab has created an equally fascinating and immersive world in this new novel. Essentially, there are multiple different territories called things like ‘Prosperity’, one of which is Verity. The North of Verity is ruled by Callum Harker. He controls the majority of the Malchai and the Corsai and makes the citizens there pay for protection from these monsters. North is separated from the South by a linear area called the Seam. In the South, the Flynn family is in control. Among them are three of the final and most rare type of monster – the Sunai. The peace treaty between North and South is very fragile and any more animosity between the two areas will lead to warfare. The monsters in the city are born when violent acts are committed – violence breeds violence. The three species of monster have different qualities:
“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.”
I think that the strength of this world is that it is complex enough that it is enveloping, developed and captures the reader’s imagination, but at the same time it’s simple enough, with having just three types of monster and two ruling families, that it can be easily grasped by the reader and is very memorable. It also seems very logical that violence breeds violence.
‘This Savage Song’ is full of striking and memorable characters, something I have come to expect from V. E. Schwab.
The two main characters are Kate and August. Kate is strong and fierce, qualities which would be expected given that she is the daughter of Callum Harker, the leader of the North of V-City and the man in control of many monsters and thereby many humans. She’s the girl who wants to be a monster, where August is the boy who wants to be human. When I first read this summary of the two characters, I wasn’t sure how likeable or easy to empathise with Kate would be. However, when I started reading, I realised that any worries I had were misplaced. Kate has a softer side and I love how this is brought out by the game she plays with herself – she asks herself ‘Where is Kate?’ and pictures alternative and happier versions of herself. She is, in some ways, very vulnerable, and still hurting from her mother’s death. She’s also very likeable, I think, in the way that she treats August.
August himself is very easy to like. He’s trapped as someone he doesn’t want to be and terrified of what will happen when he goes dark again. I love his friendship with his sister, Ilsa, a girl with amazing ability but whose strength divides her – their relationship and characterisation is one of my favourite things about this novel. I think that it’s very clever and neat that August and Kate essentially contrast with each other – the humane monster and the monstrous human – but that they share and are united by both an inner sensitivity and a need to be strong and monstrous when it counts, and they fit together very well.
Sloan is another highlight for me in this novel. He is Kate’s father’s lead Malchai and right-hand man (well, right-hand monster!) and he has a great presence about him. He’s creepy and sly, and I always felt tense when Kate was alone with him. I could imagine him very vividly.
The Plot and Pacing
‘This Savage Song’ is gripping, gritty and utterly un-put-down-able. The pacing of the novel is on point. It speeds up perfectly towards the end of the novel. The ending is also unpredictable, rich in twists, turns and revelations, and it left me desperate for the next book, but at the same time feeling satisfied and blown away by just how amazing and imaginative this first installment was.