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Book Review: This Savage Song

Aug. 30, 2016
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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab 
Publisher: Greenwillow Books

“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.

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.” – Goodreads

Oh wow. I went into this book knowing very little about the synopsis. I think that was the right way to go. It heightened the overall experience of reading this book. I loved this book, but I felt there wasn’t a big climax, just medium sized plot points. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed reading this and would totally recommend. 

The pure concept of this book is amazing. It’s so unique and I’ve never read a book where bad deeds literally create monsters. At first, I thought the person who committed the crimes turned into a “monster”, but that wasn’t the case. It was even more ingenious: the people’s actions created a shadow of sorts that basically grouped all the darkness of the act together and morphed it into one of the three types of monsters in this book. There are the Malchai, who stem from murder, the Corsai, who come from violent but non-lethal acts, and then there are the Sunai, who manifest from the darkest of crimes such as bombings, shootings, or massacres in which more than one life is taken. 

The idea that violence breeds monsters is so intriguing to me. This is such an interesting and original idea. I love the concept of the book and especially the way it alludes to how we live today. 

This novel may be a Young Adult fiction, but it has a much deeper meaning beneath. The monsters in this book are a metaphor for what happens to us when we commit terrible atrocities. This quote from the book explains it so well: 

“But the teacher had been right about one thing: Violence breeds. Someone pulls a trigger, sets off a bomb, drives a bus full of tourists off a bridge, and what’s left in the wake isn’t just shell casings, wreckage, bodies. There’s something else. Something bad. An aftermath. A reaction to all that anger and pain and death.” 

Isn’t that how we feel today? This really sent a shiver down my spine because all three of the awful things Schwab mentions have happened recently, and it seems to only be spreading. The terror, fear, pain, death; it’s all here. In the book, the darkness manifests itself into a corporeal being, but for us, it’s a dark cloud hanging over us, one in which one violent deed often leads to another and another. It isn’t right. That’s what Schwab writes about: she illustrates the consequences of constant violence and darkness. Our society might not breed monsters with fangs, but we breed monsters just the same. 

Okay, moving past this kind of morbid aspect of the book, I wanted to mention how much I love that this book has strong friendships. Yes, it’s a book about fear and darkness, but it’s also about the bonds between two people. Too often in Young Adult fiction, there’s a major romantic aspect to it, and while I have nothing against that, it was really refreshing to read about a strong platonic friendship between a boy and a girl. 

At first, I was worried that this book would have the “Romeo and Juliet” trope where two kids from opposing families fall in love. I love that instead, it gave us two completely different kids forming a bond and trying to defeat the darkness both in their city and in each other. It was really beautiful. 

The writing style, too, was very beautiful and it was very easy to visualize everything. The phrasing was very nice and it really worked to show the emotions of the characters throughout. 

I loved this book very much but I felt that the pacing, while fast, didn’t really lead up to a very big ending. However, the original concept, writing style, and characters make up for that and I while most certainly be looking forward to the sequel.

Rating: 4/5

Cover Image by Sita McVay