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This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab
Published Published July 5th 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

So I have this thing with Victoria Schwab’s books. I think. Hear me out: I used to think her books were pretty hit-or-miss with me, but I’ve read The Near Witch and The Ash-Born Boy, The Archive, Vicious, A Darker Shade of Magic, and now This Savage Song as well. With The Near Witch being the outlier, I’ve pretty much fallen in love with all Victoria Schwab’s adult novels, but there’s something about her young adult novels that I can’t follow. Can’t connect with. Which is kind of weird, because I’m still firmly in that young adult category, but. Anyhow.

The opening of This Savage Song was gripping. I was sucked in right away – between the school and the flames (and, let’s be real, the one-too-many sentiments Kate and I shared about Catholic schools, even though we both attended but for brief periods of time) – Victoria Schwab really knows how to start a book.

The individual elements were incredibly interesting: Kate’s the daughter of a crime boss, August is a monster playing human who lures in his prey with music, there are borders and political intrigue with monsters, as well as a violin with History, and an eerie little song that goes like so-

“Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all.
Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.
Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They’re gonna come and eat you all!”

But together, and something doesn’t quite click. There are monsters! But the monsters don’t seem quite like monsters, and read more like the ones in those bedtime stories my mom would read my little brother years ago – with just enough creepy and just enough monster to say it satisfies his request for a “monster story,” but not enough to make him feel it in his bones. There is politics with monsters! But honestly, it’s all kind of glossed over, and I could never really get a proper feel for the city, as intriguing as it sounded in the synopsis. Kate is the kick-ass daughter of a crime boss! And we’re told this again and again until every page bleeds two-dimensional kick-ass girl trope and Kate starts coming off as less fierce and desperate, and more and more as a privileged, insensitive asshole with daddy issues. Then every other chapter, we’re granted a relief from Kate and subjected instead to August’s gloom of teenage angst. I didn’t hate him; I didn’t love him; honestly, I didn’t have any particular feelings about him? He was there, and he was a character, and something happened to him, and that’s basically my overall feelings about This Savage Song.

I wanted so badly to like this as much as everyone else did. And there were little moments here and there – the beginning, Kate’s first(?) kill, August’s flashback, and the violin – that made me think that things were starting to look up. Though, ultimately, they didn’t. Not really.

The author made This Savage Song sound so, so good:

“It’s the story of Kate Harker, the only daughter of a crime boss, and August Flynn, the son of a man trying to hold his city together. She’s a human who wants to be a monster, and he’s a monster who wishes he were human.”

And Victoria Schwab – she’s got this way with words, you know? Everything flows so nicely and wraps up in such an orderly way, and there are so many quotable lines in every chapter. She’d have to majorly screw up somewhere to get me to stop reading because there’s just something about the way she writes that tugs me right to the end of the book each time, even if I need to take several breaks along the way to get there.

I-

“I mean, most people want to escape. Get out of their heads. Out of their lives. Stories are the easiest way to do that.”

mean-

“It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he only felt human after doing something monstrous.”

just-

“She cracked a smile. “So what’s your poison”
He sighed dramatically, and let the truth tumble off his tongue. “Life.”
“Ah,” she said ruefully. “That’ll kill you.”

read-

“But the teacher had been right about one thing: violence breeds.
Someone pulls a trigger, sets off a bomb, drives a bus full of tourists off a bridge, and what’s left in the wake isn’t just shell casings, wreckage, bodies. There’s something else. Something bad. An aftermath. A recoil. A reaction to all that anger and pain and death.”

this.

“It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he only felt human after doing something monstrous.”

But, ultimately, aside from the premise, the wonderful writing, and the small snippets of scenes here and there, This Savage Song didn’t deliver on a lot of aspects, and just didn’t do it for me.

(I’ll admit I was 100% sucked in by that preview of Our Dark Duet at the end, though sos I’m so weak so I just might end up giving this duology another shot anyhow? Maybe?)

I’ve broken 1,500+ books added on Goodreads right now, which is kind of insane – especially since half of them are under the to-read label. And a good portion of them are books from a series, be it the first book, or a following one. I think I tried cutting down that to-read shelf a couple times, but somehow it kept growing and growing, and now I don’t even know where to start trying to downsize that monster…

I just want to curl up in bed without any of the usual responsibilities and read all the books – is that too much to ask?

I used to be better at keeping up. I remember really liking the Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa. I started really book blogging around the time the original trilogy was published (before The Iron Knight – now you can guess at how long I’ve been doing this thing! loloops). I EVEN MADE IT ALL THE WAY UP TO THE IRON KNIGHT. That’s how in love and dedicated I was!! And then the author extended the series, and I tried! I think I got an ARC of The Lost Prince (hoooly crap nostalgia’s hitting me like a truck right now), but it fell apart after that. I didn’t even know the next two books were called The Iron Traitor and The Iron Warrior, so I’m kind of a failure at being a fan of the series. There’s just too many books and all of them are gorgeous and shiny and I WANT TO READ THEM ALL.

Continuing the trend of series I started way back when, I also remember reading The Girl of Fire and Thorns! I think it’s the Rae Carson one? I don’t really remember what I thought of it. I do remember that it didn’t really catch on until a while after the first book was published, so when the buzz started going around I also distinctly remember thinking that I should get back into the series! But. Guess who hasn’t yet.

