Thursday, October 13, 2016

Popular adult author's new teen series

For those of you who are fans of V. E. Schwab (whose book Vicious is one of my personal favorites), you should know that she has a new book out, the beginning of a new series. It is, however, a Young Adult title, and as a teen librarian who reads in both worlds, I will confess that I have enjoyed her adult books more than her teen-focused ones. In fact, many of the more mature teens who read her adult books tend to agree!

Her adult franchise consists of the aforementioned Vicious, and a series that begins with A Darker Shade of Magic, whose second book, A Gathering of Shadows, was reviewed here in June by me. Her teen books for which she is well known are The Archived, which is both the name of the first book and the name of the series that includes The Unbound, and a potential third book yet to come. That series was well written, but it fell a little flat for me. Opinions among teens seem mixed. Prior to those books, she wrote one called The Near Witch, her debut novel (which I somehow have not yet read), and a series called Everyday Angel for middle-grade children.

The new series, Monsters of Verity, which begins with This Savage Song, is an urban fantasy, a weird dystopian future in which evil apparently manifests itself literally. When people commit violent acts, real monsters are created, who then prey on the populace by whom they were created. There is an initiation point for this disaster, but the book starts well after this cataclysm and continues as if this is something that took place in a past that is so well known to everyone (including the reader) that it doesn't have to be explained. This is my main problem with this book--that no explanation is offered for the current state of affairs in the world, that the story picks up mid-stride, and never goes back. The premise is intriguing, and the monsters themselves are explained by a child's rhyming song, and also described as to their appearance and their function:

          Monsters, monsters, big and small,
          They're gonna come and eat you all.
          Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
          Shadow and bone will eat you raw.
          Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
          Smile and bite and drink you dry.
          Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
          Sing you a song and steal your soul.
          Monsters, monsters, big and small,
          They're gonna come and eat you all!

The monsters can't feed off one another, they can only prey upon humans. They are different in their purposes, however; the first two, Corsai and Malchai, are essentially just monsters who devour people in various gruesome ways, while the Sunai, of whom there are only three known to the world, are "fed" by eliminating those people who have committed evil (which will supposedly thus limit the manifestation of the other two kinds of monsters), and the way they do it is by making music.

One of the two protagonists of this book is August Flynn, one of the three Sunai. He is a gentle soul, a violinist, conflicted by his purpose, and unsure how to live with himself or in this world. The other, Kate Harker, is the daughter of the tyrant who rules half the city by controlling the Corsai and Malchai (as much as that is possible) and making them do his bidding, and all Kate wants is for her father to be proud of her, to acknowledge her. These two become unlikely allies when August is secretly sent to keep tabs on Kate, who has just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school, and an assassination attempt causes them to flee together.

This book is a case of liking what there was, wishing there was more, and waiting to see if the sequel provides the missing links. So while I can't give it a wholehearted endorsement, I can say that if you have missed Victoria Schwab since her last appearance, you may want to check it out and, like me, invest in the future of this series. Or, if you have not yet read the Shades of Magic series, try that one first! It receives rave reviews from adult and teen alike.

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