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.
This book has been recced all over Booktube and the general internet for a good few months now. Schwab is the same author who wrote a darker shade of magic which has also been recced everywhere and beyond, the author’s tendency not to capitalise her titles aside. So when I saw it in the bookshop, I delighted in finding the first one of the series (normally I find the second or third which is very, very annoying) and bought it. Along with a darker shade of magic which I am reading at the moment. I’m going to try and not compare the two though because I haven’t finished Magic yet.
I really, really loved this book. It took a little while to get into but I kept going because the whole idea behind it was very, very interesting. A city divided into two, the northern half run by the equivalent of a mob boss and the southern half run by a man who has the military trying to keep order and monsters no matter where you live? That got my attention but then I kept on reading. Verity has a monster problem and those monsters are created from people’s sins and the type of sinful act is what monster is created and that really caught me. It is a really interesting world and I just loved the whole idea of how the different monsters are created, how they’re killed and how they differ in minds as well.
Then we have the actual plot. I think it developed really well, establishing the world as it is and then turning it completely upside down with Leo and Sloan and Kate’s home. The book was slow to start but it didn’t spend too long on the middle part of the book, where August and Kate were getting to know each other, which I appreciated because sometimes that can drag on too long. The two of them (August and Kate) were far more interesting together and trusting each other despite everything, than they were apart. Apart as characters they were a bit… not meh but they didn’t draw me straight in as other characters have in the past, but together they were far more proactive. I have to admit, I’m a bit of a sucker for ‘us against the world’ type stories if they’re done right and this was done right.
Now onto the parts I didn’t like so much. I feel like Kate was a bit of a bad girl who we were told (by August) that she had a heart but we didn’t see much evidence of it. Until she let August live of course and by that point the two of them were together and, like I said, they were far more interesting. I didn’t really empathise with her wanting to get her father’s respect, I didn’t want her to succeed and I didn’t care too much about her as a protagonist. With August, I felt like he didn’t have much direction? Like he didn’t have a clear goal about where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do. He wanted to be human and I empathised with that but he didn’t really have his own clear direction until Kate came along and then it was ‘stay alive’ and ‘stop the war so his sister didn’t have to murder everyone again’. I’m a little sad that the two of them split up at the end of the book but I find myself wanting to read the sequel anyway.
I didn’t like how it was slipped in that Verity and the other territories used to be the USA before the war and the states were disbanded and so on and so forth. That wasn’t needed, I was quite happy thinking of it as a completely different world without questioning where all the history and technology had gone.
That said, I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys slightly dystopian fantasy.