But really – I don’t know how you guys all do it?

Like, man, cliffhangers get to me too. But I think because of that, I generally try to wait until the entire series is done, or at least until the majority of the books in the series are published before starting. I know, I know, my willpower is great heheh.

– I kid. I’m actually just the lazy type^^;;; whoops.

And also The Ascendance Trilogy! I read The False Prince and remembered really enjoying it, and I remember telling myself that I had to pick up book two… but then book one ended too neatly? Maybe that’s why. So even though I loved the book, I never really felt the urgency to continue.

I’m a ball of complications and a failure of a series fan.

Flash forward to the semi-present day, and it’s the Shadow and Bone series! I’m probably the last person on the planet to read Shadow and Bone, but HORRAY I DID AND I LOVED IT. I ALSO BOUGHT SIX OF CROWS AND I READ WONDER WOMAN and at this point I think I will read whatever Leigh Bardugo writes, even if the actual story doesn’t quite float my boat.

But Shadow and Bone. IT WAS A GREAT READ.

…and, again – I told myself I’d pick up book two (Seige and Storm?).

I read The Young Elites! I told myself I’d pick up book two – The Rose Society.

But I haven’t. And as much as I enjoyed reading those books, I don’t really feel an urgency to continue the series? This is probably in part due to the fact that I have this weird habit where if I read book two and there’s more then I HAVE TO CONTINUE. Which is probably the only reason why I finished all the YA PNR that were big back when I started blogging. Y’know, Hush, Hush, Fallen, Halo, Twilight, and the like. Because once I read book two, I’ll finish the series unless something super shitty happens, but the amount of motivation, for the lack of a better word, needed for me to start book two is high. It’s like one of those exothermic reaction curves okayIllstopnow.

I have serious commitment issues.

Glad we established that.

I’m even having a hard time continuing the A Darker Shade of Magic series…! I also haven’t had time to stop by the bookstore, but last time I went with the intention to buy A Gathering of Shadows, I ended up walking out with other books instead which is weird because I loved ADSOM? As many complaints as I have for Schwab’s YA, I love her adult? I’m just. Why am I like this. Why.

But I just recently finished Red Queen and I OWN Glass Sword (so I’m most likely going to read it because I’m weird about small things like having to read every book I own before it leaves my hands, even if it takes me forever to getting around to doing so), and King’s Cage came out so – I might be able to finish a series? Finally? DUN dun DUNNNNN…

We’ll see 😀

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by V.E. Schwab
Published February 24th 2015 by Tor Books
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★½

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

4.5

I’m something like two years late to the party, but oooooh wow. Dang. All that hype? They aren’t lying – A Darker Shade of Magic is really, really good.

There’s something about the author’s writing that I love. I’m usually a huge fan of delicate descriptions and subtleties weaved into prose, and while it’s not quite like that – the author’s writing is a lot more matter-of-factual – there’s something about it that just works really well, especially with stories of this sort. It’s the ordinary undertone she takes while telling fantastical stories, I think, and the way she moves the story so fluidly from being gentle and quirky and whimsical to uncertainty and despair. The former bit like so:

“Kell wore a very peculiar coat.
It had neither one side, which would be conventional, nor two, which would be unexpected, but several, which was, of course, impossible.
The first thing he did whenever he stepped out of one London and into another was take off the coat and turn it inside out once or twice (or even three times) until he found the side he needed. Not all of them were fashionable, but they each served a purpose. There were ones that blended in and ones that stood out, and one that served no purpose but of which he was just particularly fond.”

The story is also pretty fucking cool, and the execution lives up to expectations. There are many Londons! Magical Londons! Non-magical Londons! Crumbling Londons! Pirates and whimsical magic and chess pieces and curious stones and masquerade parties and traveling smuggling princes and! I! Just! It’s a little strange and a little out there but it worked, and it made for an incredibly interesting read.

The characters were just the same, from Kell – a little curious, a little cool, and a little morally gray, taking with him elements of the author’s other book, Vicious, which may be one of my all-time favorite reads – to Lila, who was self-confident and brave and determined, though it did take me a bit to warm up to her (her introduction wasn’t exactly the most endearing of scenes). There’s also Astrid Dane and Athos Dane, both chilling and unflinching and villains to the bone and Rhy, the prettily charming and charmingly pretty prince. And Holland, who, at first glance, seems like the stone-cold foil to Kell, but! It’s a V. E. Schwab book, so everyone’s vulnerable and nothing’s as it seems and so of course shit happens and of course I feel partial to Holland and of course my taste in characters is equal parts terrible and untimely. 🙂 sobcriesbye

I do wish there was a glossary of sorts at either the beginning or end of the book, though, with some of the Antari phrases and their meanings. I’m a little slow at remembering that kind of stuff, and a lot of the book would read so much smoother and engaging if I knew what the characters were saying and what they meant when they said it, rather than having to pause every once in a while to flip back to the beginning to look for an explanation.

The ending’s unexpectedly satisfying for a book that’s the first in a series – no cliffhanger! Which, in theory, means you could just stop here. The real question is, why would you?

(Also, um. I. Really want that coat?)