Book of the Year 2016 (see all)
V. E. Schwab begins a new series, that unlike A Darker Shade of Magic with its focus on magic, instead brings us a book about monsters. When it comes to monsters we generally grow up thinking that they lurk in the shadows waiting for unsuspecting victims, but in This Savage Song that isn't untrue, rather the people of Verity know that they should never walk into dark places as monsters are real!
This Savage Song starts with a prelude that sets up the two main characters and their primary motivations. Kate Harker has been constantly shunted from one expensive school to another as she tries to get her father's attention, all she wants is to move back to Verity and take her place in the family business. The other character is August Flynn whose family life in comparison is very loving. August feels like he is being sheltered, rather than being useful to his family and their cause. Both Kate and August want to discover who they are, but in their quest to find out will they become pawns in other people's tangled lies and power struggles?
What makes these two characters interesting is that they are the children of the leaders of Verity. What was once a large city is divided by the seam, now split into North and South. In North Verity, Kate's father is in charge, he dominates the population and they pay him protection money against the monsters. This allows North Verity a vague sense of normality, as long as you aren't out after curfew. August lives in South Verity, which is kept safe by his family, the Flynn's. The people living here live a very different reality, where monsters roam freely but are kept at bay by the Flynn's fighting force who patrol and hunt monsters. There is a fragile truce between the Harker's and the Flynn's, but after six years the peace can not last and no one knows what will happen next.
The monsters in This Savage Song come in three types, all caused by human acts of violence. The first kind are Corsai, who hide in the shadows and strip humans of their flesh and bones. The second are Malchai who are slightly more human-looking, but whose true power only shows at night, they feed on blood. The third are Sunai, they can pass for human and only feed on the souls of sinners. There are only three known Sunai, created from the worst human atrocities, all currently siding with the Flynn's in the South.
As mentioned both Kate and August are looking for purpose in their lives, Kate wants to be seen by her father as strong and capable, trying to shape herself into the person she thinks he wants her to be. August is a Sunai, he wants to be human more than anything, he knows that one day he could lose himself whilst feeding, as each time he feeds he may lose part of his soul. For the Sunai, each day that they do not lose control they receive a new mark on their skin like a tattoo. These marks weigh heavily on August and make him worry about his future.
Music has a strong presence throughout the story, Kate uses the music she listens to to fuel her rage, as well as to create a barrier against the outside world. Whereas August listens to more classical music, this keeps the memories of his creation at bay, whilst soothing him, but music is also the means he uses to feed on those who are damned, drawing the souls out of those that deserve it.
Kate and August's lives intersect when they both start at the same school, for Kate it is her fresh start in Verity and for August it is his chance to prove useful to his family. Kate and August's interactions are really interesting, as they get caught up in their families feud, they also get to know each other and make their own assumptions and decisions. Being the children of the ruling families, they are caught up in conspiracies without knowing who they can trust as for all their knowledge and life skills they have an innate naivete. Will these two teenagers be able to stop the truce from breaking or will they only manage to exacerbate the situation?
This is an intriguing start to a new series, there are a lot of questions about who ultimately benefits from the truce ending, will it be humanity or the monsters? We can only wait to see what happens next. I enjoyed finding out the new rules to this world, along with meeting both Kate and August, they become more complex as the book continues and you really root for them as their world gets darker. With a lot of twists and an ending that is really tantalising, I can't wait to find out how this series will continue.
Michelle Herbert, 9/10
From the author of Vicious and The Darker Shade of Magic series comes this even darker tale of Kate and August, two people who live in the same neighbourhood who shouldn't have ever met. Verity is the setting for the two of them and life is not anything like normal. Schwab sets up Kate's character as a rebellious girl who doesn't care for the six schools she has been sent to, or the people she had to get on with. It seems she doesn't want readers to like Kate from the beginning on purpose so I thought about what would have to happen to her that would make us even warm to her character. And if she is about to come up against evil monsters who want to destroy Verity, maybe Kate is what is needed to fight them.
We find out Kate hates everyone, and doesn't even like her father and the real reason she burned down every school he sends her to becomes obvious later; she wants to come home. Home, however isn't a safe place, so I could understand why her father would want to send her away. Verity has monsters, lots of them and her friend August's father fights them every night while his son pretends his life is normal. A thing called the Phenomenon happened twelve years ago when violence came out of it and the city felt as unsafe as expected. Schwab drip feeds information on the Phenomenon through the book as she also shows the devastation it has brought about.
In truth, Kate and August should hate each other, yet as there is a truce between the two opposing families, there's some kind of understanding, a tolerance; Kate's family is pro the monsters, while August’s fights them, but the truce might not last much longer. Schwab
also introduces us to her monsters as slowly as if she's hinting at them, making them as vague to scare us even more. Corsai, Malchai and Sunai are afraid of iron, so anyone who has to deal with them in the Flynn family has already got an advantage. It is hard to see this as just a YA novel as its setting and characters are mostly adult. I would say this is an enjoyable novel for adults as well as younger readers.
Sandra Scholes, 9/10
1 positive reader review(s) for This Savage Song
Reyna from USA
Schwab's writing never fails to hook me with her dynamic characters, unique worlds, and flowing style...This Savage Song is no exception. While one of our POV characters, Kate, is pretty cookie-cutter YA protagonist, the other, August, is a twist on an expected narrator. His development, in this book and as it continues on into the sequel, is not only darkly heartbreaking as he first clings to, then loses hope, but beautifully and slowly written as to make a character the reader can truly sympathize with. It's a definite re-read and 10/10 recommendation.
9.5/10 from 2 reviews