Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Book Review: "This Savage Song" by Victoria Schwab

So when I finished devouring this book last night before I went to bed, I tried to think of the best way to sum up my feelings. Sometimes when I'm at a loss for words I turn to those more articulate than I am, so:
Ah, thanks, Oprah!

It is a time in the (hopefully very) distant future. At one point, monsters tried to take control of a city. It led to massive destruction, but ultimately a truce was reached which divided the city. One half is run by Harker, a ruthless man whose ambition and lust for power are nearly as dangerous as the monsters he allows to roam free, so he can then charge the city's residents for his protection from them. The other half of the city is run by the more noble-minded Flynn, who wants to keep his residents safe by controlling the monsters, not harnessing them as pawns in a shakedown.

Neither side has complete support, as the truce seems to be weakening. Harker's daughter, Kate, who has gotten herself expelled from her sixth boarding school in five years, has returned home, much to her father's chagrin. She wants to prove that she is just as ruthless as her father, and wants him to finally let her stay with him, and take her under his wing. But she must battle not only her father's ambition and his memories of her late mother, but also the monster he has trained as his second in command.

When Kate is sent to another school in town, Flynn and his followers jump at the chance to get someone close to her, to watch for signs the truce may be breaking. Flynn's youngest son, August, who wants simply to be kind, to live a good life, is pressed into service. The thing is, August is a monster, the rarest of the three breeds, who can steal a person's soul by playing his violin. He needs to hide his secret from everyone in school, especially Kate, but for the first time in his life, he feels as if he belongs, he starts to make friends, and he is fascinated by Kate's intelligence—until she figures out what he really is.

When an attempt on Kate's life sends them both fleeing, they must make a truce of their own. August wants only to protect Kate, and Kate wants to live, although she isn't sure if capturing August could be the prize she needs to cement her relationship with her father. As they seek freedom and safety, they still long for the comfort of their families, even as they realize their families may not provide the safe haven they thought. They must fight not only the enemies they expect but enemies they don't, and they face the toughest battle of all—the enemies within themselves.

Right off the bat, I'll say that obviously this isn't a book for everyone. If you don't like this type of fantasy story, Victoria Schwab's storytelling, no matter how strong a spell she casts, probably won't lure you in. But don't rule it out because you think it's going to be all Twilight-y (a new adjective), because the monsters in this book don't have the Cullenesque shimmer, and more importantly, one of the best things that Schwab does in this book is keep the lovesickness and most of the angstiness out. That makes This Savage Song a much stronger story instead of some YA-ish soap opera.

I love authors who can take you into another world and immerse you so fully. That's a credit to Schwab's incredible creativity and the imagery she uses. There is a vividness to the pictures she paints, and I'd love to see this made into a movie to see just how closely what I saw in my mind's eye while reading this book hews to the film adaptation. Is it a little overly dramatic at times? Sure. A little predictable? Of course. But it doesn't matter, because the characters she has created fascinated me, flaws and all.

When you add to your stress level at work by taking a longer lunch than you should so you can keep reading, you know you've found a good book. (Lucky I'm the boss!) When you find yourself taking your glasses off during the NCAA championship so you can race through the remainder of the story before bed, you know you've found a good book. This was tremendously entertaining and well-done, and I'll be all over the sequel when it comes out this summer!

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