This Savage Song


  • Media: #Books #Books 2020
    • Author: Victoria Schwab
    • Status: read
    • Date: 2020-07-27
    • Tags: #ya #fantasy #urbanfantasy #dystopia #retelling
    • Rating: ★★★★☆
    • Idea richness: ★★★☆☆
    • Links: Goodreads


  • What does it mean to be human?
  • What makes a monster?
  • Family vs blood


Romeo + Juliet + Apocalyptic shadow crime monsters + no romance = a surprisingly compelling formula.


August is a tortured, emo soul who just wants to be human. Kate is a troubled, angry girl who just wants to be a monster so her father will accept her. Their respective 'families' rule the two halves of a city under tenuous truce in a vaguely apocalyptic world where monsters come to life from people's shadows after they commit crimes. August is one such monster, the rarest kind of all, who can steal a sinner's soul with a song. Hence the title. Naturally the two are thrown together under forced circumstances, discover monsters aren't what you're born as but what you do, and go on the run until things kinda work out but kinda don't.

"She almost laughed, a shallow chuckle cut short by pain. He tore the lining from the Colton jacket. “What’s so funny?” “You’re a really shitty monster, August Flynn.”"


I was soooo relieved this didn't turn into a romance. In the past, I have been lured in by Schwab's lush writing and brilliant worldbuilding concepts and then dashed to pieces by flat characters forced in to terrible relationships. This Savage Song could easily have slipped down that road but thankfully toed the line just right. Characters are one note but it serves the theme of the story and so works.

Another surprise: the otherwise vagueness of the world. I never felt like I had a good grasp on what this place really was, how the city worked, or even a sense of place amongst all the buildings. It was all more handwavey 'oh this is that guy's turf and this is the warzone and oh we're suddenly in a tunnel somewhere now'. Name dropping American states and other nuggets of exposition gave a sense of history but never as strong a sense of the setting. This might also be because more emphasis is put on internal monologues and monster philosophising dialogue than where the characters are or even what they are doing. This does work to lend an air of almost mythical, song-like quality in some portions but in others, like a chase through the city or hearing the exact same 'I'm a monster' thoughts, it jars.

Honestly, I feel This Savage Song could have been a 5 star (or at least much more solid 4 star) book had it shed any attempts at YA-ness paranormal romance appearances and ditched the forced school section at the start. Instead, the start could have let the characters explore their world and really dug into the themes of the story and exposed the twisted reality on both sides of 'The Seam' (the border down the middle of the city). The school bit felt out of left field and jarred with the otherwise heavier portions of the story.

"“It seems you’ve lost your toy.” Kate’s fingers closed over the metal against her spine. “That’s why I keep two,” she said, driving the second spike up into the Malchai’s chest."


I dither on how to rate This Savage Song. 3 stars seems too low but 4 a tad high. All in all, there was nothing wrong with so much as it never quite reached the levels it could have. Still an enjoyable book to rip through over a few evenings.

Topics to Pursue

  • T. S. Eliot poem, “The Hollow Men.” #toRead

Scrapbook Concepts

  • "The dark bones of his skeleton just visible through the thin vellum of his skin."
  • "The lingering scent of the Corsai—fetid air, stale smoke, and death, always death" --> What is a monster's unique scent? Random table?
  • Tattoos which burn themselves on skin, marking how many days since 'a slip' (a kill, eating).