Victoria Schwab creates a very vivid atmosphere in This Savage Song, which is delightfully dark, suspenseful, and creepy. I definitely enjoyed this one more than The Archived, but the story and characters are not nearly as well-crafted or compelling as Vicious. Still, This Savage Song is an enjoyably dark, gritty read.
I really liked the concept of the novel, that violent crimes spawn physical manifestations of evil in the form of monsters, so that even unpunished crimes have real consequences. The “sinners” who commit the crimes that allow these monsters to spawn are forever stained by their actions. These monsters terrorize Verity City, and are at the heart of the civil conflict that has divided the city into two very different factions: the North City led by Callum Harker, who has established somewhat of a contract with the monsters, and the South City led by the Flynns, who have zero tolerance for monstrous presences.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the children of these two families, who meet in a very star-crossed, Romeo and Juliet story, except there is no real romance in the book, and August is actually a monster who wants to be human and Kate is a human who wants to appear monstrous — or at least ruthless. I really liked how these two protagonists mirror each other in their desires for themselves, and both dance along the difficult line between good and evil, and what is monstrous and what is not. This theme is similar to one that is explored (to a deeper degree) in Vicious. Here, the struggle between good and evil, humanity and monstrosity is not nearly as complex.
In the past, I have struggled with getting into Schwab’s writing and by extension, her characters, even though her ideas and stories are so fresh and unique. With This Savage Song, I ran into a similar issue. I could not get emotionally invested in the characters, but there was enough action to keep me hooked. Schwab writes suspense very well and the atmosphere she creates is palpable, and that’s enough to make a good, entertaining read for me.