This Savage Song – V. E. Schwab


This Savage Song is the story of Kate and August, the heirs to the two men in charge of either half of Verity, a city torn by monsters that are formed from the violent acts of sinners: the Corsai, formed of shadow and feeding on flesh; the Malchai, the blood drinkers who roam the streets; and the rare Sunai, the coal-eyed, human-like soul eaters. Kate and August, through family feuds, should be enemies. This is what happens when their lives collide. 

Disclaimer: 
we were both sent this book by the publisher, Titan Books, in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are our own.


Becky’s Thoughts:

This Savage Song is definitely unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and it was right up my street. A dark urban fantasy written from two points of view, some amazing badass characters, an ending full of suspense and leaving me needing the sequel already, and on top of that, monsters?! This book was amazing! I feel like I’ve read so many books about vampires, werewolves, fairies, angels and demons, chimaera, even zombies, but monsters seem to be often sadly left out of fiction. I’m officially putting out a call to action for more monster related books to be written. 
Anyway, this book. it was perfectly written and laid out, with the sections being titled as verses, and the idea of the story being a song was prevalent throughout. 
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal.
Sing you a song and steal your soul.

I was so hooked on this book that I was genuinely counting down the minutes until I could carry on reading it whenever I wasn’t able to. I connected with the characters so well, and a relatable character is one of the main necessities in a book in my opinion. 
First, there’s Kate, the daughter of crime lord Callum Harker who runs one half of the city. She was a character who I fell in love with straight away. She distances herself from others and shrouds herself in anger in an attempt to impress her father, but has deeply hidden secrets and problems that she buries. August is the adopted son of Henry Flynn, who runs the other side of the city. August is a monstrous boy who just wants to be normal. I loved both of these characters, as well as their interactions with each other and the way that their friendship developed through the book. They are completely different, but complement each other perfectly, and this development and their journeys, both separately and together, are at the heart of the plot. The story also revolves around the idea of looking at who is truly the monster in the situation; those who are called monsters, or the men who use and control them. 
As I said earlier, this book is so unique and I did thoroughly enjoy it. It’s not even been released yet, and I’m already anticipating the sequel!

Angharad’s thoughts:


+ V.E. Schwab can do no wrong when it comes to writing monsters. She takes the concept of them (which has been done so many times) and turns it on its head. This novel doesn’t only explore monsters vs monsters but more importantly, the roles humans play in showing that not all monsters are monstrous and not all humans are good.

“It hurts,” he whispered.
“What does?” asked Kate.
“Being. Not being. Giving in. Holding out. No matter what I do, it hurts.”
Kate tipped her head back against the tub. “That’s life, August,” she said. “You wanted to feel alive, right? It doesn’t matter if you’re monster or human. Living hurts.”

+ I love that at the heart of this story is the friendship between Kate and August. Yes, you heard me, friendship. Whether or not their relationship develops in the sequel remains to be seen but at the moment, I am so happy with their journey as friends. I think authors can forget the strength in friendship. Kate and August are polar opposites (not just because they are different species) and yet they come together to form a mutual trust and a formidable team. They sacrifice a lot for each other and I’m exciting to see where their journey takes them.

“I read somewhere,” said Kate, “that people are made of stardust.”
He dragged his eyes from the sky. “Really?”
“Maybe that’s what your made of. Just like us.”
And despite everything, August smiled.

+ Kate Harker is a wonderfully written character. We meet her as she is burning down her boarding school’s chapel. Yep. After the death of her mother, Kate’s father sent her to six different boarding schools, all of which she purposefully got kicked out of. Her goal is not just to live with her father but to be like her father. Kate commits cruel acts but she has a good heart. She thinks this is the only way to win her father’s approval. She is brave but lonely, automatically isolating herself as she doesn’t want to do anything that will make her father class her as weak. She finds solace with August who doesn’t judge her because she is the daughter of an important (but assholish figure.) 

Kate smiled at the praise, even if it was an act. She’d show him. She could be strong. She could be cunning. She could be cold.

