‘Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal, Sing you a song and steal your soul’.
Having just read A Darker Shade of Magic last month and met V.E. Schwab at YALC (she’s an incredible warrior Queen of a human), it’s safe to say I was full of anticipation for This Savage Song. I’d heard brilliant things about it from a number of booktubers and was full of anticipation after reading the premise.
But I didn’t buy it while at YALC and was regretting not having done so the next day, when I spotted it at my local library. I don’t think I’ve ever grabbed a book off the shelf quicker. And all the hopes I had going into the story were completely fulfilled.
The story follows Kate Harker, a human, and August Flynn, a monster, as they both try to survive in Verity, a city at war with itself and overrun with monsters. Kate is trying to be more vicious like her father who runs the north. August is trying to be human in every possible way, including helping his father who runs the south. Opposites they may seem, but when monsters threaten to take over the city, the two form an uneasy alliance in order to try and save Verity, their families, and themselves.
If you’re anything like me, this book will thrill you. V.E. Schwab’s writing is, as always, immaculate. The action scenes are dramatic, fast-paced and gasp-inducing, without becoming cliched. The contemplative scenes are thought-provoking and the narrative gives a very lyrical insight into the mindsets of the two main characters. August is struggling against his nature as a monster and trying to find balance between rejecting and accepting the darker facets of himself. At the beginning of the story, Kate is something of an anti-hero. She rebels and showcases the worst side of herself in order to gain her father’s acceptance. Gradually, however, she discovers that carving out her own identity is more important than being like her father and that she’s not the same person as he is.
Both characters are flawed and both have fascinating relationship dynamics with each other and the other characters around them. The way V.E. Schwab takes us inside their minds and then zooms out to look at the world as a whole is incredibly detailed and brilliant to read. Schwab just has a way with words that catapults you into the world she’s created and immerses you in it until you feel like a character rather than an onlooker.
The world itself, while not as magical (literally and metaphorically) as the four Londons of ADSOM and AGOS, is entrancing. Rich world-building is the foundation of what makes this novel so good. The three types of monsters and the way they’re ‘born’ fill the novel with a distinct uniqueness, rarely found in other novels of the same genre, but always present in V.E. Schwab’s novels. The Sunai, with their affinity for music and other-worldliness, are easily the most interesting monsters, but the Malchai are the scariest and the Corsai the most unhinged.
This Savage Song is a thrill-ride of wit, suspense and descriptive opulence. V.E. Schwab has created another game-changing novel and the fantasy genre is all the more enriched for her writing. I wish this was going to be a series rather than a duology (because damn, this world, these characters), but I’ll happily await Our Dark Duet knowing that it will be a electrifying continuation of This Savage Song.