I have a confession to make, before This Savage Song, I’d never read a V. E. Schwab book. Which is all sorts of insane for a self-confessed fantasy lover. Thankfully, I can now say I’ve read at least one! (almost two, currently on Out Dark Duet).
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.
As always, this review is spoiler-free!
I honestly didn’t know what to expect coming into this book. I knew that people have raved about V. E. Schwab and her books for quite some time now, especially the Shades of Magic trilogy (which is firmly on my to-buy list!). So I hoped it would at east be a good, solid, enjoyable read, that would introduce me to the world of Schwab.
It was so much more than that.
The best way to describe this book would be a horror fantasy that blends the genres so well, you couldn’t see the line between them. Full of blood and gore sure, and monsters that (mostly) go bump in the night, with that bleak atmosphere that surrounds you, that I have only ever found in a horror novel.
But it has such intricate, excellent world-building and character development that is the signature of a wonderfully written fantasy book. Schwab has ensured, that although somewhat graphic, the reader is never entirely grossed out, yet is completely engrossed in the world, in the story, in the characters.
So let’s get talking about these characters; Kate Harker and August Flynn – the children of two warring families of a city split down the middle. The perfect set up for a romance, yeah?
Nah, described by the author herself as Romeo and Juliet without the romance, their relationship is complicated, to say the least. For one, August isn’t even human. August is a Sunai; a monster born of the worst acts of humanity. A lost monster who desperately craves to be human.
I adored August Flynn, despite actually being a monster, he wasn’t monstrous. He was lost, and confused and just wanted to belong. He was an excellent case study in humanity, and what it truly means. Always wanting to keep hold of the most human parts of himself whilst being a creature of justice, who can only feed on souls that have sinned. He is a true conundrum; a complex character in a complex world.
The case study of humanity continues with his counterpart, Kate Harker. The daughter of the ruler of North City, a criminal mastermind who revels in power-play, a man who keeps monsters on his payroll. A sharp contrast to the struggle that besieges August. Kate Harker wants to prove that she embodies what it means to be a Harker; ruthless, cruel, a leader. Her journey mirrors August’s; both discovering who they are in a world where the line between human and monster is forever blurred.
Kate Harker’s development was so wonderfully constructed that I really enjoyed watching her grow as a person and understand the events that had unfolded in her life leading up this point.
As I’ve somewhat touched upon, this story is so wonderfully written, with both our MC’s characters arcs so delicately woven together. Their tentative friendship born from most base instinct of survival to kinship that can only be found when you’re lost in a world where human and monsters exist, but trying to discover which is truly which.
The story is built around the city of Verity, the largest of the Ten Territories that were once the United States. A world that seems equal parts hopeful and bleak. With just enough back story teased to us that we get a sense of how the world is now, we the audience are not overloaded with information. We are given tidbits at a time, so that a picture slowly forms, one of violence and darkness and monsters. The war zone that Verity has become. It such clever world-building, that at no one point does it feel like information overload. Whilst I can’t say that it was a particularly enjoyable world, it was an intriguing world. It was definitely one that had me turning page after page as quickly as my eyes could devour them.
This Savage Song was an exhilarating read, that had me reaching for the sequel as soon as I had turned the last page, desperate to know where the story was going next. It was compelling reading that was the perfect introduction to the writing of V. E. Schwab – a book that most definitely will have purchasing more of her works in the near future (when I have money).
And with the film rights having been acquired by Sony, expect a motion picture heading to a silver screen near you, somewhere in the future. What an eerily exciting movie this book would make! Fingers crossed they do a good job.
Have you read This Savage Song, is it on your TBR? Let’s chat.