+ August is one of the three monsters in this book. He is a Sunai, a creature that is able to lure victim’s towards them with music only to kill them by feeding on their soul. He sounds scary right? Nope. August is a little golden retriever. He dotes on his adoptive family, wishes he was normal and has a very good heart. I loved his relationship with his sister, Isla (who I want to see a LOT more of in the sequel) and he is proof that not all monsters have a monstrous heart.

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.

+ One thing that I loved in this book was the mention of disabilities. Kate has lost her hearing in one ear and that is never mentioned and then forgot about a chapter later. It hinders her a lot but she still pushes on. August, due to the hunger that he often experiences, develops moments of sensory overload. As a person on the autistic spectrum, I too suffer with this and V.E. Schwab described these episodes in perfect detail. People just don’t get it when I can sometimes shout “It’s too loud!” so it’s so refreshing that this is explored. 

August cringed; the overhead lights were too bright, the scraping of chairs too sharp. Everything was heightened, like the volume on his life was turned up but not in an exciting way. Noises were too loud and smells too strong and pain — which he did feel — too sharp.

+ Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I did enjoy Vicious more so that’s why I’ve knocked off half a star. I can’t wait for the sequel so I can lose myself in the world V.E. Schwab has created. If you want a book with a strong friendship, flawed but wonderfully written characters and monstrous worlds, then this is the one for you.


This Savage Song is released on the 7th June in the UK and the 5th July in the US.

The Star-Touched Queen – Roshani Chokshi

“I know your soul. Everything else is just an ornament.”
Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. 

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet, who can she trust?

Becky’s rating: 3.5 stars

The Star-Touched Queen wasn’t in any way what I expected it to be. It reminded me, in many ways, of an amalgamation of some books that I love; there were touches of The Wrath and the Dawn in there, and it seemed very similar in some ways to both Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Deathless – these two are very much on my list of favourite books. I also saw bits of A Court of Thorns and Roses and Fallen throughout. However, as a whole, it just didn’t quite click. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it. Three and a half stars still means that I finished it and liked it a fair bit! I just found that it was one of those books that had sections which I really liked, and other sections that I just wasn’t keen on. 
For example, I enjoyed the relationship between Maya and her sister Gauri. I thought that the majority of Maya’s character development was seen in their interactions, or even just her thoughts and memories of her once she left the harem. The more mystical aspects of the book were perfect, and I wasn’t anticipating the plot twists at the end of the first half of the book.
The writing style was absolutely beautiful, and the descriptions were magical, but some could have gone into a bit more detail, especially when setting the scene.
I’ve seen a few people comment on the instalove in this book, and honestly I just didn’t see it as the biggest issue here. Maya quite clearly does not trust Amar, even after she is given a reason to trust him more – and to be honest, the revelation at the end of part one is a pretty good reason. It’s also one I have seen happen in other books, and in some cases, it worked incredibly well.
Now, to the parts that made me knock down the rating a bit. I understand that, since this was inspired by Indian mythology and culture, the lack of gender equality was probably necessary, but I just didn’t like when Maya’s father commented that she would have been a great leader if she’d been born a boy, and she didn’t say anything. She didn’t even have any indignant thoughts towards him or his statement. Also, I can’t excuse Maya’s comment of “I’d rather spread ideas than legs” to one of the women in her Father’s harem. Yes, there was obviously animosity between the two of them that had already been shown earlier in the book, but I just think the slut shaming was very unnecessary.
As I mentioned before, the world building could have been, well, more built upon. I’m a very visual person so I struggle with books when they try to set the scene but don’t quite go far enough, and you can’t picture what the author is trying to describe. Some of the places in The Star-Touched Queen sounded like they’d be amazing, had they been described more thoroughly. I would also have liked to have found out more about Nritti – she seemed like a really interesting character but just wasn’t developed as much as she could have been, in my opinion!
I do think that, had a few parts been taken out of this book, and had it been a bit longer so that the descriptions could be more thorough, it could have had the potential to be five stars. I’m definitely excited to read what Roshani Chokshi writes next, as I have no doubt that it’ll be beautiful.


