This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
This Savage Song Rating: Salsa You Didn’t Think Was Hot but the More You Eat the More You Realize Your Mouth is on Fire
(Oh come on, don’t act like you’ve never been there.)
**Genre: YA Fantasy/Dystopian
**Standalone or Series? Series (Book #1 of Monsters of Verity – most likely just a duology)
“Not with a bang, but a whimper. In with gunfire and out with smoke.” (August)
Let me kick this off by sending up a big ole HALLELUJAH for not one. single. bit of instalove! Yes, you read that right. A YA fantasy with absolutely zero instant love struck melodrama. (They still had “good” chemistry, don’t worry, if you’re a slow burn romance person.)
Welcome to Verity (a dystopian version of Urban Midwest, USA) – a city divided in half where you either A. pay for protection and ignore the seedy undercurrent or B. defend yourself and fight for a better world against monsters. Three types of monsters exist, all created by humans in moments of evil deeds/violence. You kill someone, a monster is born. You beat your child, a monster is born. You blow up a building, a monster is born.
“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.”
Of the three types, the strongest (thus the most feared) are the Sunai. Let me introduce you to MC #1: August. As a Sunai, all August wants is to live and live peacefully. He craves an existence where he doesn’t have to feed off marred souls and keeps his nose in books reading about the universe, praying he won’t suddenly disappear as fast as he suddenly appeared. Contradictory, he also wishes to be of more use to his family – all of which hold a degree of power. He is the result of a heinous crime as well as his brother and sister. While his sister represents everything light, his brother commands darkness & diligence. They live on the South Side – “children” of the military leader ruling their half of Verity.
On the North Side, safety is something you must purchase. The buildings in the North are painted, kept clean, and fully equipped with modern conveniences where as the South is barely scraping by. To buy both protection and the facade of normalcy, your name goes down in Calum Harker’s ledgers. Calum, a man of human notoriety and monstrous acts himself, has only one weakness (in the public’s eye): an only child, Katherine. “Kate” is fighting two halves of herself, much like the city she wishes to make home. One side holds onto the death of her mother and who she was before that terrifying night – gentle, curious, and loved. The other side holds potential for being Calum’s protegé – a position which she must acquire with steady calm, dangerous attitude, and fearlessness.
When these two characters are thrown together, an odd bond is formed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s anything but a “bond” at first. August is a monster – a monster who is setting himself up as a liar and spy. Kate is a human, working toward a position of power for the corrupt. Slowly, as the pages unfurl, these characters are revealed for who they truly are.
Things I loved:
- The musical elements. Sunai lay claim to souls through song. One Sunai sibling has the ability to sing someone into death, one can wield almost any instrument to their touch (usually a guitar), and August is bestowed the gift of violin. Even though monsters/creatures have a history of using music as a weapon in literature – I appreciated Schwab’s take on this characteristic.
- The theme: “Blood doesn’t make you family.” – It’s spun in both a positive and negative light. I loved the contrast.
- The idea of monsters being formed out of evil acts. Again, not something wholly original but I still got goosebumps when I finally figured out what awful act created August.
- The way Kate grew as a character. At first, I was like: “Look out. We got ourselves an all American badass here.” (Sarcasm) In the end, I liked who she was as a whole. I’m curious to see who she becomes in the second installment.
- When Sunai take possession of someone’s soul – it’s almost a confession of sorts. People own up to their sins/emotions. It was kinda cool to hear who regretted their decisions, who defended their actions, and the outright cruel people who knew what they were doing and did it anyway.
This Savage Song isn’t going to win any awards for kick-pow-slap originality but I still enjoyed it thoroughly. We are left, in the end, at a crossroads where August (and only one of his siblings) and Kate have to take another step in risky directions.
(I tried not to give anything away – these are all points made pretty early on in the book – and there’s a TON more under the surface. No spoilers here, promise.)
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