This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
In Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song, we follow the stories of two characters, Kate and August, both heirs to a city ravaged by war, violence and literal monsters. There are three kinds of monsters in Schwab’s world, all born out of some kind of violence: the Corsai feed on flesh, the Malchai drink blood, and the Sunai feed on souls. As far as anyone knows, there are only three Sunai in the world- one of whom is our very own August Flynn. August is the adoptive son of sorts to the leader of South City; he strives to be like his human father despite his monster heart. Kate Harker is our wild, feisty heroine who has been striving for the attention of her father, who is the leader of North City. When August is given the task of going to a school in North City and keep an eye on Kate, he jumps on the chance. One thing leads to another and our two characters find their paths intersecting.
It is no secret that Victoria Schwab has fast become one of my favorite authors; her storytelling, her characterization, the emotion she injects into her words- phenomenal. But it seems that I have come to expect nothing but masterpieces from Schwab. When put next to (and I hate comparing, but bear with me) her series about parallel Londons and legendary bromances, or her novel about anti-hero superhumans, this novel pales in comparison. Which is not to say that this is a bad book: quite the contrary since I flew through it and enjoyed (most of) it. For starters, the characterization was very good.
“It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he only felt human after doing something monstrous.”
August was a character who grew on me immediately; it always takes me some time to warm up to protagonists, but August did not grant me the comfort of time. His personality was so infectious. He is the literal definition of a precious cinnamon roll, which is ironic since he’s a monster and all. His internal struggle was both tragic and endearing, his voice was very strong and he was a multi-faceted, shaded, interesting character. Kate, too, did not take long for me to like. Granted that she’s a lot like any other feisty, bad-ass female in YA, but perhaps the reason I gravitated so strongly to her was because her strongest desire and aspiration did not have to do with revenge or romance; it is one of the most human afflictions to desire a parent’s love. Pair this with a strong female character and you’ve given me something I can’t possibly resist.
Speaking of romance, can I just say how refreshing it is to have a YA fantasy with absolutely no romance? And not only does it not have a romantic bone in its body, but it depicts a strictly platonic relationship between a boy and a girl, something which I had begun to think was an actual fairytale. I hadn’t realized how strongly I needed a good, strong platonic relationship in fantasy until I read this book. And kudos to Schwab for taking this much-needed risk; we all love our ships and romances, but she said no and stuck to her guns, and produced something refreshing and just as good – if not better.
The world-building was creative. I’ve seen a few negative reviews that assert that this is not ‘new’ world-building, but since I haven’t quite read anything like it, I enjoyed it very much. But note how I said creative, and not strong. That’s because the world had so much potential, so much room for exploration and development; I felt like it wasn’t done justice. Of course, there’s another book in the series and I trust Schwab, but I would have liked to see a little more world-building in this one.
I felt that the world-building was largely sacrificed for action. Which is not a bad thing, of course, if things are balanced out. This was my biggest problem with the book: the pacing felt off. Very slow-burning in the first half, wildly action-packed and fast-paced in the second half- I like variation. I like it when my action is broken up, interspersed with meaningful, slower moments that leave room for world-building and character development. The second half was just a whirlwind of one thing after another: boom, boom, boom. This just happened, now this crazy thing is happening, and now our characters are in danger yet again. It got tiring- and not only that, it left me feeling disoriented, confused and sometimes even disinterested.
Is this Schwab’s best work? Absolutely not. Can she do more? She has done so much more. But was it an enjoyable read? Yes, it was. Do I recommend it? Of course I do- it’s Victoria freaking Schwab!