Review: This Savage Song (Victoria Schwab)

Book Review: This Savage Song (Victoria Schwab)
book cover Book title This Savage Song
Series/standalone Monsters of Verity #1
Author Victoria Schwab
Pages 464
Year published 2016
Category | Genre Young Adult | Urban Fantasy, Dystopian
Rating 3.5 star

Official Summary

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

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.


Hot on the heels of her adult fantasy book, A Gathering of Shadows, Victoria Schwab (V.E. Schwab) went back to YA with This Savage Song.

Schwab herself mentioned that this book is on the higher spectrum of YA (closer to adult than MG) and one could clearly see why from the summary.

Let’s talk about what works and what doesn’t work for me.

Things that worked for me:

  • The world-building. This Savage Song is technically an urban fantasy, although there was some changes to our modern world. It’s sort of dystopian in a sense that this book was set after terrible thing that caused real monsters to be born to this world. (ETA: I kept my original wording here, but Schwab mentioned on twitter that TSS is not a dystopia novel, it’s a book sets in an alternate world). Schwab painted you a picture of a city splits in two, the South is the part of the city led by Henry Flynn and the North is Callum Harker’s. Where in South, people are aware that they’re in danger from monsters, the North people live under the protection of Harker and they’re kept under the illusion that the city is safe. The three type of monsters, Corsai, Malchai, and Sunai are described as human-eating monster, but it was the song that creeps me the most.

    Malchai, Malchai
    sharp and sly
    smile and bite and drink you dry

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

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


  • The writing. This Savage Song opened with this sentence:

    “The Night Kate Harker decided to burn down the school chapter, she wasn’t angry or drunk. She was desperate.”

    This was how you begin a book, people!
    It gripped me immediately and didn’t let go until I finish. Although I feel the first half of the book is stronger than the second half, but the pace works well to keep me in the story. There was some sort of infodump that happened in the first one-third of the book, but Schwab flawlessly incorporated it into the story that I didn’t notice I was being infodumped until later.

Thing that didn’t work for me

  • The morally black and white characters. I’m not saying that the characters are not complex. Kate, for once, wanted so bad to please her father she lost herself trying to be worthy successor. Everyone else, however, felt either they’re good or bad, and it has nothing with what species (?) they are. August, for example, was a monster but you could totally say he’s the good guy (monster). I guess all I’m saying is that I came to this book expecting morally ambiguous characters and I just didn’t get that. But I suppose that was on me and my expectation.
  • Frankly speaking, it just didn’t elicit emotional response from me. Again, this probably showed that the problem was more on my expectation than the book itself. However, this is a book about human who wants to be monster and monster who wants to be human so I expected that it’ll break my heart in some way. And believe me, it’s totally possible to break my heart. Also, let’s talk about the inspiration behind the book. Schwab wrote this book to show that violence has consequences. In This Savage Song, that consequences come in the real form of monsters, but I think the whole thing was not given fair amount of time nor description.
    Another problem for me is that I don’t feel anything or anyone I care about is at real stake so I didn’t worry about them.


This Savage Song has an interesting premise and is a good start to the Monsters of Verity duology. I expect that the second book will only get better, especially if we get more character development and the stakes are higher.

Final score

3.5 star
3.5 stars (out of 5 stars)

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6 thoughts on “Review: This Savage Song (Victoria Schwab)

  1. I can’t wait to get my hands on this. It sounds really intriguing to me. It’s a shame you didn’t enjoy it as much as you could’ve, considering Victoria Schwab is so popular, but at least you liked it to some extent. Lovely review!

    1. Thank you Ashleigh. 🙂 I was really excited to read it too because The Shade of Magic series and Vicious are both amazing, but I think it was the problem of me expecting it to be like Vicious (morally ambiguous characters, blurred lines, etc) and got something different. It was very enjoyable though. Definitely still recommend it. 😁

  2. Great review, Windie! Those are some valid points you listed that didn’t work for you — I’m still super excited for this book, but I’m keen to see how these elements work out for me. I love the premise too, and Schwab’s openings are normally super gripping. <3

    1. Thank you Reg. I’m super interested to know what other people think about TSS because it was nearly all glowing 5 stars in Goodreads. Hahaha. Maybe I’m just being overly demanding :p
      Anyway, 3.5 stars still means I really liked it so definitely would want to read the sequel.

      I’ll be on the lookout for your review once it comes out in Oz and you read it. Is it the same day as in US?

      1. There’s nothing wrong with that! I actually enjoy reading critical reviews more than glowing ones, haha.

        I’m actually not sure when it comes out in Aus… I’m not a pre-order kind of person so I tend to wait until I absolutely MUST READ IT and just get an e-copy or search it from libraries or something. 😛

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