By Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
To Sum It Up: Kate Harker and August Flynn’s families stand on opposite sides of the divide between the two halves of their city, a city teeming with lethal monsters. Kate’s ruthless father offers paid protection from the monsters to those in North City who can afford it, while August’s father is rumored to be sitting on a massive weapon that could destroy Callum Harker’s hold on North City. As their fathers edge closer to leading their territories to conflict, Kate and August find themselves somewhere in the middle and discovering that there’s a fine line between being human and being a monster.
Review: I am so glad that I read This Savage Song soon after reading Victoria Schwab’s superb adult novel, Vicious. At the very beginning of This Savage Song, there’s a quote from none other than Victor Vale, one of Schwab’s Vicious protagonists. It’s an apt quote, too, about humans and monsters, which lie at the heart of This Savage Song.
The monsters in this book are all kinds of scary and fall into three types: Corsai, Malchai, and Sunai. The Corsai and Malchai are truly the stuff of nightmares with their claws and teeth. While the Sunai come the closest to passing as human in appearance, they’re capable of stealing human souls—with only a song. August Flynn, one of the book’s two protagonists, is one of three known Sunai. The adopted son of Henry Flynn, the human leader of the southern half of a city left divided by a territory war, August struggles with who—and what—he is throughout the novel. Yes, he’s part of a family with human parents and a Sunai brother and sister. But August is also capable of mass destruction, a secret that must remain hidden from Henry Flynn’s nemesis Callum Harker, the iron-fisted ruler of North City and the father of Kate Harker, our other main character.
Kate is a no-nonsense young woman. We’re introduced to her just as she’s about to set the chapel at St. Agnes Academy on fire. Her goal is to get expelled and sent home to V-City and to her father, who’s been shuffling Kate around from school to school for the past few years. Kate finally gets her wish and is allowed to return to North City, although it’s not exactly a warm welcome that greets her arrival. Still, she’s determined to prove to her father that she’s very much the daughter of the man who sells protection from the monsters to those willing to pay for it.
For me, the center of this book was the connection that develops between Kate and August. I’m struggling a bit here to find the right word to describe what’s between them. Refreshingly, there aren’t any romantic undertones to it. The two are drawn to each other’s company when they shouldn’t be, given the enmity between their fathers. In fact, August is sent to Kate’s new school to keep tabs on her, but some thrilling—and chilling—plot twists find them both running for their lives—together. Schwab is just so good at writing deep story lines. She’s also brilliant at writing characters who aren’t exactly good but aren’t exactly bad, exemplified here by a monster with a conscience who doesn’t want to give in to his nature and go dark.
The only teensy hiccup I ran into with this book was grasping some aspects of the world-building. I was expecting a little more backstory to the origin of the monsters and the cataclysmic event known as the Phenomenon, but the novel is very much focused on the present and not so much on how we arrived here. I became so invested in the characters, though, that I was OK with not having all the answers to my questions about the world. Other readers, however, might want those details about the past filled in.
Vicious left me thinking about it for days after finishing it, and This Savage Song has lingered in my mind in a similar fashion. Victoria Schwab’s take on monsters is very unique, and this is definitely the kind of book that you need to experience for yourself. As I was writing this review, I had a hard time putting into words specifically why I enjoyed the book so much. I just got lost in the story, driven by two fantastically written characters. So in short, I really, really liked This Savage Song because . . . I just did.
All in All: Victoria Schwab is a storytelling virtuoso, and here she brings together monsters and music for one hell of a rockin’ concert.