This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab. ★★★★
Edit: I just read the sequel. It added romance. After I spent my entire review praising this book for not having romance. And yes, I’m super salty about it.
This Savage Song is a YA fantasy novel that I had serious trouble putting down. Also relevant? There’s a male narrator and a female narrator but no romance whatsoever.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are heirs to a city of monsters. Long before the start of our story, acts of human violence began to form creatures that were decidedly inhuman. Violent crime leads to Corsai, murder to Malchai, and mass murder to Sunai. These monsters began to destroy the city and the people living in it, and yet more destruction was caused by a war between two fractions of the populace. Kate’s father made a deal with the monsters, letting them hunt those who hadn’t paid for his protection. August’s father believed that the only right thing to do was continue to fight the monsters and protect human lives, regardless of whether or not they could pay. After much death, the two sides entered a truce, dividing the city between them. But now, that truce threatens to break, and Kate and August are right in the middle of it.
Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that August is adopted. Because August isn’t actually human — he’s a Sunai who was found after a school shooting. He and the only two other Sunai were adopted and raised by Harry Flynn, and they are the greatest weapon for his side. August has spent his entire life living within the Flynn compound, but now he has a new mission: attend high school with his enemy’s daughter, Kate Flynn, while keeping everyone there from knowing he’s not human.
Kate’s spent the past several years being shuffled from one boarding school to the next, repeatedly doing everything she can to get expelled in the hope that it will force her father to bring her back home. Now she’s finally succeeded, and she has her chance to prove that she’s a worthy air to the Flynn family name.
I really do like the concept of violence breeding monsters, but I wasn’t so thrilled with the rest of the world building. I was having a lot of trouble figuring out if this was our world or not, until the book uses a high school history class as a vehicle to explain world building. Apparently after the Vietnam war, the United States split into ten mega territories, all centered around a single large city. This decision just didn’t make much sense to me and didn’t feel completely thought out or explored.
I really liked both Kate and August as protagonists. I especially appreciate that Schwab didn’t include a romance between them. To be honest, whenever one narrator is male and the other is female, I tend to just assume they’ll end up together. Thank goodness This Savage Song didn’t go that route — I want more stories like this.
I loved Kate so much. The entire reason I wanted to read the book was because I’d heard Schwab read a bit of the opening scene, where Kate burns down a church. Kate is a tough as nails female protagonist, but she’s not as heartless as she wants to be. I liked August a lot too, but probably not as much as Kate. I got the feeling that the Sunai had some fae mythology in them – August devours people’s souls through his music. However, I feel like August was being coded as asexual and neuroatypical as a way to emphasize that he was inhuman, and that made me really uncomfortable.
This Savage Song‘s greatest asset is probably the pacing. When I say I couldn’t put this book down, I mean it. I had an exam in an hour, but I’m sitting there reading This Savage Song. It was so addicting!
Long story short, This Savage Song was a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.