Before I start this review, let me just preface it by saying I love Victoria Schwab. I love what I’ve read of hers in the past, Vicious and the Darker Shade of Magic series, and not only do I love her writing but I really admire her as a person. I have followed her on Twitter for a while and she is pretty honest about what her writing experience is like. She’s very ambitious and hardworking and I’ve always admired her.
That being said, this book didn’t really excite me…at all. I have very weird feelings about This Savage Song. I did have kind of high expectations but I didn’t think they were misplaced–everything I’ve read of hers I have really enjoyed. Not that I didn’t enjoy this, I just thought I would enjoy it way more.
This Savage Song takes place in the future of the United States–I don’t remember how far in the future–where the states no longer exist and in their places are territories. These territories are heavily guarded and it’s hard to travel between them because there are monsters in this future world. Three types of monsters exist: Malchai, Corsai, and Sunai. One of the main characters, August, is a Sunai living in the Verity territory. His (human) father is the leader one half of the capital city of Verity. The other MC is Kate (human), the daughter of Callum Harker, leader of the other half of the capital who keeps monsters as pets. Chaos ensues when the treaty between the two parts of the city begins to break.
I liked the monsters in this story. The three different types looked and killed differently, all playing different parts in this depressing, broken society. Callum Harker owns a lot of Malchai and Corsai which start going rogue and attacking people in the city, including August and Kate. All of the fight scenes were really well written–exciting and graphic while still being easy to follow. I also really liked that the monsters are each born of different levels of sin (I thought the use of the words “sin” and “sinner” was really interesting, very affiliated with certain religions…). Monsters don’t breed but manifest after different types of horrible events; Malchai from the lessser ones and Sunai from the worst (things like bombings or mass shootings). I thought that was a really clever way to explain their existence.
While I really liked the monsters in This Savage Song, the book as a whole didn’t completely do it for me. I think the biggest thing is that nothing really surprised me. In her other books, I really valued her ability to write stories that are, for the most part, unpredictable. I keep thinking back to her Darker Shade of Magic series–those books are so exciting and I feel like I’m on the edge of my seat the whole time, never sure of her next move. In This Savage Song, I felt like I generally knew where the story was going the whole time. Not completely, but more than I would have liked. The world building was also just okay. It took a long time for me to really grasp the situation with Verity and how it fit–or didn’t fit–into the United States. I am still not entirely sure, honestly. There was some event in the past that lead the US to become this collection of territories, but it’s never explained what that event was. I’m not sure if there are monsters in all territories or just Verity, if there have always been monsters or they just suddenly appeared in this future.
My general feeling while reading this book could be diagrammed on a graph and look like a straight line. I liked it, but I liked it a lost less than I thought I would. The characters were alright; I didn’t feel any particular connection to any of them. It’s nice that This Savage Song is a YA dystopian/sci-fi that doesn’t have The Chosen One and a love triangle (actually, there is no romance at all in this, which I liked; just friendship) but it still didn’t wow me like I wanted it to. I guess a lot of this comes down to expectations not being met, but I really didn’t think that was going to be a problem.
This is the first in a duology and I will be reading the second one to see how the story wraps up. There is a bit at the end which suggests that an evil character we thought was killed may still be alive, which is meant to create tension but really just feels like a cheap trick to keep people interested, if I’m totally honest. This book wasn’t bad by any means, it just didn’t wow me at all. I prefer Schwab’s writing when it comes to her general/adult fiction rather than her YA. If it’s your first Victoria Schwab read, you’ll probably love it, but I can’t help but see how it’s not entirely up to par with her other works (in my opinion).
Once you read This Savage Song, let me know what you thought in the comments (or on Twitter)!! So far, I’m one of the very few who haven’t given it 5 stars and I’m interested what the public opinion will be once it’s released.