Last year I read V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic. As soon as I finished that I sought out another of her books, Vicious. This year, she has released two more books. One was a sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, called A Gathering of Shadows, which was also excellent. The other was This Savage Song, the first in a new dystopian-YA-urban fantasy series, said by the author to be partly inspired by the Sandy Hook shooting.
Verity is a city divided. Following a catastrophic event, it is overrun with monsters and divided in two – those who pay Callum Harker for protection from the monsters whom he allows to run free, and those who don’t.
Kate is Harker’s only daughter, relegated to boarding school after boarding school, kept out of Verity and her father’s life. The first chapter opens with Kate methodically burning down the chapel of the painfully forgiving Catholic boarding school, an act which sees her finally sent to a public school in Verity. Kate is determined to prove to her father that she is as ruthless as he is.
August Flynn is one of the monsters feared by the citizens of Verity. Born from a tragedy of human violence, he is constantly warring with a darkness within himself that, when unleashed, leaves a trail of death in its wake.
The fraying truce between the Flynn and Harker families begins to crumble when an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into an uneasy alliance, and between them they begin to uncover secrets in both their families that will change their understanding of the world in which they live.
Things I liked/LOVED
I loved August and Kate. I liked their awkward friendship and how they help each other, even before they are forced to team up. And I also enjoyed the castlist of other interesting characters, particularly those in Flynn’s camp, although Schwab definitely knows how to write a compelling villain.
I loved the interesting monsters, the different types, what they do and how they behave, and what they mean. In particular, I liked the human element to the creation of the monsters.
I loved how different this was to all of Schwab’s other books, she is a chameleon of fantastical YA fiction. Also, so far removed from all other YA dystopian series that it was incredibly refreshing.
Things I didn’t like
I came to this fresh out of a month of essay-writing and found that the slow exposition of what the monsters were and what certain little signifiers meant difficult – I was all in for immediate gratification, and while I was reading this before bed or on the bus it wasn’t quick enough. I resolved this issue by sitting still for a few hours on my day off and finishing it in one go. If I’d been feeling more luxurious and languishy I think I would have appreciated the art in the drawn out reveal.
I also felt that there could have been more development on the other students August becomes friends with at school, they felt a little bit like padding rather than actual people. However this is more than made up for in the complexity of the central cast.
Should I read this?
Yeah. Go on then. Then go read all of V.E. Schwab’s other books. I don’t have enough people to talk to about them.
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