Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity, #1
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: July 5th 2016
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab is probably not a novel I’d typically reach for, but as the author has written one of the best fantasy series I’ve come across, I simply had to pick up this urban fantasy. I went into this novel knowing very little about it, save for the premise revolving around monsters. Schwab paints a very unique world where the violence of humankind has produced monstrous creatures that lurk in the night and feed on humans. The first half of the book is largely devoted to world-building as readers get acquainted not just with the two leads, but with the world they were brought up in. It’s a really interesting concept to picture these creatures as physical manifestations of violence: the Corsai are bred from nonfatal acts while the Malchai are born from murders, but Schwab adds another layer to these monsters by introducing someone like August, a rare Sunai, produced from an act of violence that has claim multiple lives, who is more interested in being human than monster. For Kate and for almost everyone else, the nature of monsters is very cut and dry; after all, they are products of violence and are therefore bringers of violence as well. There are some truly terrifying monsters in this novel, ones that feed off of fear and who have an insatiable appetite for human blood, but there are also human characters who are just as violent.
Kate and August have been raised by two very different men in a city divided. For Kate, Callum Harker has always been a kind of enigma. Raised largely by her mother, Kate’s father is more like an incomplete image in her head. Harker is willing to do anything to keep North City safe, he believes that he can control the monsters that rove the darkness and he benefits largely from those able pay for his protection. Much of Kate’s character arc revolves around her need to live up to this impossible standard her father has wrought. She is willing to take, threaten, and otherwise demolish anyone who stands in her way. But unlike her father, who is so sure of his right to lead, Kate sees the cracks in this world. She knows that safety is just an illusion in a city overrun with monsters, that the monsters her father offers protection against are not the only monsters in the world. When she meets August, she finds someone who sees the world like she does and who she feels she can be honest around.
August is a character who is really easy to root for. As one of the rarest kinds of monster, August’s nature is fundamentally different. He can pass as human and struggles to rein in the parts of his nature that make him feel less so. I loved that Schwab uses August as a foil to his brother Leo, another Sunai who believes in embracing his darker side, and also uses him as a contrast to many of the human characters who lack the kind of humanity he seems to have in spades. Raised by Henry Flynn, the leader of South City, August has always been treated like a son and perhaps the bond he has with his family is the reason behind his desire to be human. While Harker is very much devoted to controlling monsters, in South City Flynn believes that these monsters must be eliminated, along with the humans whose violent acts have brought them into being.
Overall, Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song is a little slow in developing its world-building, but the latter half of the novel is quite the thrill ride, with its final pages giving me an insatiable craving for more.