Romeo and Juliet has been an inspiration for many a tale but this duology by Victoria Schwab (The Monsters of Verity) compromising of This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet is a partly dystopian, partly horror, partly fantasy take on the Shakespearean romance. Except of course that there is very little in the way of romance in these books. The two books had come out a few years back but we avoided reading them because they were supposed to be sad. With the kind of stuff one gets to hear on the news these days, who wants more sad? But then it is Victoria Schwab, and we had loved her Darker Shade of Magic series…
The main protagonists are Kate Harker and August Flynn who live in a divided city called Verity. Twelve years before the start of the story something happened which caused acts of violence to start taking human shape and so the monsters were born. There are three different kinds of monsters, each originating from different grades of violence. August Flynn and Kate Harker end up being friends because they are in the same school but their fathers each rule one half of the city and have different ways of dealing with the monsters.
On the one hand you have Kate who wants to be more like her father, who, though human is truly evil because he uses the monsters to control people and on the other hand there is August who, despite being one of the rarer kinds of monsters, just wants to play his music, spend time with his cat and be human. So Schwab constantly raises the question in the readers’ minds – is a monster born or made?
Victoria Schwab combines all the elements of good storytelling to take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions through the two books. The main appeal of her books is not just the world building but all the characters who are so beautifully fleshed out. Even the ones who are monstrous. As a result her fantasy books end up being quite believable and the people identifiable. The best fantasy has the moral questions just hovering in the background and the Monsters of Verity duology manages to make the reader re think preconceptions and terminology.