Book Review: This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab


Title: This Savage Song (2016)
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Extent: 411 pages
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Description

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection.

All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music.

When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.


Let’s get this out of the way: anyone who has talked to me recently knows that I’m kind of in love with Schwab’s writing. I loved the dark, intense adventure that is Vicious and the wonderful, magical world in her Shades of Magic series. Well, you guys, This Savage Song doesn’t disappoint… at least in some aspects.

Verity, or V-City as the characters often say, is a city divided into two: the North part is ruled by Callum Harker, Kate’s father, who protects the humans from the monsters and has monsters followers of his own, while the South part is ruled by Henry Flynn, August’s father. This story is about Kate and August, teenagers who meet at a school in the North, where August is on a mission to get closer to Kate and Kate is on a mission to prove she’s her father’s daughter. Concept-wise, I loved this idea — just check out this children’s song repeated quite often early in the book:

Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw.

Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.

Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.

Monsters, monsters, big and small,
They re gonna come and eat you all.

Pretty creepy, hey? But creepy is good, because creepy means atmospheric, and this book is definitely that. Schwab’s writing is also great as always, too, adding to the overall tone of the book: it flows well, it’s evocative without being overly descriptive, it’s easy to read but still demands your attention.

The plot takes quite a while to unravel. The beginning takes its time introducing us to the characters and the setting, and it wasn’t until the middle where the action really takes centre stage and the story starts moving forward quickly. It is human versus monster, human versus human, and monster versus monster — you really don’t know who to trust even when the characters are on the same side.

Speaking of characters, however, this is where the book kind of falters for me… at least a little bit. Kate is kind of your typical tough heroine, acting mean and cruel when there’s no real need to be mean and cruel. August, for his part, is more likeable — quiet, introspective, insecure — though also incredibly prone to self-hate and torturing himself, which does get a bit tired after a while.

It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he only felt human after doing something monstrous.

Where Kate is about being as monstrous as she can be, August is about being as human as he can be. It’s a nice contrast, but for some reason, I just didn’t connect with or love these characters as much as I love Schwab’s characters from other books. I think it’s because there’s nothing remarkably unique about these two leads — you’ve kind of read about them before, in a different setting, in a different book, doing different things.

Where the book wins for me is the concept. I loved the idea of the three different monsters: the Corsai, the Malchai, and the Sunai. I loved that they were ‘created’ out of different acts of violence, and I loved their unique abilities and characteristics. The Sunai, for example, look exactly like humans but their eyes will turn into streaks of black in photographs. The Malchai drank blood, dark bones visible under their skin just so. The Corsai were the beasts, ones that killed savagely and ate other creatures. I did feel like all these should’ve been explored more — it’s all a bit grey — but I really enjoyed what was there.

Flaws aside, I really enjoyed This Savage Song and would recommend it to any paranormal/fantasy YA reader. It’s not Schwab’s best by far (my true rating would probably be 3.5 stars, but hey, no half-ratings for me!), but I loved the concept and am invested enough in the world to look forward to the next book in the series. 🙂

49 thoughts on “Book Review: This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab

  1. What a great review, Reg, thank you for sharing this! 🙂 I won’t say I didn’t hear about it, because everyone but me read it, loved it, or wants to read it right now ahah. I only read ADSOM so far, AGOS is waiting for me on my e-reader, and so far I really like Schwab’s imagination and ability to create great worlds. I think that, after reading this review, I can officially say this author’s got talent for great concepts and worlds, I mean, different Londons, monsters and stuff, where does she think of that? It’s so great. Too bad the characterization wasn’t that good and that you couldn’t connect that much. I might still have to read it, because I’m so curious about the whole idea behind this book. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Marie! Haha, this book is definitely quite hyped – I don’t think it’s THE BEST THING EVER, but it was overall quite a good, solid read. I agree with you that Schwab’s imagination and world-building abilities are great, and I’d say that those things are what carries this particular story rather than the characters. It’s smart, it’s different, and it’s just pure fun.

      I really hope you read it soon! Can’t wait to see what you think. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review, Reg! I must admit I’m kind of scared to read this one because I’ve been seriously anticipating it for soo long, and.. what if I don’t like it? IDK I’ve heard really mixed things.


  3. Wow, I really love how you set up this review. It was engaging and so much fun to read! I honestly can’t wait to read this book. I’m in love with V.E Schwab, and sorta want to splurge on anything with her name on it. Personally, I don’t really like female protagonists who are mean to everyone, and try to act tough when there’s no reason to. What do you think?


    • Thank you! I can’t wait for you to read it as well – I’d say that it’s not as good as Vicious or ADSOM, but it’s still worth the read.

      Tbh I’m not a fan of protagonists who are unnecessarily regardless of their gender, so I am ambivalent about Kate… but she does have her reasons for acting this way, and I guess it’s up to you to accept those reasons or not? For me her reasons made sense, but it doesn’t mean I have to like them. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed, anyone who acts that way, regardless of gender, gets on my nerves. There are many times when it is necessary for the character to act that way though, and it’s really cool to see them develop through that.


  4. I’m convinced that you and Beth are on a mission to get me to read all the V.E. Schwab books out, and you’re really succeeding. I need to read this book now! Amazing review 🙂


  5. Great review Reg! 😀
    I completely agree with you about the concept and the monsters. I loved reading how they were created and seeing the differences in the different types, but also the differences in August and his siblings because of the ways they were created as well. I really hope it’s expanded on in the second book! 🙂
    I do see your point about the characters as well. I think they did veer a little more towards the norm than any other character V.E. Schwab has written has, but I did like the fact that Kate was a little mean and cruel. I understood where her motives came from, and I feel that a lot of the time you get characters that are supposed to be tough but we never see anything that proves this. There’s just someone retelling us over and over again how tough they are!


