PrintE-mail Written by Christian Bone

In a divided metropolis beset by monsters, Kate Harker and August Flynn exist on either side of the conflict. Kate is the daughter of the ruthless dictator of the North, aspiring to be just like her father. August, meanwhile, wants to prove his curse wrong and be as human and good-natured as his own adopted father, the saviour of the South. As the truce between the two crumbles, Kate and August are thrust together in an uneasy alliance.

So goes the story of the first book in V.E. Schwab’s new Monsters of Verity series. With such a premise, it could have felt like a formulaic ticking off of YA subgenres and tropes (dystopian future? Check. Monster apocalypse? Check. Teen drama? Double check). However, through the strength of the writing, Schwab ensures that This Savage Song becomes something much more interesting - a dark, thrilling and, yes, pretty savage tale.

What makes the book work so well are its full-blooded characters. Split between Kate and August’s point-of-views, you see this world through each of their eyes and understand what makes both of them tick. What is really refreshing is how Schwab does not go down the predictable Romeo and Juliet road and make the pair star-crossed lovers. Instead, the central relationship is far more layered and complex than that. It is a well-drawn friendship, between two lonely people who actually have a lot in common despite ostensibly being sworn enemies. Perhaps the next book will see romance blossom, but that would feel earned after the groundwork laid here.

This Savage Song is also a lesson in how to organically drip feed the description and backstory of the setting and the characters, rather than infodump it all at the beginning as a lesser writer might do. This world and its inhabitants begin the story as blank slates, which might be a little off-putting for some, but over the course of the novel the questions are all answered without shoving them down the reader’s throat.

It might be a cliché, but the book really is unputdownable. Schwab is a dab hand at building an engrossing escalating threat and increasingly dire situation that keeps you turning the pages. While working as its own story but also promising more to come, the end result is a novel that is not to be missed for anyone who enjoys imaginative and intelligent Young Adult fiction. Hopefully subsequent books in this series can keep up the same quality.


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