The Rose and the Dagger – Renée Ahdieh

“No. He was not here to wreak revenge. For revenge was trifling and hollow.
No. He was not here to retrieve his wife. For his wife was not a thing to be retrieved.
No. He was not here to negotiate a truce. For a truce suggested he wished to compromise.
He was here to burn something to the ground.”

*this review may contain spoilers from The Wrath and the Dawn, but not from The Rose and the Dagger*
The Rose and the Dagger, the highly anticipated sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn and final book in the series, opens with Kohrasan on the brink of war, and Shahrzad separated from Khalid and taken to the desert. Now, Shahrzad must uncover her powers, protect her family, save her country from its imminent war and find her way back to Khalid despite being held amongst people who want him dead – all whilst trying to discover a way to destroy his curse. 


The Rose and the Dagger was the most perfect ending to this duology! Although it maybe wasn’t as fast paced as The Wrath and the Dawn, Renée Ahdieh wrapped up the story perfectly with this instalment in the series, and it ended on just the right note.
As with the previous book, the writing style was exquisite – the descriptions are beautiful and winding, and I could really picture each scene and setting that was being described. 
I think my favourite thing about this book was the development of characters and relationships that is seen throughout it. In The Wrath and the Dawn, we already saw Shazi as an amazingly strong and sassy protagonist, and I’m so glad that her character hadn’t changed in this book – if anything, she just gets even better. I also loved the insight into her relationship with her sister, Irsa, and the development of understanding between her and her father (I can almost guarantee that this part will make you cry, just a warning). 
Although this story is obviously primarily a love story, The Rose and the Dagger didn’t have to rely on forced or cheesy love scenes. Once again, Shazi and Khalid’s romance is perfect and natural and I genuinely can’t get enough of those two. There is also more magic in this book, which I was hoping we’d see more of! 
The last part of the book was just packed full of beautifully heartbreaking plot twists, and at some points I was quite literally on the edge of my seat/in tears/about to scream/cursing Renée Ahdieh for destroying my soul with her literature. I won’t say too much about the ending except that it was absolutely perfect. 

I have loved this duology so much, it literally doesn’t have a weak moment in my opinion and would definitely recommend it to anyone. I can’t wait to see what Renée Ahdieh comes out with next!

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler

~~
“All I’m saying is there are rules.” Rachel’s face has gone chalky. Her voice is soft and quavers a little, as if she’s desperate to convince us of something. She stares into her plate, afraid to look at me. “You don’t get wasted. You don’t take off your top. You don’t flirt with raging drunks.” She leans in and grips the edge of the table, lowering her voice. “You don’t dress like a slut. You have to play by the rules. If you don’t, this is what happens.”
TW: RAPE


Angharad’s thoughts
This novel was truly heartbreaking.
I feel like it wouldn’t be right to mark this as anything but five stars. It is a book that doesn’t make you focus on punctuation or grammar etc, but more the story itself.
This novel is based on a true story and we follow Kate Weston who after attending a party, wakes up with no memory of its events. However, four people from Kate’s school are arrested over charges of sexual assault and child pornography. What is heartbreaking is that the victim, Stacey, is not believed and pretty much the whole town rallies around to support the assaulters. 

“Will be boys’ is what people say to excuse guys when they do something awful.” 

So many times during reading this book, I wanted to scream and cry and tear my hair out. It deals with sexism, rape culture, slut-shaming, feminism and the vicious web of social media. Stacey became an outcast all because she was brave enough to speak out and because Kate dared to believe the victim, she too was cast aside by everyone she knew. This is happening every day in our world and as the author states at the start of the book, ‘And for every “Stacey” whose story was never told.’

It is an important read, an eye-opening read. It will make you angry and heartbroken but it will also make you realise how important this topic is.

“Not being able to say no isn’t the same as saying yes.”


Becky’s thoughts
I’ve literally just finished reading this and I don’t know whether to cry or scream. I literally sat down and read the entire book in one sitting and under three hours, it was just that powerful. 

