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Book Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

thissavagesongbyvictoriaschwabThis Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Published: July 5th 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Format: Paper Book
Length: 427 pages
Genre: Dystopia, Supernatural, Horror, Urban Fantasy
Rating: 3 stars
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There’s no such thing as safe.

Kate Harker wants to be as ruthless as her father. After five years and six boarding schools, she’s finally going home to prove that she can be.

August Flynn wants to be human. But he isn’t. He’s a monster, one that can steal souls with a song. He’s one of the three most powerful monsters in a city overrun with them. His own father’s secret weapon.

Their city is divided.

Their city is crumbling.

Kate and August are the only two who see both sides, the only two who could do something.

But how do you decide to be a hero or a villain when it’s hard to tell which is which?

Young Adult Book Review

I’ve only read one other Victoria Schwab book several years ago. It was The Near Witch and I was very unimpressed with it. I received This Savage Song in my OwlCrate box last month and figured, since I had it, I might as well give her another try. I must say, she’s gotten better over the years. While I still found This Savage Song a bit slow at the beginning; the world building is fantastic and the writing superb. In Schwab’s dystopian world, violence spawns physical monsters as consequences. Simple violence breeds Corsai; murder breeds Malchai; while the most heinous crimes, like mass murders, breed Sunai. The best aspect of This Savage Song is the world building because in most other ways, the story is rather generic.

The city of Verity is split in two, with each side ruled by a different man. In North City is the mob boss like Hawker, giving protection to the citizens who can pay for it and keeping the monsters under his control at bay with harsh punishments. South City is run by Flynn, whose task force is barely keeping its head above water. It’s all very West and East Berlin like, with the empty Seam between the city halves acting like the Berlin Wall. Then there are the characters. I liked August but I found Kate to be your typical cookie-cutter YA tough girl who is really a mess inside. She really wasn’t interesting. August was your usual tortured emo boy but at least he had his interesting aspects. The plot is also pretty dull as well. The first half of the book is just Kate and August circling each other until Kate figures out August is a Sunai and even when the action picks up in the second half, there were no surprises. It was obvious what was going to happen and who was behind it. I felt like the whole book was just setup for the next novel, where, hopefully, more interesting things will happen. Over four hundred pages is a lot of setup, though. I kind of felt like I was wasting my time.

The novel’s saving grace is the excellent world building and the writing. I applaud Schwab’s choice to leave out any romance between Kate and August. I often find the romantic tropes between two characters detract from a story and was pleased to find it absent here. I liked the juxtaposition of the monster hierarchy. The more horrendous the violence, the more human looking the resulting monster. The Sunai looked completely human but were spawned from the worst violence. I would have enjoyed even more world building. We never learn why violence started creating physical monsters. It’s just called the Phenomenon but we’re never given details. In all, I felt like This Savage Song by Victor Schwab was good but not perfect. There were no surprises in the plot and the characters are overdone tropes but it was entertaining for the most part.

Thank you for reading!

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Book Review: The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

Here we go! My first book for 2012. I started The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab exactly on January 1st, so I wouldn’t cheat on any of my book challenges. This book counts toward my 100 book goal for the year and for the Witches and Witchcraft challenge. The Near Witch was one of those books that I was really looking forward to at the end of 2011. A lot of the YA and witchy book readers had been tracking this book and I’ve seen a few reviews that gave it good marks. When I tried to check the book out of the library in the beginning of December I ended up having to wait almost three weeks because all the copies were gone and there was a waiting list. I wasn’t the only one looking forward to reading The Near Witch.

Near is a village that sits out on the moor, a world unto itself. Lexi lives on the edge of the village, where only witches and hunters make their homes. Her father was a great hunter but he dead and left Lexi’s mother a ghost of her former self. Then one night Lexi sees a stranger out on the moor, a pale boy with dark hair. Soon after, the children of Near begin to disappear and people would like nothing more than to blame the stranger. But Near holds a terrible secret and Lexi must fight to save her home and her little sister from a myth.

I was really excited to read The Near Witch. It was one of the books I had been looking forward to during the autumn. Unfortunately, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The story was a tad slow, with a lot of running around the village waiting for things to happen and the main character dealing with her stupid uncle. (Gods save us all from people who think they know better.) Near is a village that sits by itself on the moor and as soon as I understood the setting I knew one of my biggest aggravations was going to rear its head. Whenever there is a small village setting it never fails that most of its inhabitants are completely stupid and total bigots.

I don’t know what it is about the isolated village setting that makes authors flip some magical switch, but it never fails that the characters (mostly older males) turn out to be prejudiced buttheads. Lexi’s biggest obstacles in the story are her uncle, who thinks Lexi’s behavior is not befitting a girl, and her ex-best friend, who seems to be obsessed with Lexi and races past the creepy mark into psycho in a single chapter. The first time Tyler manhandled Lexi I wanted to knock his head off with a baseball bat. I hate that. Males characters to not have the right to pick female characters up and cart them around like they are nothing better than empty headed dolls. I hated Tyler and felt vicious pleasure when Lexi kicked him where the sun don’t shine later in the book.

There is a great deal of running around the village, Lexi avoiding her uncle and the Council, and waiting for things to happen. When we do get to the part where the witch appears, it’s a little ridiculous. I laughed when the witch’s bones pulled up the moor and created a body. It’s silly and pretty predictable. There is a little instant-romance between Lexi and the stranger; also predictable and silly. The Near Witch appears to be your standard fairy-tale that’s just been fleshed out. Most of the middle could be removed and we wouldn’t lose anything important.

I was hoping for something a little more original and creative from The Near Witch. Instead I got a typical fairy-tale story with secondary characters that I wished would drop dead so that the main character could just get on with it already. It was a slow and predictable story without much to really set it apart. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab is an okay book if you’re looking for an ordinary fairy-tale but don’t go looking for anything incredible.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
Published August 2nd 2011 by Hyperion Books CH
282 pages
Stand alone; not part of a series.

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