This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song (Mosters of Verity #1) by Victoria (V. E.) Schwab
Published June 7 by Titan Books.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: paperback via publisher. Thank you Titan Books for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: YA urban fantasy.

My rating:

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters.

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. 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 secrets are fragile and Kate and August might have a common enemy after all.

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First of all, if you hate spoilers, don’t read the Goodreads synopsis. It’s not huge or anything (and I edited some of it out of the text up there) but I went into this book completely blind (my favourite lately) and I’m really glad I did.

I was extremely lucky and received a finished paperback copy from Titan Books, which is the edition I would order in any case as I usually order UK editions whenever possible. It’s gorgeous – and it comes out a full month earlier than its US counterpart. So if you live in the US, you’ll have to wait a bit longer, sorry. Also, indicate if you comments contain spoilers if you’ve read it already! :)

Victoria Schwab has now firmly rooted herself as one of my all-time favourite authors. Not just fantasy authors, either. Her books are auto-buy for me and if I have complaints (which you know I invariably do), they’re always superficial. Her writing, her imagination, her characters – they shine, people. I always have crazy high expectations, too, which is really unfair, but she delivers every single time. And as much as I love light-hearted books with happy endings, she makes me crave more of the heavy stuff because I can tell you, the dark side is looking pretty damn fine when she’s waving from over there.

This Savage Song is the first part of a duology, which I like a lot since the story will be much tighter this way. It’s action-packed and very intriguing, but Schwab also takes a moment to ponder the questions of good and evil, of monsters and humans, which seem to be present in most of her work (if you haven’t read it already, I highly recommend Vicious). As I said earlier, the writing is beautiful and the inclusion of music as a magical component is brilliant. I’m not much of a musician myself (*cough* understatement) but I do appreciate it as an art form.

The world she builds is a very interesting one. It’s a sort of a post-apocalyptic society based in North America, with super-cities and strange zones where no sensible human ever ventures unless enclosed in an armoured vehicle. The monsters are created in a unique fashion: they are the products of violent acts that humans commit. I enjoyed her world-building immensely, especially as there seem to be no large info dumps which can often be a problem when an entirely new society is being introduced.

Kate and August are great characters. I liked them a lot but perhaps felt more of a connection with August than with Kate. The only complaint I have about this book would be about Kate, actually, since Schwab seems to be veering towards writing a type of a girl character: Kate reminded me of both Lila and Mac at times. They are all fiercely independent – so fiercely, in fact, that they wear their self-sufficiency like armor and refuse to let anyone in. Kate does make some decisions that give me hope, though, and I can’t wait to see how she’ll develop in the sequel. August, however, is one of those “I want to hug you and feed you cake” characters, I love them when they’re a bit damaged – what that says about me is a discussion for another time.

Even the villains of the story are fantastic. Can they be called villains, really? Yeah, some of them, definitely, but others are so, so different. I’m not going to name any names because I want you to have an unspoiled experience of this book. You really should just buy/borrow/get your hands on it any way you can and then we’ll chat, okay? 

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Have you read This Savage Song? What did you think?

Do you prefer your villains to be all bad or are you all for morally grey characters?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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  • Ah this sounds AMAZING. I’ve never read a book by Victoria Schwab (I know it’s awful) but I really want to because her books sound SO GOOD. I love gorgeous writing, great characters and good worldbuilding so I’ll have to pick this up! Great review!

    • Well if you like slightly different fantasy (and by different I mean non-medieval, non-Tolkienesque), you might want to give her books a try. They’re REALLY that good. :)

  • You know, I’ve never read Victoria Schwab, but she’s been on my TBR forever. I’m so glad you really enjoyed this. Do you have a favorite of her books?

    • She’s a good author to try. She has this really good personal style – if you like one book, you’ll probably like most of them. But I’d start with Vicious. It’s an adult novel and it was meant to be a standalone, so its plot is completely finished, but it’s getting a sequel soon, I think. But you can definitely read it alone, so I’d recommend it over her other books which are all parts of series (or at least duologies), so you don’t invest too much time and money into something you might not enjoy (I really hope you will, though, Vicious is fantastic).

