I am unapologetic about my love for V.E. Schwab’s work; I am devoted to A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows, and also really enjoyed Vicious. Her writing combines an enchanting yet sinister kind of fantasy with a sharp, often witty style, the anticipation of all of which made This Savage Song a book I was desperate to read (hence my aggressive emails to the retailer from whom I had pre-ordered it when it hadn’t been dispatched two days after release; I don’t think they really understood my consternation).
This Savage Song takes place in a new and different landscape, with Schwab opting for dystopia rather than magic this time. The bulk of the action takes place in Verity, a city in a mysteriously divided United States; various terrifying-sounding events are alluded to as the cause of these new divisions, and a backdrop of violence and terror is effectively created through the alternating perspectives of Kate, daughter of a borderline psychotic leader, and August, the sort-of son of the other controlling family. I feared a kind of Romeo and Juliet situation when the feuding clans were introduced, but This Savage Song is refreshingly free of cliched teen romance. Kate and August are thrown together when both are sent to high school in the warring city, where August tries to seem human and Kate, ironically, tries to construct her own monstrous reputation. Schwab raises some interesting questions about what it means to be human, which explains This Savage Song‘s crossover status, being marketed as both an adult and a YA novel.
Replacing the magical aspects of my beloved Shades of Magic series are monsters. I don’t know how much to say about these without dispelling the glorious and creepy mystery, so I will just leave it there, but This Savage Song acts as a perfect allegory of violence and its effects. It’s all very clever and very creepy. Parts of this element of the novel reminded me of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha novels, which is no bad thing because they are excellent too.
It’s a dark story with obvious but clever parallels with real-life acts of violence, but Schwab’s characteristic wit is in evidence, with the relationship between Kate and August developing in entertaining and compelling ways. I liked both characters in the same way that I like real people; if they were purely nice and sweet, I’d have found them boring, but their darknesses made them appeal to me more.
I already can’t wait for the next book in the series, for which I will presumably actually have to wait a million years, although at least A Conjuring of Light will appear in the meantime to give me my Schwab fix. If you’re already a fan, you should definitely read This Savage Song, although it’s also a really engaging and entertaining novel in its own right. I wolfed it down in two days and then cursed my own speedy reading skills.