Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be. 
August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon. 
Their city is divided. 
Their city is crumbling. 
Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something. 
But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

Review: I don’t like urban fantasy. It combines two of my least-favorite things: cities and cliché fantasy creatures. I’ve never been able to get into non-horror books about vampires and werewolves. Monster romances are just . . . yuck. Monsters are supposed to be scary, not sexy!

Then I heard that Victoria Schwab was writing an urban fantasy book without any romance. I like Schwab’s other books, so I thought I’d give it a try. And, it was good. Not perfect, but really good.

This Savage Song takes place in a world where violence breeds literal monsters. August Flynn is one of those monsters, but he doesn’t want to be. He hides his monstrous tendencies and tries to blend in with the humans. Kate Harker is a human who wants to be a monster. She thinks if she can be horrible enough, she’ll win the approval of her violent father. When the city’s monsters rise up and try to seize control, Kate and August are forced to flee. Can they get along well enough to survive?

“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 recoil. A reaction to all that anger and pain and death.” – This Savage Song

The concept of this book is what drew me to it. Monsters being left behind after violent acts? How intriguing is that? The humans in the story are way more monstrous than the monsters themselves, which makes sense, I guess. The humans are the ones creating the monsters in the first place. It’s all very allegorical.

Victoria Schwab’s writing style always pulls me into her books and makes them hard to put down. It’s descriptive, but it’s not dense. Once the action gets going, the plot moves at breakneck speed. I can get lost in Schwab’s worlds and read hundreds of pages without noticing that hours have passed. This Savage Song is a pretty big book, but I finished most of it in a day.

“I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.”  - This Savage Song   

The best part of this story? No romance! Kate and August are just frenemies. That might change in the sequel (this is a duology, I think?), but it’s refreshing to read about a boy/girl friendship. Young adult literature needs more of those. Not every deadly situation has to lead to true love.

As interesting as the concept and friendships are, This Savage Song isn’t perfect. The plot takes a long time to get going. I think I was over halfway through the book before the plot really hooked me. At the start, I was just reading for the characters. I also found some obvious typos that made me glare furiously.

Just like with Schwab’s other books, the world-building in this one is murky. I never got a clear picture of the city’s layout or fully understood what monsters can/can’t do. For example, metal is supposed to keep monsters away, but they’re around metal all the time. It doesn’t seem to deter them. Violence is supposed to breed monsters, but does “violence” only mean killing? The characters are constantly slamming each other against walls, and that doesn’t create monsters (I don’t think?). I spent chunks of the book feeling mildly confused about the world.

Finally, the main characters are similar to the main characters in Schwab’s other novels. I probably shouldn’t complain because I like the characters, but I am. The girl is a violent badass; the boy is sweet and sensitive. I’ve seen this before.

Despite my criticisms, I’m eagerly awaiting the next book. I’m confident that my confusion will be cleared up. I have faith that the finale will be epic. 


  1. I've been so curious about this one but I've just never gotten around to picking it up. :/ I'm wary of the lack of romance because I LOVE some romance in my books, but I may still give it a try! Great review :D

    Tracy @ Cornerfolds

    1. I’m betting there will be romance in the second book. It’s just _really_ slow-burn.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. I still have read anything by Victoria Schwab. I have them on my TBR. The book sounds interesting but halfway through the book for the plot? I guess if the characters are good it wouldn't be too bad. Great review!

    1. Yeah, if you’re new to Schwab, I wouldn’t start here. I don’t think this book is her best. Vicious and the Shades of Magic books are better.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. I agree that it's not the best Schwab to start with, but I still really enjoyed it!

  4. I bought this book fairly recently and am looking forward to reading it. I am happy you liked it even if it wasn't perfect. I hope the confusion regarding the world isn't a deal breaker for me. Great review!

  5. I think we had pretty similar feelings about this one - I really liked it, but I didn't love it. I liked the concept and how there was no love story, as that is pretty refreshing, and I did like the characters. I just felt it could have been faster paced, and I would have liked some more in depth world building too.
    This is actually the only Victoria Schwab book I've read though, and I know a lot of people have said they liked A Darker Shade of Magic better, so I'm really going to have to read that series soon! :)

  6. I haven't read any of the other Schawb novels so I don't really have any others to compare the characters to. But the allegorical kind of message to the story about monsters and violence is what originally hooked me in a lot as well. It did take me until about halfway to become fully invested too, for some reason. I wish it wasn't so slow!

  7. I adored this book and didn't mind the worldbuilding (but I think I tend to appreciate less than some other fantasy readers I know do). I agree that it was refreshing that there was no romance ... at least for now. (I'll admit that I wouldn't mind if one ended up developing.)

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction