I really had no idea what to expect going into this novel. I have only read one V.E. Schwab novel before – A Darker Shade of Magic – and while I enjoyed it, I’ve never really felt the immediate urge to finish the series. So I was a little hesitant to pick up This Savage Song because, let’s be honest, Schwab’s novels are highly venerated by the YA community and there’s always been a tiny part of me that thinks that they’re … overrated? (Don’t hate on me.)
But I was very glad I gave this novel a chance because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot is quite ingenious and features an impending war, badass if unmoral characters, and a unique take on vampiric monsters – the Malchai who feed on blood, the Corsai who feed on bones and flesh, and the Sunai who feed on souls.
August is one of only three Sunais in existence, and unlike his “brother” Leo who believes that Sunais are superior to all other monsters and humanity, August just wants to be a normal human boy. He takes no pleasure in feeding on souls and even goes so far as to try to stop himself from eating altogether. He has to be one of the sweetest characters I have ever come across in YA literature and I can see every reader falling for him. His struggles are emphatically real and relatable – he has issues with his family, issues with morality, and issues fighting his nature.
Although I generally liked Kate and responded to her, I did have a few issues with her too. While I was ecstatic that there is a YA novel that features a ruthless female protagonist, I did find some of Kate’s lines to be a little cheesy. Her constant attempts to act macho just came across as awkward – I actually laughed out loud when she tried to frighten a fellow classmate by saying she is “worse” than her father. Sure 17-year-old Kate, you are much more frightening than a man who literally controls monsters, owns half a city, and has every wealthy person in his pocket. Sure.
Despite the few occasions where she irked me, Kate does grow as a character and learns from her past and her mistakes. Reading her POV, you discover that inside she is just lost and craves her father’s attention. Once Kate goes through a brief development, I liked her so much better and can’t wait to read about her in the sequel and finale.
The world-building is incredibly interesting but also quite slow in developing. It wasn’t until around page 200 that we are told exactly how the monsters are created, and I am still a little confused as to what happened all those years ago that resulted in V-City separating into two. I usually have no problem with slow world-building, but in regards to This Savage Song, the background history should have been explained sooner for clarity.
The writing was top-notch, and the point of views very distinctive – I enjoyed the frequent POV flips as they showed different sides to Kate and August that we wouldn’t have necessarily seen through their own views.
This Savage Song is a different type of fantasy: Schwab offers her unique brand of magic on an otherwise overused “monster” story, and shows us you don’t have to be a literal monster to be monstrous.