by V.E. Schwab
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There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.
Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.
“I read somewhere,” said Kate, “that people are made of stardust.”
He dragged his eyes from the sky. “Really?”
“Maybe that’s what you’re made of. Just like us.”
And despite everything, August smiled.
I think it’s extremely safe to say that I am absolutely obsessed with Victoria Schwab. It’s not just the characters. It’s not simply her worlds. It’s not the action and peril and ridiculously vivid scenes of utter devastation. No, it’s not just any single one of those things: It’s all of those things.
He closed his eyes, seeking peace, but as soon as the silence settled it was broken, the distant stutter of gunfire echoing against his skull as it always did-the sound invading every quiet moment.
It began with a bang.
Whether every story by this author is for you or not, one can’t argue that every single thing I mentioned above isn’t always in the stories. Even if you might have hated this story (Ooooh those mixed reviews), you have to admit that it still had all the things that make Schwab’s books as excellent as they are. You aren’t ever just simply an observer in her books-No, never an observer. You are a player. You are wholly immersed and interwoven in these characters’ minds and twisted into their intricate web of thoughts, plans, diabolical ways of being. You aren’t someone who is standing in the corner-You are fighting right alongside them.
It was a cycle of whimpers and bangs, gruesome beginnings and bloody ends.
This story, like Every. Single. Other. Book of Schwab’s, was so masterfully executed that you didn’t need something to be happening on every single page-Because, let me tell ya, every single page was building up and thickening the plot into something you can’t even comprehend yet. To say I knew what was going to happen would be a lie. I picked this book up without the faintest idea of where this story was going to go, or even, really, what this story was about! Isn’t that the best thing about our favorite authors, though? You don’t need a plot….you just need to know the book even exists.
“You’re not your father.”
Kate tensed imperceptibly at that, then managed to draw her mouth into a small, cruel smile. “Can I tell you a secret?”
“Of course,” said Rachel.
Kate leaned in and brought her lips to the girl’s ear. “I’m much worse.”
And that’s the case here. I remembered vaguely that it was about monsters….but what’s so funny is that I thought it meant monstrous humans when, in fact, it truly meant monsters. So, you see, I went in kind of blind here. And I wasn’t even sure this was going to work for me, if I’m being honest. I really liked our two main characters, Kate and August (my Auggyyyyyyy), but I wasn’t sure the story was going to be enough for me.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.
I’m not particularly picky when it comes to stories (cough okay okay I’m a little picky about my books…), they just have to have action and romance and characters I can love and maybe some peril and…?? Okay. Moving on. This didn’t have romance. And it certainly didn’t have a ton of action at the beginning-That I can remember, anyway. So I was a bit nervous. I had no clue what this story was going to offer me.
Someone pulls a trigger, sets off a bomb, drives a bus full of tourists off a bridge, and what’s left in the wake isn’t just shell casings, wreckage, bodies. There’s something else. Something bad. An aftermath. A recoil. A reaction to all that anger and pain and death.
But then something amazing began to happen….August began to become, I don’t know, more human. Let me explain-I LOVED both he and Kate right from the start-I had no doubts that I was going to like these guys-My problem stemmed from where their lives and stories were going. I’ve never been one to love a beginning that isn’t epic when I’m not sure about a story and have heard mixed things about what I’m ultimately reading towards. So when I began to get deeper into August’s mind and see how sad and lonely and unsure of his existence he was…I began to, ahem, feel some things.
Suddenly normal felt so far away. It was a cruel trick of the universe, thought August, that he felt human only after doing something monstrous. Which made him wonder if that brief glimpse of humanity was really just an illusion, an echo of the life he’d taken. An impostor sensation.
Now, okay, hey now-I am NOT an easy sell. I’M NOT. Yes, I love boys most in books and, yes, I care more about them than any other character in existence, but that’s in ROMANCE. Romantic fantasy, sci-fi, WHATEVER. These
obsessive feelings stem from the guy pining for the girl AND all the standard wounded boy traits. So no-I am NOT an easy sell…especially when there isn’t any romance to speak of.
August didn’t want to be a monster-one day he just simply came to be in the middle of a disaster and that’s where his life began. This bothers him every single day and causes him grief he can barely stand-he just wants to play his violin and finish a song…and he doesn’t want to pull the souls of anyone to do so.
“I am not a…”
But his throat closed up. The words got stuck.
I am not a monster, that’s what he wanted to say, but he couldn’t. He hadn’t found a way to make it true.