    • Yeah, I loved the monsters so much in this book! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they seem more… human than the actual humans, haha. August was just adorable and very sensitive.

      And I’m glad to hear that you agree on the characters. That ‘been there done that’ sense was quite strong for me and I couldn’t dismiss it that easily. I do think that Kate has reasons for being mean and cruel, but I don’t have to like her for it, so I don’t. I agree though that it was shown, not just told with her, which is good. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I don’t think so either, they seem more honest about what they are and who they are as well (well, most except August that is) .
        It does feel like a lot of the time in YA fiction you get the standard character tropes and most novels are just different variations of those. Oh no you don’t have to like her for it, I’ll admit some of the things she did I didn’t like, but I did like how we saw her do them. It’s always great when an authors show you rather than tells you something about their characters, makes it feel more solid you know? 🙂


  6. I do think that the character’s resemble a lot of the other characters in Schwab’s other works – Kate in particular but I loved the juxtaposition between the human trying to act like a monster and a monster trying to be more human. These shades of Grey within the character’s are always so fascinating. I will always appreciate the way Schwab creates an atmosphere in her books. You can just feel the suspense seeping from the pages. I’d have like to know more about the monster and their creation but I’m hopeful that we can explore their nature a little bit more in the next book. 😀


    • So true. I did feel like I didn’t care as much for the characters and therefore didn’t feel that much suspense in the tense moments, but I did appreciate the atmosphere all the same. It’s one of Schwab’s strong points, I think.

      I loved that juxtaposition too between monsters and humans! I think it’s not a coincidence that the monsters (i.e. August) seem a lot more human than some of the actual humans. Shades of grey indeed. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Amazing review! I (Sasha) have read ADSOM and it is amaaaaazing. I’m surprised I haven’t gotten far into VICIOUS, but that’s probably because I’ve had to return it to the library before getting fully into it. Either way, THIS SAVAGE SONG looks dark and gritty, and quite possibly the book I need. I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it just as much as I enjoyed ADSOM, but I’ve never read Schwab’s YA before, so… it’ll be a new take, for sure!

    Again, great review! Can’t wait to pick up a copy of this for myself. 🙂
    Sasha @ The Writing Duo


    • Thanks, Sasha! Ahhh I hate when that happens and you can’t extend your loan for whatever reason. I hope you get to pick it up again eventually, because it was AMAZING. I still think it’s Schwab’s best so far, haha.

      I hope you like this one too – it feels more YA-ish, somehow, but it’s still overall a good read. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This was such an interesting review. I just read A Darker Shade of Magic and while I totally agree with you about the writing – so freaking atmospheric – the characters were the part I struggled with. It’s not that I disliked them, I just struggled to connect for some reason. I’m hoping it’ll resolve in the sequel.

    This has definitely made me more interested in reading some of her other works. It’s so clever to be able to produce so many intensely imagined world. It gives me serious writing envy.


    • Thanks, Lydia! I actually really liked the characters in ADSOM – I didn’t find them relatable, per se, but I liked who they were and thought their dynamics were interesting. I did actually like AGOS better so I’m hoping it gets better for you. 😛

      But yeah, one of the reasons why Schwab’s on my insta-read list is mostly because of her world-building. It’s just… really unique, in my opinion. I have writing envy too!


      • It is so unique. It isn’t that I disliked the characters. Honestly I don’t know what it was. I think I liked them as individuals but wasn’t quite seeing them bounce off of each other in the way I would have liked. I’m definitely reading the sequel though, so hopefully I’ll get over it during that.


  9. I’ve only read A Darker Shade of Magic by her and I LOVED it, so I was quite excited to pick this one up. It sounds like a very cool and interesting concept, but ahhh I’m so sad you didn’t connect with the characters. I always need to feel a strong connection to characters to love a book. I’m still going to try it, but I’ll keep an open mind.
    Beautiful review! 🙂


    • Comparing this one to ADSOM, I’d definitely say this one is less… wonderful. It’s not that it’s bad – perhaps if it’s written by any other author I’d have loved this more, but I think knowing Schwab and what she can do (and what she has already done) made my expectations soar for anything with her name on it, haha. I hope you get to read this one soon – some people definitely loved the characters so it could just be me. 🙂

      Thank you!


  10. This is such a brilliant review, Reg. I’m hoping to read this soon. It sounds so interesting. I love the concepts and it’s really good to hear that despite the flaws that it was still a really enjoyable read. I love all the quotes you posted!


  11. I agree with all of your points! The concept and the atmosphere are definitely the strongest points of the book. I almost wished Schwab made it more gory and violent because then it’ll explain more about how these monsters were born because of us, because of human actions. However, this being YA, I understand why she didn’t go that far.
    As for Kate and August, yeah they’re kind of generic leads. Like you said, nothing was really unique about them. I actually liked Kate more than August because I think she’s a bit complex, but yes she did come off as bitchy and mean. August is just plainly boring to me, which was a shame because when I read the synopsis I thought he was going to be the most interesting one.


    • Yeees, I think if it had been more brutal I’d love it more. It’s too bad!

      As for the characters, I found August more interesting because of his nature, I think. Kate was more unlikeable to me because I didn’t really understand her motives, haha. But yeahhh, this one is definitely not as good as Schwab’s other works and now I understand why you gave it a 3.5/4. :p

      Liked by 1 person

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