I received This Savage Song as part of a subscription box called Owlcrate, that I sometimes subscribe to. The theme of the month was good versus evil. This book fit that theme perfectly.
Victoria Schwab is quickly becoming one of my new favorite authors. She has a unique storytelling ability. I recently finished what is published of her Shades of Magic series (reivew of the first one, Darker Shade of Magic, here). She has a way of looking at things with a fresh view.
This Savage Song explores the idea of what makes someone a monster. Does it have to do with experiences in life or are there outer influences that factor in? The line between what is good and what is evil is a very blurry one and Schwab takes a unique look at the concept.
This Savage Song takes place in a world where violence breeds literal monsters. Every robbery, murder and dark deed creates one of three types of monsters, the Malchai, the Corsai or the Sunai.
The city is divided into two portions, North and South. North City is run by a ruthless man by the name of Harker. He rules by fear and money. Everyone in his portion either pays for his protection or risks being killed by one of the monsters. He also controls some of the monsters, using them as servants or slaves.
The South City is run by Henry Flynn. He does not rule by fear but by strength. He runs an army who patrols the city, looking to take out the monsters and keep people safe in that way. He does not control any of the monsters but he does work with three of them. He has essentially adopted three Sunai (the rarest type of monster because they only are created by a massacre or event that creates mass casualities). He does not use them as servants though, he sees them as children or part of his family.
August is the youngest Sunai that lives with Flynn. He was “born,” from a school massacre. Unlike the Malchai or Corsai, who are all about killing and harming, the Sunai are much more in control of themselves. They are not ruthless killers, only able to harm those who are considered sinners. They are close to human in looks and the ways they think.
Kate is Harker’s daughter. She has been living in the outskirts of the cities for years, for her own protection or so she is told. She wants nothing more than to come home and prove her worth to her father. Her father values only power and strength. Kate sets out to prove her worth and prove that she is not weak to her father.
At school Kate and August meet and quickly create a friendship. They see something in each other, an outcast, just trying to find their place in a world they don’t understand. They form a bond, two people who do not fit the perimeters they are supposed to fit. August is supposed to be a monster, only wanting to harm and rule while Kate is supposed to be a scared human who only wants to survive.
This is what I loved most about this book. Both Kate and August do not fit the molds they are meant to fit. August is a monster, there are certain connotations that come with that title. He is supposed to be blood-thirsty and power hungry, but all August wants is to fit in, to feel human and not to harm others. He does not want to fit that monster stereotype. But to survive he has to feed, he feeds on sinners but even that makes him feel bad.
Kate on the other hand is a human. She should be scared of monsters. She should want to run all the time but she doesn’t. She is dead-set on proving to her father that she is a strong person. She does some dark deeds that could be considered monstrous.
The line between good and evil is a very grey one. There is no one way to define either. No one is fully good or fully evil. There is a part of each in all of us and this story does a great job at exploring that idea. August and Kate both have dark and light sides to them. Together they get to explore what those sides mean and how to live with them. There are times that both are appropriate.
I always love stories that explore this idea. I hate when the antagonist has no redeeming qualities and the protagonist has no flaws. Neither of those is realistic. Both Kate and August has some serious flaws but together they balance each other out. They allow each other to see who they are and they form a bond over this idea.
Now, another aspect of this book that I really liked was that the bond Kate and August create is not a romantic one. They are not falling in love throughout the story. They form a bond of friendship and from other reviews I have seen and watched they are going to go no further than friends.
It is refreshing to read a story (espeically YA) that is not centered on a romance. A girl and a guy can be just friends, they do not always have to fall for one another. A story does not alway have to have romance to make it relatable. Also, two people do not need to be in love to form a strong and unbreakable bond. A friendship, many times, can be stronger than a romantic connection. I love exploring the power of friendship and the tight bond two people can form with one another. I am eager to see how much deeper and stronger their friendship gets in the next book.
If you enjoy stories that look at the line between good and evil or if you enjoy stories of two unlikely people forming a tight friendship you will enjoy this book. I heard it is only going to be a duology, so it will be interesting to see how this all wraps up in the next book.