I’m going to be honest: I’m glad I read this author’s adult fiction works before I read her young adult fiction. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy This Savage Song, but it was considerably tamer than I expected, especially coming off of the Shades of Magic series. I expected to be more captivated by the characters and world than I ultimately was, which is okay. It just means that I enjoy V.E. Schwab’s grittier and darker worlds, despite this one also having those qualities.
This Savage Song is a story of a divided city and the heirs that live inside of it. The divided city is reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, but with a lot more monsters and no distracting qualities of romance. I LOVED that there was no romance in this novel. Too often the plot of dystopians get overtaken by the romantic ramblings of teenagers in love, but not so in this book. Kate and August were their own characters with their own agendas. When they were pushed together, they had to deal with the tension of technically being each others’ enemy on top of running for their lives. That made the book far more interesting than a romantic-dystopian novel.
It’s rare, I think, to read a dystopian novel that doesn’t have a romantic sub (or main) plot. That’s why This Savage Song was such a refreshing read. The plot didn’t focus on it, which allowed the world to be fleshed out more and the focus to be on everything happening instead of the two characters catching feelings. Their friendship grew tentatively and I loved seeing how their feelings about each other changed into an understanding that only they could create. There needs to be more great friendships in young adult literature that doesn’t become a relationship. I love reading those stories too, but there doesn’t always need to be a romance. I love that Schwab didn’t go the route that now seems the norm in young adult literature.
While I loved that, I didn’t find myself connecting to the characters as much as I expected. Kate wasn’t very relatable and I never really got why she wanted to return to the city, other than her desire to be near her father. He wasn’t someone that was there for her, so that being her main drive was odd to me. She presents herself as a badass, but really she has the hard exterior created to hide her softer feelings inside. I couldn’t really figure out what her goals were exactly, which made her feel very one dimensional. I’m hoping I’ll like her personality more in the next book, because she had grown on my slightly by the end of This Savage Song.
August is my favorite. Unlike Kate, I definitely related to his feelings of being lost and not knowing himself. He was a far more sympathetic character; the monster who doesn’t want to be a monster. I love reading takes on characters like this. August’s character arc is what made the book so interesting for me to read. I wanted to see what would happen to him more than I cared about Kate or the problems within the city. I am looking forward to reading where he goes in the next novel.
The world in This Savage Song is very well-written, as I expected of a Schwab book. It did take me a few chapters to get into the book, but once I did I found myself reading during any spare downtime I had. Schwab as a way of easing you into the world that doesn’t feel like it’s too heavy. The world is built through small moments as the characters go about the day, teasing you just enough to make you curious and hopeful that it’ll be explained later down the line. I loved her take on violence breeding literal monsters and the explanation for them. It seems like it could be just a step away. Schwab has a real world-building talent that I am both inspired by and jealous of. I can trust that she’s going to have an amazing world created in whatever book I pick up next.
I will be continuing this duology, and I definitely recommend it for readers who have enjoyed V.E. / Victoria Schwab books before. If you enjoy dystopians but not the romance that’s often included, I think you’ll enjoy this book. There’s a reason that readers keep coming back to Schwab books. They’re full of great characters that you both like and loathe, set in a world that is carefully created and feels like it could be just around the corner even with it’s fantastical elements.