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This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Book Name: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Publisher(s): Greenwillow Books (US) Titan Books (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): YA Fantasy
Release Date: July 5, 2016 (US) June 7, 2016 (UK)

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.

What a hook. That “nursery rhyme” grabbed me and would not let go. This Savage Song is fresh, imaginative, and just the right amount of creepy. It captivated me right from the first soul reaping.

Being YA, it comes as no surprise that the setting is post-apocalyptic, but that’s where the comparison ends. Here, humanity’s evil has spawned monsters that prey upon the very humans who gave them birth. Malchai, Corsai, and Sunai—three kinds of monsters with three different agendas. Corsai are the basest of creatures, living underground in wait to devour their next meal with teeth and claws. Malchai, much more devious, live in the shadows to hunt their blood meal. Sunai are a different breed of monster. They glean souls only from humans who have committed “sin”—crimes that truly stem from evil. The reaping takes place in the form of music. There are only three known Sunai in existence. If and when they go too long without feeding, they “go dark” and the harvest does not discriminate. All within a certain radius are taken.

This spellbinding tale centers on the city of Verity, where the North and South live in a tenuous truce. Callum Harker has somehow convinced the Malchai and Corsai to obey him and rules the North with this force. His people purchase their safety in his domain. The South follows Henry Flynn, current patriarch of the Flynn family, which has ruled the South since its formation. He has the Sunai on his side, the impetus that drove the call for peace. Another Sunai darkness was deemed too costly.

The two main characters come from these two sides. Katherine (Kate) Harker is Callum Harker’s only child. She has been kept away from home at various boarding schools since her mother’s death. Now, she has made her way back to her father’s side, only to continuously fight for the right to stay there.

August Flynn is Sunai. He appears human for all intents and purposes, except when you look closely at his eyes. Of the three Sunai, only one is known to the public. August and his sister, Ilsa, are kept in hiding. Sunai are nearly invincible but not immortal. The truce leans heavily on the Flynns’ hidden power. When it is decided that August is more useful in the field, events map a new course that steers its way back to war.

A triumph of this story is in the gradual shaping of Kate and August’s friendship. I knew they were eventually going to be thrown together, kind of like a Romeo and Juliet retelling, except with monsters and without the love story. Okay, so not exactly like Romeo and Juliet, but definitely more like an offspring-of-mortal-enemies-find-new-ground take. There is no mushy love story, but the alternating viewpoints of Kate and August succeed in building an unexpected pairing. The reluctant abandonment of prejudices leading to a tentative partnership was satisfying to watch unfold.

Another plus is the brilliant worldbuilding. From the various features and abilities of the monsters to the divided North and South, this dystopian world of monsters spawned from humanity’s evil is almost like a warning, in a fantasy world kind of way, of course. Thankfully, that is not our reality, but humans are certainly reaping the results of bad choices already. This is an outstanding rendering of a wake-up call.

I am thoroughly impressed with this novel and eagerly look forward to its conclusion in the next. The saying, “music lifts the soul,” has a whole new meaning now.


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