So, I am already a big fan of V E Schwab. I really enjoyed the entire Shades of Magic series and so picked up This Savage Song on a random bookstore crawl. I currently have the sequel Our Dark Duet sitting beside me, picked up when Schwab was in town on her book tour.
ANYWAY. The universe is like this universe but a Phenomenon happened whereby monsters are born by violence. So now there are three types of monsters that exist and in one city, two are controlled (to some degree) by a man named Harker. The other side of the city has the Sunai – the third type of monster, who are in fewer numbers but can be very powerful. But really, the story is about Kate Harker (the above mentioned daughter) and August Flynn (one of the above mentioned Sunai) and their friendship forged by facing the reality and the danger that follows them.
August goes undercover at Kate Harker’s school as there’s rumours that the truce between the two sides of the city is going to fail. But they like each other, more like they get each other. And just at the point where I thought the awkward bit was going to happen, the plot shifts and it gets super interesting. They go on the run, Kate remembering her past correctly and both of them being on the wrong side of monsters that they thought they both knew.
I’m being vague, fine. But its such a good turn that I don’t want to ruin it. Basically, I stopped reading it for three days because I was all “okay, so here’s going to be the awkward part where Kate finds out about August and does something stupid”. But then once I got passed that part, I read the rest of it this afternoon. It was just really well done and really interesting. For the second half of the book I didn’t really know what to expect and so it was a breathless ride to the final pages.
And what made it compelling like Shades of Magic was the two characters, Kate and August. They are both whole people – both flawed and interesting in their own ways. Kate wanting to prove that she is her father’s daughter and August trying to be anything but what he is – a monster. I enjoyed Kate’s fearlessness – she has been shaped by a harsh world and chooses to face it head on. She wants to conquer it and rule it. But also, her bravado is slowly chipped away by her growing friendship with August but also by the memories of her past. Also, August is hard not to love. He is shaped by what he is but struggles so hard to escape it, to beat it.
My only criticism would be that because so much of the time if spent with Kate and August, there is less time to get to know everyone else and their motivations. There really are only the two main characters and everyone else is peripheral. So you feel less attached to any of the characters when things happen to them. Perhaps some of that will be remedied in Our Dark Duet.
But the world is richly drawn – you have a very good sense of the rules and boundaries. You can really get a sense of what the city is like and how things operate. It was a delightful read and I’m going to finish this up so I can get started on the sequel!