Villains fascinate me. I think it is because their backstories are usually more in-depth and complicated than the protagonist’s. They make hard choices, even though they are usually the wrong choice. The path to making that choices is a twisting one that makes you reconsider your own choices. I like that even though we understand them we still feel some type of aversion to them.
Because You Love to Hate Me is a collection of 13 stories all told from the “villain’s” POV. Some are retellings or reimagining while others are involve original characters. The idea was for 13 Booktubers (Book bloggers on Youtube) to provide 13 authors with a villain centric prompt. The author then took the idea and created an original story for the collection. Each story was followed up by a quick piece by the Booktuber who provided the prompt.
What I loved…
I loved the way every story made you question who was supposed to be the villain. Some did it better than others but all the stories left you wondering if the “villain” was really that bad. I did not hate one of the main characters. I didn’t like some of the choices they made but I found myself not despising any of them.
By giving us the whole story from the “villain” POV only, we got to be surrounded by the idea that they were people facing tough obstacles. In these stories they were not the obstacles but were just people trying to find a way to solve a serious problem in their lives. I liked this because it allowed us to focus on them, their identities, their choices and the consequences of those choices. We as readers got to focus on what happens when you make poor decisions or choose based on selfish thoughts or ideas.
My favorite story was Victoria Schwab’s, “Death Knell.” Her prompt was “Hades wakes up after bring unconscious at the bottom of a well in Ireland.” She took this idea and twisted it to be about death in general. This is someone we don’t generally see a traditional villain. I loved the way she told her story.
It was a simple story but it was beautifully done. It focused on the idea of our fear of death and also created a new way to look at the idea. I loved how original and fresh the story felt. It was the one that stayed with me the longest.
Things I was just okay with….
Everyone of the stories had a Booktuber follow up with it. The small essays ranged from discussions about the story to quirky quizzes and how-to guides.
While most were entertaining in some fashion I wanted more from the commentary. I wanted to know they the topics were chosen. Why choose to ask for a story about a spy or giving Ursula’s backstory? Why did this intrigue you enough to ask for a story about the person or topic?
I felt like the stories could have had more depth if the explanations were deeper. Some were great, like the one after Victoria Schwab’s story but most were goofy or unconnected to the story. I wanted a better look into the ideas and thought processes.
What I wished was done differently….
I enjoyed most of the stories. They were fun looks at a different viewpoint. But many of the stories felt like generic retellings or just took the prompt given at face value.
I wanted the prompts to push more depth into the stories but many felt surface level. They didn’t dive into the psyche or thought process’s of the characters enough. I didn’t want what we already knew just told in a slightly different way. We have basics about many of these characters, I wanted that next, deeper layer.
On Goodreads I gave the collection a 3.5. It was a fun read but could have been improved by more depth from both the authors and the Booktubers providing the prompts.
“Most people din’t steal or kill or sell drugs because they want to, Holmes, or because they love being ‘bad guys’ so much. They do it because they’re born to a life with no exists. No chances. […]” (pg 104).
“People are peculiar. They have a way of seeing only what they want, or not seeing anything they don’t.” (pg 208).
This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet ask the reader to rethink how you define the word monster. Is it a definition that applies to everyone or does it change based on the person and the circumstances they find themselves in? Our Dark Duet was a great end to a duology that makes you wonder about the grey areas in morality.
Our Dark Duet picks up 6 months after the conclusion of This Savage Song. Kate is in Prosperity hunting monsters and trying to start a new life. August is in Verity trying to salvage what is left of his life and city. Sloan has taken over for Callum and is letting the monsters rule and terrorize the North Side of the side.
Kate is drawn back to her past in Verity when she encounters a new threat, a shadow monster that is wreaking havoc. After an encounter with the new threat Kate knows she has to return to Verity and confront her past actions and choices.
August is trying to redefine himself. He is trying to become what the city needs, someone who can fight and can put his emotions aside. He believes that trying to become human is useless and futile now. He can only protect the people if he accepts who he is and uses his power to help instead of hurt.
When Kate returns home she finds a new August, a city falling apart, mistakes from her past in corporeal form and a threat she can’t name or see. She realizes that to save the innocent people and fix the mistakes her father made she has to accept her own mistakes. She also has to help August figure out that he has to find a balance between the two sides of himself to save the city.
What attracted me to this series initially was the idea of violence creating literal monsters. In this last book the definition of monster was explored, showing that a label does not always give you a full picture of the person you are dealing with. Labels are one way of classifying the people and world around us but it is a heavily flawed system.
This book took off from page one and didn’t slow down until the last page. We were on this constant chase to not only find the new monster but also to put a stop to it. Through the chase we learned who our characters were as full people and just what they were capable of.
Kate and August’s stories wrapped up in just the right way. Kate, who spent her life trying to prove her worth and strength, found an inner strength inside of herself. She realized she is flawed but that does not make her a bad person. She learned that you get to decide who you are. You will make mistakes, that is inevitable, but in the end it is about what you learn from those mistakes that matter. You can’t run from them and you can’t hide from them.
When danger and chaos is staring you in the face you fight and you fight without losing yourself. You can be strong without hurting the people around you. You define strength. You define who you are.
August spent much of the first book trying to fight who he was. He wanted to be human, didn’t want his power or to use that power. In the end he learned you can’t rum from who you are. Like Kate he learned it is about what you do more than what you are.
August learned he can find a balance between the park and light. He is a “monster,” which comes with power and responsibility but he is also human. He eats, sleeps, breathes and feels. He loves and that love, he learns, is not a weakness.
I loved that this book challenged the idea of labels and highlighted the detrimental power they can have. August was labeled a monster which made people fear him. They didn’t know him but that one word made them think that they did. Same thing happened with Kate. She was a “Harker,”which caused people to assume they knew what she valued and wanted.
Labels do nothing but gives us a simpler way to define things and people. Unfortunately we think that labels tell us all that we have to know. We think by hearing a few words were know a person or a group of people. In reality we know nothing but a preconceived notion. Labels won’t give you the inner person they will give you what people assume about a group or a person. In the end we have to learn that we need to approach people with an open mind and allow them to define themselves to us. Once we do we can learn that people are diverse and difficult to place into small little boxes.
The ending of this book was perfect. It was tragic but it was how this series should have ended. There were two paths one that was easy and predictable and another that hurt but was poetic and created hope. Victoria Schwab took the second path. We saw that the world is not doomed. Despite the dark that surrounds the city there is light and that light can be seen through the people you may have believed were capable of nothing but darkness. I like that the book ended on hope and showed that anyone can save everyone. You just have not allow yourself to be scared and to let your heart decide the way.
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.