I'll admit I was a bit hesitant to read these books after finished her Shades of Magic trilogy. Someone told me they were good, worth reading, but not as good. So I worried. And then I read them. And I can say... these books are more than good. They're fantastic, in their own way.
Monsters overrun the city of Verity, creating chaos, bloodshed, and division. Kate Harker stands on one side of that divide, desiring to be as ruthless and stone-cold as her bloodthirsty father and his monstrous minions. August Flynn, an actual monster, stands on the other side, desiring to be human and desperately failing. When Kate discovers August's secret and the monsters start to turn on them, they have to flee for their lives and figure out whether they'll become heroes or villains.
This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet have a lot of heart. It comes in the form of the deeply developed world-building. The tier of monsters, from the creepy corsai to the malicious malachai and even the soul-consuming sunai, are well-developed to the point they will give you nightmares. (Especially if you can't get the monster poem out of your head.) The divided city, with one side being ruled by a tyrant and the other by military ranks, fits in a natural way within the monster-ridden world. This story is dark, it's bloody, and it's rich with detail. I like stories that make me feel like the world is alive and lived in, and Verity City is very much lived in.
These books also have a plethora of complex, dynamic characters. Of course, as main characters, Kate and August are thoroughly developed and compelling. Kate Harker is a kick-butt lady you want on your team if the zombie (or monster) apocalypse comes around. She just doesn't give in. August, however, is a precious cinnamon roll monster and his story just makes me want to sob and give everything in the vicinity a big hug. I mean, he just needs a hug and maybe a shock blanket and hot chocolate or something. Somebody just give him a hug, okay?! But even more than that, the other characters--minor, insignificant, those with the purpose to die a gruesome death at the hands of a bloodthirty monster--they are all well developed as well. Isla, August's sister, is a personal favorite. In my head, she was perfectly captured in every way. But I also thought the villains, such as Kate's father or his creepy Malachai bodyguard dude, were written well also.
The characters give the story heart. They propel the story forward, they give me, the reader, a reason to keep reading. And they are the ones that figure out these important truths.
Some people think the elements of This Savage Song are cliche, predictable, or "been there done that." And maybe a city overrun with monsters, "monster boys" being good, and an unlikely and forbidden friendship are overdone. But I think Schwab takes these "cliche" elements and turns into something else, something more.
This Savage Song swept me away. I didn't want to put it down, even though I had to (because of work and things like sleeping). When I picked up Our Dark Duet, the same thing happened. I slipped into the story, connecting with the characters and world despite having absolutely nothing in common with them. And the story as a whole packed a punch, what I imagine it would feel like to get kicked in the gut. It was intense but so, so good. There's violence and bloodshed and darkness, but there's so much more to it than that. And it's so much better.
~I borrowed This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab from my local library and chose to write a review of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~