What We Saw follows the story of Kate, who recently attended a party, left early, and over the next few days discovers that an old friend of hers who was also at the party has filed allegations of rape and assault against four boys from their school. Stacey, the victim, immediately has her claims dismissed by the entirety of the small town that the girls live in. Only Kate bothers to give her the benefit of the doubt and question what truly happened at the party. 

Lindsey sits up and looks at me, her eyes are bright, but clear—quickened by the rage that fills her voice. “You heard Rachel’s ‘rules.’ If you learn what we learn here—that Dooney and all those guys are entitled to tell you if you’re pretty or not, that it’s up to you to make sure you don’t give boys a reason to hurt you? Then you don’t think it was a crime. You think what happened to Stacey was fair game. It was boys being boys. Just a trashy girl learning the hard way what can happen when she drinks too much and wears a short skirt.”


What’s truly heartbreaking about this book is that it’s based on a true story, and not only that, but reflects the stories of so many rape victims throughout history. Stacey is called all sorts of names intended to be derogatory, and no one will even bother to listen to her side of the story. It is such a relevant book in todays culture – besides dealing with issues of rape, assault and consent, it also looks at negative views of feminism and slut shaming. Stacey is called a whore and a slut after going to the police with her allegations, and when a feminist group threaten to post information on the case online, they’re immediately bombarded with derogatory comments relating to their views. 
“Why does everybody say ‘feminist’ that way?” 

“What way?” 

“The way Dooney kept saying ‘herpes’ after health class last year. Like it’s this terrible, unspeakable thing.”


I just literally don’t know how to express how much this book has impacted me already. It definitely wasn’t the most brilliant book I’ve read in terms of writing style etc (although some of the literary techniques that the author used were brilliant – I especially loved the use of some modern lyrics that sounded rather disturbing when mixed with the subject matter being fitted in between pieces of dialogue) or even in the plot (as I found a lot of it to be quite predictable), but the content and issues it deals with are just so important that it still definitely deserves the 5 stars I’ve given it. What We Saw is definitely a must read.





The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

“It’s a fitting punishment for a monster. to want something so much—to hold it in your arms — and know beyond a doubt you will never deserve it.” 

 

The Wrath and the Dawn (a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights) follows Shahrzad, a girl who has volunteered to marry Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. Every night, Khalid marries a new girl, just to see them hanged by a silk cord the following dawn. After Shahrzad’s closest friend is chosen for this fate and killed, she is determined to break this cycle and distract Khalid until she finds an opportunity to kill him. What Shahrzad doesn’t expect is that the two of them will fall for each other, and she will be sucked in to the many secrets that Khalid is hiding from her and the people of Khorasan.
Becky –
I have to say, I was unsure about reading The Wrath and the Dawn, and at first I wasn’t really getting into it – but I’m so glad I gave it a chance and carried on reading. This book was amazing and the ending blew me away! I’m in the middle of preordering The Rose & the Dagger as I type this.
Usually, I feel as though I would find this sort of plot to be too cringey for me, but I loved Shahrzad and Khalid. Their romance was developed perfectly and with just the right pacing so that it didn’t seem too unrealistic.
Aside from the romantic aspects of this book, the fantasy world is set and created really well, and I love the hints of magic throughout – it does seem as though this is something that will be expanded upon in The Rose & the Dagger as well, which I’m really excited about!

The ending was awfully heart-wrenching and has left me counting down the days until I can read the sequel, but I don’t know why I expected anything different of such a brilliant book.

My one initial problem with The Wrath and the Dawn was the beginning – it seemed to jump into the plot very fast, and I wasn’t too sure what was going on for the first couple of chapters. However, it did encourage me to keep reading so I could work out what on earth was happening and who each character was, and once I’d properly got into it I loved it!
Angharad –
 
I wasn’t sure about this one, purely because I’ve never been a fan of retellings but the beautiful cover and good reviews finally convinced me. I’m not kidding when I say I finished this book in ONE sitting. As in, I didn’t go to bed. As in, I sat still for a few hours until it was done. Why? Because it was so good.
Without mentioning spoilers (which I am prone to do), I will just say that this book was a fantastic and refreshing read. I loved the Arabian setting, I loved the concept and I love how we had to wait until pretty much the end of the novel to find out the reason for Khalid’s actions, making us as desperate to find out his secret as much as Shahrzad.
My criticisms are that I do wish that there had been more world-building so we could learn more about the fantasy aspect of the world. I also wish Shahrzad hadn’t of forgot her thirst for revenge so quickly. I think if the book had been longer, this would have been explored more. 
 
