After giving glowing reviews to several other books by Victoria (V.E.) Schwab, multiple people have recommended her “Monsters of Verity” series. I recently picked up This Savage Song as a treat to celebrate the 25th birthday of my favorite independent bookstore. Considering how much I’ve enjoyed every other book by Schwab, I should have known better and gotten the second book in the duology, Our Dark Duet right away instead of foolishly only getting book one.
I had the great pleasure of seeing Victoria Schwab’s panel at Wonder Con. She was charming, funny, open, and entertaining. She told us that she writes for herself at different ages. She has in the works a middle grade fiction that is for her tween self. The writing she does as V.E. Schwab, “The Shades of Magic” trilogy, and Vicious, are presumably for her adult self. “The Monsters of Verity” duology would seem to be for her teenage self and are released under Victoria Schwab.
This Savage Song is an urban fantasy inspired by the classic two houses divided shtick of Romeo and Juliet. In a near, kind of dystopian future, the United States has broken into group of territories, multiple states melding together into something different. Somewhere in the middle of the US is Verity, with V-City as it’s heart and capital. Sometime after the dissolution of the US, a Phenomenon happened that caused people’s sins to be manifested into monsters. Corsai are malevolent shadows with teeth and claw that hunt in the dark and rend their victims. Malchai are vampires that can withstand sun, have strength and speed, but are repulsed by pure metal and can be killed with a metal implement to the heart. Most rare of all are Sunai. Monsters that look human but can kill with a song, draining a person’s life essence, leaving a limp corpse with burnt out eyes.
When the Phenomenon happened and monsters became real, chaos reigned. Two opposing factions Callum Harker and Henry Flynn fought over V-City. Six years ago a truce had been declared and the city carved in half. Harker claimed the North City and bent the monsters to his will. If you paid Harker for protection, you wear an amulet that monsters will theoretically respect and leave you alone. With the peace this brings the North is mostly able to pretend the monsters don’t affect them. The situation in South City is far more dire. Monsters out actively hunting, people barricading themselves in at night. The only thing holding the South together is Henry Flynn and the Flynn Task Force (FTF) out nightly destroying monsters and seeking out the sources of monster creation, humans committing atrocious crimes. But the truce is fraying and tensions are mounting.
Kate is the daughter of Callum Harker and she is bent on proving to him that she is worthy of ruling North City one day. Kate is hard, calculating, intelligent and resourceful. For the past several years she has been shuffled from one boarding school to the next but no more, she is determined to stay at her father’s side and take up the mantle of Harker.
August is the adopted son of Henry Flynn and a monster, a Sunai. August struggles with his identity and the needs of his body. He went from not existing to suddenly being at the scene of a mass shooting. With his violin he can summon the souls of those corrupted by heinous crimes and absorb them into himself, satiating his Sunai nature and removing a source of evil from the world. August abhors his need to feed but fears what happens when he doesn’t and goes dark. Locked away in the Flynn compound to keep his identity secret, August yearns to help the FTF and soon gets his chance.
When Kate comes back to V-City she is enrolled at Colton Academy. On her first day she sets out to cause fear of her to spread, to gain control of the student body through power instead of popularity. August is enrolled too with the instructions to become close to Kate. Eager to help and escape the confines of the Flynn compound, August pretends to be human and heads off to Colton with the intent of being able to use Kate as leverage should the truce dissolve. The two are instantly drawn to one another as their fates intertwine. Who is the monster? The human who does monstrous things or the monster who tries to be good?
An intriguing world and premise. Monsters created by sin balanced by monsters that feed on sinners. I quite liked Kate and August and while it was a foregone conclusion that they would end up caring for one another, I still very much enjoyed the getting there. I just wish that I had bought the second book along with the first!