This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Monsters of Verity, book 1
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.
I picked out This Savage Song for an independent reading project for school thinking that it couldn’t be terrible. I was quite pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I have not read any books by Victoria Schwab, so I did not really know what to expect. Her writing style is different from what I am used to, but I began to really like it and the characters.
Writing & Plot
I really enjoyed the book, however it started out a bit boring. Personally, I am not a huge fan of books written in third person, and this one was. That was probably part of why I had trouble getting in to it. Once I got used to it, though, I really started to appreciate all of the details and imagery.
The actual story itself did not pick up for a while, either. I was really confused for a while, and did not really know what was going on. There was no explanation of the types of monsters, the characters’ backgrounds, or the history of their city, Verity (unless I just missed it, which is quite possible). More solid information was given later on, but the beginning was confusing.
On a more positive note, I noticed that August would recall things that were mentioned beforehand, and the exact words would be in italics. It really felt like you could feel his thoughts and feelings, even though it was in third person. The words used were powerful and raw, exposing the characters’ emotions. I always love a book that makes you feel exactly what the characters are feeling, whether it be happy, sad, or something in between.
“Suddenly normal felt so far away. It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he felt human only after doing something monstrous. Which made him wonder if that brief glimpse of humanity was really just an illusion, an echo of the life he’d taken. An impostor sensation. Leo’s voice came to him, simple and steady. This is what you do. What you are. Ilsa’s rose to meet it. Find the good in it.“
The book follows two main characters, August and Kate. They meet at school, in unconventional circumstances. Kate is feared by many of the students, due to her father and many of the rumors that surround their family. August goes by another name, Freddie, so he is not recognized by anyone dangerous.
Kate is a very tough, determined character. She wants to prove herself to her father, who is ruthless and extremely powerful over the North side of Verity. I found her a little unrelatable at first, because she seemed very destructive and unwilling to follow rules. Later, though, her true motives are revealed, and she simply wants to be loved and accepted by her father. I really felt for her after that, and wanted her to find her way in the world without feeling the need to impress others.
August is a Sunai, the most mysterious of the three types of monster. There are only three Sunai, August and his brother and sister. He desperately wants to find a path that doesn’t involve being a monster and doing monsterly things. He wishes to be human and live a normal life. His father is in control of South Verity, so his brother works for the FTF, a military-like group that protects the town from the monsters.
August is an extremely lovable character; he’s cute and really relatable despite him being a monster. He has a simple goal in life: to be normal and accepted (which I thought was a prominent theme, so it will be discussed below). Of course, nearly everyone can relate to that. I was rooting for him throughout the book and wanted him to make peace with himself.
Many of the “background” characters were pleasant and had more important roles than I originally thought. Ilsa was very interesting, while Leo was tough and a bit rough around the edges (maybe in the middle too…). I enjoyed Ilsa’s unique and wise personality. She added a nice touch of feminine flair that would have been lacking otherwise. Kate was less girly, so she did not quite fit that role. Anyways, every character turned out to be vital to the story is some way, and they all brought something unique to the story.
As for relationships, there weren’t very many, which was both disappointing and refreshing. I’m a sucker for a good romance, but it was very nice to have a book where the characters do not jump straight into a relationship. However, I do hope that something happens between Kate and August in the upcoming book(s).
I found there to be two prominent themes in This Savage Song, one of them being the power of music. Music is depicted as something that is very strong and can make people feel a certain way. August is able to use it to make normal people feel calm or far away from reality, and he can use it to disable and weaken monsters and criminals. Either way, it is a very powerful, tool that he has. It is similar in our lives, too.
As a musician myself, I know that I want to be able to pull the audience into the music that I am making and evoke certain emotions. Everyone listens to music, and we all have a favorite song. That song makes us feel a specific way, and we like whatever it may be. The music and emotions are described beautifully throughout the book, and there is no better way to connect with readers than through music.
Secondly, I found that both characters wanted to find some form of acceptance within their lives. They each wanted to be appreciated, cared for, and given a chance to break away from their stereotypes. Kate wants to impress her father and escape the rumors surrounding her family. For August, it simply means living a normal life that is far from that of a monster.
Everyone has wants to be loved, and has felt underappreciated or unimportant at some point in their life. Especially as teens, readers may feel this way. I think that we can all learn a little from this book: it is okay to be different. This message is powerful. I appreciate the things this book is trying to tell us, and Schwab has executed her plans wonderfully.
“A single, resonant note swept though the tunnel, and everything stopped. Sound vibrated through the air as he drew a second sound, and then a third, the chords fusing together as they formed. The music was like a blade, knifing through the dark.”
This Savage Song is beautiful and captivating. I had a very hard time putting it down. The characters were three-dimensional and realistic, while the futuristic society was described with finesse. There is SO much detail in this book, it was amazing! The ending was full of surprising twists and turns, and I shall eagerly await the next book, Our Dark Duet. (Unfortunately, it is not released until June).