Written by: Victoria Schwab
Published by: Greenwillow Books
Release date: July 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository, Audible
Add on: Goodreads
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.
There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from 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.
I’ve been putting off finishing this review for so long, you guys. This is a tough one. But not because I didn’t love it. It’s tough becuase I did love it. Way too much.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul…
I first read This Savage Song back in December, and I fell completely head-over-heels for it. But like many books I love, This Savage Song is not easy to explain, and neither are my feelings about it. I tried writing down some vague notes after the first time I read it, but honestly? I was in such a state of “oh my god this book how why i just can’t ugh,” and those notes didn’t make much sense. So I re-read the book in May, hoping it would help clarify my earlier notes and give me a better idea how to express my feelings. …It didn’t. But what it did do is solidify my very firm belief that Victoria Schwab’s books are all incredible, and they just keep getting better and better. This Savage Song is no exception. It is phenomenal.
This Savage Song does so many things so, so well. This is a violent, and violently beautiful, book. There is a lot of darkness — it’s set in a city where violent acts create literal monsters — but the way that darkness contrasts with hope and light is just… achingly gorgeous. The writing is incredible, as well. Victoria Schwab strikes the perfect balance for me, between words that simply disappear in favor of the story, and beautiful prose that reaches out of the pages and grabs me and doesn’t let go.
Other than those constants in Schwab’s works, there are three other things I want to talk about that This Savage Song does so well: its characters, its emotions, and its message.
The heart of this book is its main characters. I mean, to be fair, everything about This Savage Song is amazing, but if you’re a reader who is primarily drawn to books where the characters are the focus, you need to read this book. Kate Harker and August Flynn are two of my newest all-time favorites. This Savage Song alternates between their (third-person) viewpoints, and this is done so, so well. We see them from their own perspectives, and from each others’ — which is so important to how these two characters contrast with each other. And their character development is just… incredible. All Kate wants is to be accepted by her father (who basically rules half of V-City). She wants to prove to him that she is tough enough, ruthless enough, that she has what it takes to run the city with him. All August wants is to be normal, but that’s impossible when the only way for him to feel that way is to regularly consume people’s souls. Kate and August are so different, but at their cores, they are so similar…
He didn’t belong there, the way she didn’t belong there, and that shared strangeness made her feel like she knew him.
But she didn’t.
When there’s an attempt on Kate’s life, she and August are forced to go on the run. And in spending time together, they both come to realizations about who they are, what they want to be, and who they need to be. The emotional journeys they both take are so heart-wrenching. And here’s where we come to the second thing that I want to talk about: the emotions. These are inextricably linked to the characters — because these characters make me feel.
“I just wanted . . . to be strong enough.”
“This isn’t about strength. It’s about need.”
Here’s a fact: when I re-read this book, it lost absolutely none of its emotional impact. First-reads are usually the ones that hit you hardest, right? But This Savage Song stood up to a reread so well because my emotional response — the response of the reader — wasn’t tied to shock-value (shock-value disappears once you know what happens). Rather, the emotions are tied to the characters, what they do, what happens to them, and why.
“It hurts. Being. Not being. Giving in. Holding out. No matter what I do, it hurts.”
Finally, I want to talk about this book’s message. And by “message,” I don’t mean “the moral of the story,” or anything that Victoria was specifically aiming to write — I obviously can’t speak to that. By “message,” I mean the way this book spoke to me, personally. I love This Savage Song for its story and characters and plot and worldbuilding and great writing, but I also love it for what it makes me think about, and how it touches on emotions that I am super familiar with. August and Kate both want to be something they’re not; but to an extent, they both need to learn how to be what they are. They both want to be accepted by the people they look up to, but they haven’t learned how to accept themselves. They both have this fear that comes from holding back, holding things in — holding their emotions so close to their chests that it hurts. And their struggles made me think about some hard questions: If you’re living in an environment that doesn’t fit who you are — or who you think you should be — what needs to change? You? Your environment? And if you’re able to finally accept yourself, how do you figure out how to fit into things then…?
These are tough emotions to convey, tough questions to think about — and I love (I cannot express how much I love) that This Savage Song touches on them. It doesn’t offer any easy answers — it just exists with these feelings, but it exists with strength and hope… And sometimes that’s all you need.
If you’re like me, and you’re already a fan of Victoria Schwab’s books, I have no doubt that you will love This Savage Song. It exemplifies everything Schwab is so good at, and explores themes that are so important. If you’re unfamiliar with her work, and you’re in the mood for a beautiful, dark novel — one that will make you think as it punches you in the feels — you need to check out This Savage Song.