August has a gift, though it’s the mark of him being a monster and why people are terrified of him, and he uses it (after being trained by his family that brought him in) to get rid of the corrupt in the city. But then there are those times when the hunger becomes too much, when he aches to be more human and not the monster everyone says he is. He waits and fights it and he drags out each day without consuming a soul…desperately hoping this time he’ll be able to fight that internal hunger. But, after days of struggling, the pull becomes too much…and then he goes dark. And when he goes dark…no one is safe.
You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay.
So you see, I got addicted. *shrugs* sue me. For every mark that got etched upon his skin, signaling that he hadn’t fallen in that many days, my interest grew to an insurmountable typhoon of feels, controlling my every waking thought. So simple, yet so deeply interesting. And I think the best part is that I wasn’t expecting to like August so much. If I’m being real, I guess I just figured it would be another excellent book with a couple of great characters. I never truly thought that I would fall so hard for him or Kate. And, on top of loving these guys so much, the story, again, so simple, just takes you on a journey that you know isn’t the end-it’s only the beginning.
What I mean by that is, I feel like this book didn’t cover weeks or months…just days. And maybe I’m off a little on that (it’s been a bit since I finished) but my point remains the same: This may not have had a million things happen, but it set up a story that can go so many different directions I don’t even know what to expect. I guess I’m just a little leery boasting that soooomuchhappenedomgsogood and then one of my friends who trusts me finishes and is like…that’s it???? I take my recommendations seriously, and I take boasting authors and their work even more seriously…so when I push that an author’s work is forever perfect-that’s saying something.
I love, above everything else, the utter destruction or falling apart of the male lead. Sick as it sounds-Yes, I’m aware that I sound like a very sick individual right now…you are all judging me. And you are right to do so….I really am just that sick of a creature because I LOVE TORTURED MALE LEADS SORRY NOT SORRY-male leads who are perfect just don’t do it for me. They used to years ago, but now I crave something a little more destructive and messy. And, sad as it is (brilliant, sorry I think it’s fucking brilliant), Schwab creates the best of the best when it comes to intricately layered males with imperfections. So when August…well…when things start to crumble…I loved this story even more.
“Kate,” he said with a sob. “I can’t keep going toward the edge-don’t let me fall.” His breath hitched. “I can’t I can’t do it again I can’t go dark again I’m holding on to every little piece and if I let go I can’t get them back I don’t want to disappear-“
And Kate. I don’t know that she was anything special, but for some reason I adored her. I loved her tenacity. I loved her fierceness. I loved how vicious and epic and cruel and calculated and how savage she was. I LOVED HER. And, even more than that, I loved them together. Two lost souls who find each other, protect each other, take care of each other….I just, my heart. My heart aches for them. I love them apart…but even more so when they’re partners.
“That pendant may protect you from the monsters, but it won’t protect you from me.”
The writing, which I shouldn’t even have to mention again since everyone knows I adore this author, is superb. It makes me feel as if I am outside my body looking in, floating above my it, euphoric, giddy, restless, wanting to SCREAM ABOUT IT FROM A MOUNTAIN. From the minute I open up a book by her, I am entranced as if Kaa the snake is singing me a deadly lullaby. I am a loyal fan. Addicted for life. A slave to her writing….and there is literally nothing by her I wouldn’t read.
So, as you can see, I really think I could keep going. I could talk about the world and the darkness and the curfews and the monsters and the other monsters and the medals and their journey and their friendship and their banter (always with the banter, good old Schwab)….but I can’t make this a million miles long. I won’t. It’s too special of a book and I’m starting to just repeat myself and that’s just stupid. So…I’ll leave you with this: This book is unlike anything by her you’ve read before, so don’t go in expecting what you know to be the norm. She went outside the box. She created a dark world with dark ends and gruesome ways to die. She made you wonder what’s to come. She made you cringe when you met someone new or wondered who to trust. She made you question everything. She made monsters scary. She made monsters real….And I am so in love with her for it.
Ahhh okay, guys. I do NOT know how she does it. I really don’t. I really liked this book-I DID. But when you can take a book that I’m reading while camping (shoot me, really) and turn it into something I ache for, cherish, crave…that’s the mark of a true author.
And of course, of course, it’s one of my most favorite authors ever-VICTORIA SCHWAB. Seriously-guys, she creates these boys that literally ALWAYS take my breath away. I didn’t understand the importance of that until about a year or two ago (been reading my whole life) and now it’s a mark of only the best, for me. And, hello, Schwab creates boys that are unforgettable, heart-breaking, broken….and I just can never get enough of this author-Or the boys she creates.
Once again, mind blown by probably one of my top three favorite authors of all time. I love you Victoria, maker of strong female leads that aren’t annoying as fuck and boys that make me want to weep and hug them for the rest of their lives, I really do.
RTC. Most definitely.