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This Savage Song

What makes a monster a “MONSTER”? In This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab explores the varying shades of grey in a world where almost anyone could be a monster and how to protect yourself from one of them, and better yet how to avoid becoming one.

The Phenomenon plunged the world into chaos and the survivors became prey for the Corsai, mindless shadows with teeth and nails that strike from the darkness, and the Malchai, physical creatures in many respects similar to vampires.

Verity City is one of the largest remaining areas of civilization. It is a city divided: North-Verity, South-Verity and the Seam, a barren area which separates the cities, and reminds everyone of the battle that created all three. Callum Harker has always had his hand in running Verity City, and has exerted an element of control over the Malchai, who have sworn to live under his rules. 

Callum's only child is Kate Harker, who has been expelled from six different private schools in five years. She is very proud of this dubious accomplishment. Kate is her father’s daughter and wants to come home to North-Verity to help maintain the order her father has worked so hard to create, and to prove to him that she is nothing like her mother.

In South-Verity, Henry Flynn has relied upon military stratagems and policies to maintain order. It leaves the citizens of South City living in a relatively safe war zone, with none of the luxuries or the illusions of safety provided by Harker in the North. The one thing that has kept Finn from being overrun by Harker are his three Sunai, a third type of non-human, which can kill a person by using music to steal their soul.

August Flynn is Henry’s adopted son and one of the Sunai that lives in South-Verity. He aches to be human and be able to help his adopted family. When it is suggested that August, who has been homeschooled, enroll in the same school where Kate Harker is enrolled, he reluctantly takes on the responsibility. He knows that trying to pass for a normal, human teenager will take him to the limits of his experience and abilities, but he is anxious to feel like he is contributing.

Kate immediately recognizes August as a Sunai, but does not turn him in. After a botched assassination attempt on Kate, which was set up to frame him, August saves her and helps her escape. Now the two of them learn to trust and rely on someone they’ve been told is an enemy. 

This Savage Song is part Urban Fantasy, part Thriller, part Young Adult coming-of-age story. The world created is harsh and realistic.The only difference between the locations in the novel and many current war-torn locations are the creatures that populate the shadows. The main characters are likable, and in spite of dealing with the horrors of a war zone, they are astonishingly hopeful for a better future. Even more remarkable for a YA title, there is not even a hint of romance between the two leads, leaving them to establish the most important relationship of all: a friendship. The novel is a riveting exploration of what it means to be human. There is a cliffhanger ending, with the story be completed by a sequel sometime in 2017.