ARC Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Posted May 28, 2016 by Debby in Reviews / 4 Comments

I received this book for free from Publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria SchwabThis Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on July 5th, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 464
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from acclaimed 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, This Savage Song is a must-have for fans of Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, and Laini Taylor.

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. In This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab creates a gritty, seething metropolis, one worthy of being compared to Gotham and to the four versions of London in her critically acclaimed fantasy for adults, A Darker Shade of Magic. Her heroes will face monsters intent on destroying them from every side—including the monsters within.

3.5 Stars

It’s kind of weird to start a review with an arguably positive rating on a rather disappointed note. But that’s kind of just how it is when one of you absolute favorite authors writes a book that is still good but didn’t exactly blow you away. I enjoyed This Savage Song, but I do feel like it’s not Schwab’s strongest work.

It’s a story of expectations. I came into this book having read 5 other novels by Schwab, each of which I absolutely adored from start to finish. But Schwab is an innovator. Every book or series she writes has a different tone, a new style, and an unflinchingly unique story, so there was a fair chance that at a certain point one would be less successful with me. But first, let’s give credit where credit is due.

Once again, Schwab has created a new and brilliant world. The story takes place in an alternate form of our Earth, where the US has collapsed and been replaced by certain territories. The setting for this book is in Verity, where chaos and sins have spawned terrifying monsters: some born of shadows, some resembling vampires, and others who purge the souls of human sinners. The city has split in two, each with radically different methods on how to deal with them. The North has more of a mafia system, where people pay protection money – or they’re left to fend for themselves, while the South is trying to save everyone. There’s a power struggle between the two halves that gives rise to some interesting ethical questions. As with most of Schwab’s books, people are painted in shades of gray when you try to categorize them as good or evil.

The story centers on two characters: Kate and August. Kate’s the daughter of the mafioso-type leader of the North, while August is a monster working to protect the people of the South. Their paths intertwine, arguably late in the game because it took quite a while to set up the story and get going, when August is tasked to infiltrate her new school and keep tabs on her, potentially using her to end the conflict between the two sides of the city. Kate is pretty badass and wants to impress her father and gain his respect, potentially carrying on his legacy of ruling through fear. But before too long, the two both get drawn into a complex set up and have to flee from the monsters while uncovering the truth together.

Now, the story took a while to get going, but once Kate and August began interacting with each other, my interest was fully focused. They have a really interesting dynamic, and for a while there, it was a compelling cat and mouse story – though you could never say for sure who was the cat and who was the mouse. They’re equals: highly intelligent and gifted, though I did lack a bit of a spark from them. (They’re not quite Wes and Mac levels of awesome, if you get what I mean. Indeed banter is hard to find in this book.)

Here’s the other thing about expectations: I’m pretty sure I’ve heard this book being pitched as “Romeo and Juliet but with monsters”. It’s not entirely accurate, because referencing Romeo and Juliet implies romance. This book is arguably completely devoid of romance. Now I understand that it’ll probably come in the second book, and that it may make sense in the long run because Kate and August have an EXTREMELY long way to go from total enemies to hopelessly in love. (I feel like now they’re between grudging respect and tentative friends.) If anything, pushing romance into this book could have ultimately cheapened it and turned the story into more of a young adult cliché, so its exclusion is almost wonderfully refreshing. But I expected even the barest of hints to a chemistry that would have my heart fluttering. It wasn’t really there. And that confused me.

So the characters were interesting but not awesome, their dynamic had potential but was not yet fully developed, but the story of the monsters and the chase Kate and August get involved in held my attention. It’s compelling and it sure gets your heart pumping. But this was the other thing that I was not used to from Victoria Schwab: every plot twist, with maybe one exception, I called before it happened. I’m used to being surprised and thrown way off course in her books, but it wasn’t so in This Savage Song. So though the execution was still great, I’m still waiting for those true shock and awe moments. I have faith there will be some in book 2.

Summing Up:

This Savage Song was something entirely new from Victoria Schwab. This story is dark, twisted, and at times pretty scary. The characters are starting to grow on me and I can see the potential for a romance, though this book certainly had none of it. But that’s okay. I feel with this book Schwab is showing her versatility. She can write a compelling story in a truly unique world, this time more geared towards plot readers than those driven by characters and romance. The quality is still high. I personally just connected to it a bit less.

GIF it to me straight!


What? Curly black hair, broods, plays the violin?
You thought you’d get anything BUT a Sherlock gif?

Recommended To:

Fans of dark urban fantasy and readers who don’t necessarily want a romance.

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4 responses to “ARC Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

  1. I haven’t read anything by Schwab yet, but this one does sound intriguing… interesting though, that it was pitched as Romeo & Juliet with monsters, but devoid of romance? Weird. Anyway, can’t wait to start this one! Sad it didn’t live up to her other books for you, but glad it was good all the same. Great review!! 😀

  2. My ARC has been sitting by my couch since the beginning of this month begging to be read. I’m hoping to get to it soon.

    That’s so strange about the Romeo and Juliet with monsters pitch. One of the main reasons I was so excited for it was because I had heard there was NO romance between Kate and August. I wonder what changed the marketing?
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