Renee’s writing was spellbinding. I could imagine the atmosphere in great detail and the magic of the book was in the writing itself. The romance was beautiful, really bloody beautiful. I love that it built up slowly but surely and then it just burst into so much intensity and want. “My soul sees its equal in you.” I mean?? It was lovely and I’m not usually a reader who likes the romance being the main point of the book.
Overall, I do recommend this book. As I mentioned, a few things could have been improved but other than that, it was a captivating read and I am very much looking forward to the sequel.
What were your thoughts on this book?
Let us know in the comments!

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

“Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them–made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.”
Wolf by Wolf takes place in 1956 and is a book set in an alternative history in which Hitler won the war. The story follows Yael, a girl with the unique gift, she can shape shift as a result of being experimented on in a death camp as a young child. She accepts a mission to compete in the annual Axis Tour: a motorcycle race across the continents but in order to do so, she must impersonate Adele Wolfe, last year’s only female winner. Armed with her ability and a mind filled with revenge, she sets out to win the race and ultimately, kill Hitler.

Angharad:
I was immediately drawn to this book as I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, however, I’ve never really read any alternative history. The premise was amazing, what would have happened if Hitler and the Nazis had won the war? What would become of the world and its people? Yael for me is one of my favourite characters. She is strong and clever and uses her tragic past and her reminding ability to achieve good. She doesn’t let anything get in the way of her goal, not even Adele’s twin brother, Felix and fellow competitor and former love interest, Luka.

The story switches between ‘then’ and ‘now.’ We learn of Yael’s past and all the people she lost along the way who are symbolised by the wolf tattoos on her arm, the only part of her appearance she can’t change.


The race itself has you on the edge of your seat. It is filled with obstacles and plot twists and moments that make you stare and whisper, “shit.” I love that Yael constantly has to be on guard and she isn’t afraid to do what needs to be done in order to win. The ending had me shocked but ten times more excited for the sequel.


Overall, I loved this book. My only criticism is that I wish the ending hadn’t of been so quick but it did make it all the more sudden. Read this book if you are a fan of historical fiction, especially with a twist and a love for action-packed journeys. If neither of those things grab your attention, read it for Yael.
Becky:

I loved this book so much that I started and finished it in just a couple of hours. As soon as I was recommended it, I knew it was just my sort of thing – a WWII era setting but with a twist on what we know actually happened after the war and an amazing, badass girl for a protagonist with an interesting back story. 


The book begins with Yael’s experiences as a young girl, which allows you to be plunged into her world straight away. Graudin takes Josef Mengele, Hitler’s infamous Angel of Death, and creates from him the nightmare that will both haunt Yael’s dreams and will change her into the weapon for the resistance that she becomes. Obviously, there are so many books and films that portray the awful things that happened inside Auschwitz and other death and labour camps during WWII. However, I’ve never read or seen anything that focuses on a character inspired by one of Mengele’s victims, and although Yael’s story is fictional, it really did bring to mind the horrifying reality that real people actually went through the things that Yael experiences, to an extent. The “Then” chapters of the book, which focus on Yael’s past and her path to where she is in 1956, really are chilling and at times left me on the edge of my seat. 

I think many people who didn’t experience WWII first hand have been told the stories of how our lives could have been today if Hitler had won the war, and Wolf by Wolf plunges you straight into those imagined horrors. What I really love about this premise, besides how unique and fascinating it is, is how the horrors really are hidden at times. Yael, the main character, will be walking down the street and be stopped by some German officers. All seems fairly average, until they make some throwaway comments that truly set the scene:

“Stray bitches make good target practice. Almost as much as commies and Jews.” The soldier laughed and slapped the butt of his Mauser.

