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.
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.
There are three things I want to talk about this novel.
First of all: its characters. The heart of this book is its main characters. This Savage Song alternates between their (third-person) viewpoints, and this is done so, so well. We see them from their own perspectives, and from each others’ — which is so important to how these two characters contrast with each other. And their character development is just… incredible. All Kate wants is to be accepted by her father. She wants to prove to him that she is tough enough, ruthless enough, that she has what it takes to run the city with him and to truly be his daughter. All August wants is to be normal, but that’s impossible when the only way for him to feel that way is to regularly consume people’s souls. Kate and August are so different, but at their cores, they are so similar…
“He didn’t belong there, the way she didn’t belong there, and that shared strangeness made her feel like she knew him.
But she didn’t.
However, they could be viewed as… difficult to understand properly? In the first chapter Kate deliberately commits arson in order to force her father to essentially pay attention to her. This could be seen as over dramatic and reckless, that she could have gotten attention any other way besides committing a crime. Schwab said that it was a desperate move, something that was striking and undeniable. But is this the impression you want to give to teenage girls? On top of that August fights to be human, to ignore the harsh tendencies of being a monster. The way he does this is by overwhelming angst on being a monster which at times reminded me of Edward Cullen. That’s not good. I understood it but to a certain extent.
The second thing; the emotion.
“I just wanted . . . to be strong enough.”
“This isn’t about strength. It’s about need.”
Here’s a fact: when I re-read this book, it lost absolutely none of its emotional impact. First-reads are usually the ones that hit you hardest, right? But This Savage Song stood up to a reread so well because my emotional response — the response of the reader — wasn’t tied to shock-value (shock-value disappears once you know what happens). Rather, the emotions are tied to the characters, what they do, what happens to them, and why. It happens all over again, up to the same standard and that is hard to replicate.
Finally the message. By message I mean how the book spoke to me, personally. August and Kate both want to be something they’re not; but to an extent, they both need to learn how to be what they are. They both want to be accepted by the people they look up to, but they haven’t learned how to accept themselves. This is everything a teenager typically goes through as they try to understand themselves and their place in the world. Their struggles made me think about some hard questions: If you’re living in an environment that doesn’t fit who you are — or who you think you should be — what needs to change? You? Your environment? And if you’re able to finally accept yourself, how do you figure out how to fit into things then…?
This novel explores themes that are so important and exemplifies everything that Schwab is good at. If you're in the mood for a dark, beautiful novel - one that makes you think as well as punch you in the feels, then you should check it out and Schwab's other works too.
What was my favourite thing about the novel?
The monsters. Definitely the monsters, for sure. There’s a song that goes through the novel:
“Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul…”
Schwab also went on to explain the various aspects of those monsters, their weaknesses and how they became that way. I loved them. The monsters were written so beautifully and originally that even after reading it I remember everything about them very clearly.
Would I read it again?
I have and I might do so again.
Would I recommend it?
Yes. Schwab is now one of my favourite fantasy writers – well she’s on the list anyway.