Even though I had been reading A Darker Shade of Magic, I wasn’t really worried about picking up this book because I thought that somehow, Victoria was splitting herself into two people and I thought her other series wouldn’t appeal to me. As you may know, she writes under both Victoria Schwab and V.E. Schwab, where the V.E. persona was meant for her adult fiction and the Victoria moniker was meant for her YA fantasy fiction.
Then I gave a bookseller friend a ride to an event, and she brought along a bag of advance reader copies (ARCs). She said I could take whatever interested me, and I spotted this in the mix. I nabbed it, thinking it would be a good way to see what all the fuss was about with the two names.
I started hearing some buzz shortly after that, but not nearly as much as I was hearing for A Gathering of Shadows, the second in her A Darker Shade of Magic series (under V.E. Schwab – confused yet?). In fact, I was reading A Darker Shade of Magic when I had to return it to the library, and what was sitting here, but This Savage Song. I wanted more Schwab, so I picked it up. I am so glad I did!
This is not a romance. Schwab has explicitly stated that she wanted to keep romance out of it. So no saccharine sweet, fakey insta love, thankyouverymuch. It is a dystopian adventure, with young adults, but also with monsters. Real monsters, created from the violence perpetrated by humans. It is very different from anything I’ve ever read – I was a little bleaked out on dystopians after The Hunger Games and Divergent, to tell you the truth, and I almost didn’t break my fast for this.
But it’s not like those. All pre-conceived notions shattered. There was a war, sure. There is a fractured government, of sorts. There are areas laid to waste. It is a very different world from what we know. But the people – well, the people are essentially the same as they ever were. And the monsters – well, the monsters have the same sorts of motivations that the people do. It’s fascinating, really. I’m sure if it were psychoanalyzed there would be all kinds of conclusions to come to. In fact, my overarching question here – and it’s a compelling one – is who are the monsters? And what makes us human?
Even if the setting was bleak, I loved the characters, especially, yes, our teen heroes. I loved August especially, with his dichotomy of being strong and vulnerable at the same time. Wait, no. I ADORED him. I also did think that Kate was someone I could root for (even if she was seemingly immune to injury, fighting through stitches). Sure, they may have been archetypes. But they were good archetypes!
I found the fight scenes intense but not overwhelming (I’m a pretty big chicken) and I did not find the gore or the monsters overpowering. It was a bit gory, but hey, they are monsters. Actually, I loved the monsters. The three types created from different types of violence – well, I don’t want to give it away, but wait til you see how one type uses their power! Hint: the title will then make sense.
This was a stunning story, with an ending that surprised me. It wasn’t pat like some endings are; it leads us in a whole different direction. I want to find out what happens next, and I can’t wait for book two! Unfortunately, I’m going to have to wait a while, because it’s a 2017 release.
But it will be worth the wait. I love Schwab’s writing. Her writing is beautiful but it never calls attention to itself. I think she excels at describing a scene. I think she is stellar at world building in general. She never forces anything down your throat. You know just enough, just when you need to know it. This is how it happened is told in bits that fit right in with the story, and you are sure to get all the info you need. It is never confusing, even though it is so totally imaginative and crazy. But what really sticks out here is that there is a GOOD STORY. The story gets top billing.
“His face went smooth, and all the tension vanished from his mouth and eyes, the weight falling from his shoulders. His head tipped forward, the black curls swallowing his face as shadows rolled across his skin. They spread out from his chest, spilled down his limbs, blanketed flesh and bone, and for a moment, he was nothing but a plume of smoke. And then the smoke drew in like a breath, began to shift and tighten, carving out the lines of a body, its edges traced with firelight.”
Schwab is one of my new favorite writers. And she is extremely prolific. Which means I’ve got some catching up to do, but thankfully, there is a nice big stack of Schwab waiting for me.
The Book Birthday for This Savage Song is coming up on July 5. So you can get your own copy soon! You can pre-order it and have it there waiting for you. And if you are in the area of eastern Minnesota or western Wisconsin, stop in Hudson and find your way to Chapter2 Books, the owners of which gave me my ARC. I want to thank Sue for being so generous! I told her to have a good supply on hand. So hey, check out their website. They don’t have an online store, but you could order by phone! Support your local indies – or if you have no local, support one like Chapter2!