It was, in a way, parts like this that really topped the book off for me. 

Wolf by Wolf was definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year so far – everything about it from beginning to end was action packed and completely drew me in. The ending took a huge, unexpected twist, leaving everything in the balance. 

I honestly can’t think of anything I disliked about this book – the one “problem” I had with it was that I wished it could have been longer, and although there was a lot of back story in there, I definitely wouldn’t have complained if there had been more! 


A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas


“Be glad of your human heart, Feyre. Pity those who don’t feel anything at all.”

A Court of Thorns and Roses is Sarah J. Maas’s retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The story follows Feyre, a young girl who is forced to hunt in order to keep her father and sisters alive. However, when Feyre kills a wolf that turns out to be a faerie, she is taken across the wall that divides the mortal lands and faerie lands to pay for her crime by spending the rest of her life in the Spring Court of Prythian, where she will face trials that she could never have anticipated.


Angharad:
Oh wow, this book was a roller coaster of a ride.

I almost put the book down after 100 pages. It just did not hook me in any way and I found the huge information dumps about the fae world to just be monotonous. Although in its defence, I have never been a huge fan of fairy tales/stories. I was originally going to give this book 1 star but the last 100 pages saved it, in my opinion.


Before the last few pages, I was reading purely for the sake of reading. I found Feyre’s time in the Court to be so uneventful that I nearly tore my hair out. Painting, eating, hunting, painting, eating, hunting and on and on and on. The occasional event happened but other than that, it was extremely boring.

On to the romance side of things. The relationship between Feyre and Tamlin, in my opinion, was quite problematic (the whole bite thing. Her fault apparently??) but other than that, it was… there. They were basically like horny teenagers. The three characters I enjoyed the most were the side characters – Lucien, Rhysand and Nesta. 

Basically, to cut a long story short, as soon as the trials began, so did the story. It’s such a shame that we had to wait until the end of the book for that. I’ll be in no rush to get the sequel.



Becky:

Well. What can I say about A Court of Thorns and Roses?
I LOVED THIS BOOK.


I haven’t found a fantasy novel that I literally couldn’t put down in a very long time (probably since I read Throne of Glass, to be honest) so I was so happy when I was immediately sucked into Feyre’s story. 


I thought that Maas adapted the classic story of Beauty and the Beast enough so that it didn’t feel as though you knew exactly what was going to happen whilst reading, but at the same time the inspiration for the book still very much shone through. A Court of Thorns and Roses really is a fairytale through and through – from the events leading up to Feyre’s actions and the consequences of it, the way that the love story develops, the folklore elements, to the three trials at the end of the book. As always with Sarah J. Maas’s books, it was written beautifully and I thought that the world building was perfect – I really could imagine what both the locations and characters looked like whilst reading. 

As for the characters, I loved Feyre from the beginning. The Hunger Games (as it did for many others, I imagine) ignited in me a love for girls who are good archers, and Feyre’s passion for art touched a soft spot too. As well as this, I loved that she had shouldered the task of keeping her family alive, despite being the youngest and not really being noticed or appreciated for all that she did for them. Her strength and bravery carries on throughout the book, when she willingly goes with Tamlin to Prythian in order to protect her family yet again, and when facing the three trials. 

On to Tamlin – of course, I hated him to begin with, but as his and Feyre’s romance developed, he grew on me more. However, Rhysand is the faerie that truly has a place in my heart after reading this book. 
I really enjoyed most of the other side characters as well, especially Lucien and Nesta (her development was perfect!) and Amarantha was an amazing antagonist. 

I did feel like this would have worked really well as a standalone book, but at the same time I am so glad that it isn’t and I can’t wait for the sequel!

I’d definitely recommend A Court of Thorns and Roses to all fantasy and fairytale lovers, and definitely to people who’ve loved the Throne of Glass series so far!



Have you read A Court of Thorns and Roses? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!