  • It just occurred to me as I read your warning about spoilers and the synopsis that I don’t think I’ve actually really read what this book is about and yet I still preordered it! I just skimmed through your review because I think I want to go into this one as ignorant as possible, which is probably because I have a lot of faith in Schwab as a writer and don’t doubt she’s put something fantastic together. Complex villains make a story more interesting in my opinion. I’ve yet to read Vicious, but I’ve heard it excels at this. I’m really looking forward to this “I want to hug you and feed you cake” character. Thanks for the great review!

    • Yep, me, too! :D I now trust her implicitly. I mean, I read her tweets and such about it being a book about monsters but I didn’t read the synopsis, which makes me very happy now.

      Ah, yes, Vicious is great! It might be my favourite, actually. I’m a bit worried about the sequel that’s coming because it worked REALLY well as a standalone, but it has one of the best-paced plots I’ve EVER read. So yeah. Give it a try when you can. :)

      • That’s pretty much all I know about it because of said tweets. That’s really good to hear about Vicious. I’ve had it on my shelf since last year, but haven’t found the right time to pick it up. I’ll probably read it some time in between this release and A Conjuring of Light.

        • I pace myself with favourite authors, too. I still haven’t read Rainbow Rowell’s Landline because it’s the last of her books that I have yet to read. So until a new release date is announced, I’m sitting on it as a sort of insurance that I can still get to it whenever I want for a fix of her writing.
          And I have Schwab’s Unbound still unread, I’ll have to get to that one soon.

  • Maraia

    Eeep, I’m still very relieved that you loved the book. I agree with a lot of what you said here. I definitely connected with August (I think it’s impossible to read the book without wanting to give him a hug) more than I did with Kate, and you’re not wrong that Schwab’s female leads all resemble each other a bit. Fortunately, I enjoy reading about Lilas/Macs/Kates.

    I obviously only know Schwab from what she shares on social media, but one thing that really struck me about TSS is how personal it seems to be. I had the feeling while reading (the last third especially) that the story is a metaphor for depression. I’m curious if you picked up on that as well.

    I prefer morally gray characters because they’re more realistic. Not that I read for realism, haha.

    • Yeah, I enjoy her female characters, too, but I just wish she’d write a fuzzy, soft girl for once, it might be interesting to see what she’d do with her. :D

      You know, I didn’t pick up on the depression thing. And now that I think back to the book, I can’t say I see it – but I’ll be conscious of it when I re-read the book (which I definitely will before the sequel is published). But I liked the exploration into the human (or monster – does it really matter?) psyche a lot. It’s still so strange to me that Schwab is approximately the same age as I am, she has really good insight into what makes people tick, I think.

      And yeah, I’d say I like my characters realistic but plot & setting can be as fantastic as the author wants. But if you want characters to be believable, you have to give them some real traits, I think.

      • Maraia

        Yes, that would be so interesting!

        I don’t know if that’s what she was going for, but there were a lot of lines that reminded me of how people talk about depression, and it seems to fit with what she shares on social media. I wonder if you’ll see what I’m talking about when you reread. :D I think about that, too! It’s hard to remember she’s our age, because she does have a lot of insight into human nature.

        I think that’s why we all struggle with special snowflake syndrome—who can relate to that? xD

        • Well, I think you were more than right about the depression being a major source for this book – check out her blog today if you haven’t already!

          • Maraia

            I saw that this morning. Perfect timing!

  • Sweet! I just started this book so I wanted to go into with fresh eyes, but I am so thrilled to see you giving it the full five hearts. I’m not too far into the book yet, but right now I’m really digging the world.

    • I hope you enjoy it, too! The world is great, I like how she combines the futuristic society with the monster creation and everything. :)

  • I read this a little while back, but I remember finding the story engaging with great tension and action. I never really connected with either of the leads (despite understanding/empathizing with them), so I may or may not pick up the sequel. On a side note, I like the color scheme and the violin on the US cover, but I think the UK font probably fits the story better. Great review, Kaja!

    • Thanks, Kel!

      I’m sorry you didn’t like the characters better – it’s often what makes or breaks the book.

      I like the US cover better, actually, but this one is gorgeous, too – and you’re right, it’s probably more fitting for the story. :)

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