Book review: Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

Goodreads ⭐ Read First: This Savage Song ⭐ Amazon ⭐

“I know it hurts,“ she said. “So make it worth the pain.”

In Our Dark Duet, Kate Harker has left Verity and made a new life for herself in the neighboring town of Prosperity.  Whereas Verity is quite literally infested with monsters, Prosperity is still more or less a safe town with only the occasional attack.  Kate works with a group of teens to take down monsters as they appear, but she’s still very much the loner that she’s always been.

Back in Verity, August Flynn has had to take on a new role after his brother’s death.  Before the tide turned for the worse, August dreamed of someday becoming human.  Now, he has no choice but to methodically reap the souls of every sinner who tries to slip into his family’s compound.

When Kate learns that the violence in Verity has bred an entirely new monster, she feels obligated to return.  She’s stunned to find the new August, a Sunai who has embraced his role in life and bears little resemblance to her former friend.  Together, can they return Verity to its former safety?  Or is the town too far gone to be saved?

Oh, my heart.  This is the sixth book I’ve read by Victoria Schwab and I should know to expect this by now, but somehow, I was still surprised.  I think I might have actually died as I finished this book.  Victoria Schwab ripped my heart straight out of my chest with that ending.  The worst part is that I’ll still read anything that she writes.

I don’t want to get too much into the details of the plot or what happens to the characters.  Thankfully, I successfully avoided all spoilers before diving into this book, and although it nearly killed me (see above), I’m glad that I didn’t know what to expect going in.  Just like with A Conjuring of Light, it’ll probably take me weeks to recover from this trauma.

I probably sound overdramatic with all of this ranting and raving about the ending, but this is really a very good book.  Schwab has put such a new and interesting twist on the dystopian genre with this duology and, truth be told, I’m a little sad that the series is finished.  This is most definitely a world that I could continue to explore.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

Book review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

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What would happen if the world were so far gone that violence actually bred violence? If killing someone literally created a monster? Would you put your faith in a man who enslaves these monsters, or the one who tries to keep the peace?

August Flynn is a Sunai, a monster created from the worst of catastrophes. Taken in by the peacekeeping Flynn family and raised as much like a human child as possible, August wants nothing more than to actually be human. Constantly fighting his nature, constantly trying to keep himself from taking yet another soul, despite the fact that he needs to feed in order to live, August was a heartbreaking character.

Kate Harker is something of a legend. Her father controls the worst of the monsters, and as such, tries to keep her out of the way. She’s been kicked out of countless boarding schools for such ruthless acts as setting fire to a chapel. She’s not afraid of anything, especially not her father’s monsters, or so she’d have you think.

When Harker’s carefully controlled monsters begin to revolt, August and Kate team up to keep one another safe. The plot is pretty standard-issue young adult dystopia, but it differs from the norm in that there is absolutely zero romantic connection between August and Kate. A wary friendship, maybe, but certainly no pesky feelings.

The book definitely feels like the first in a series. It took awhile to find its footing, but once it did, I was just as invested as I’ve been in any of Schwab’s work. Similarly, Kate took awhile to grow on me, but then I fell in love with her character. (I loved August from the beginning. What can I say, monstrous boys who play the violin have a special place in my heart.) I cannot wait for Our Dark Duet, which is due to be released in June 2017.

Is this Schwab’s best work? No, I think that honor belongs to her Shades of Magic series. Is this the best book you’re going to read all year? Probably not. Is it a really great representation of what dystopian literature could be if authors would just think outside the box for once? YES.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

Book review: Vicious by V.E. Schwab

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Eli and Victor started out as college roommates. They had a shared interest in ExtraOrdinaries, those people you sometimes hear about who have superhuman abilities. If you’re familiar with the tv show Misfits, that’s the kind of people we’re talking about here. Only, Eli and Victor’s interest went far past your normal curiosity. They not only wanted to know how EOs came to be, but also how to create them.

Fast forward ten years, and Victor is getting out of jail. Eli is the town’s hero, having just taken down a bank robber. Victor knows that something is off with Eli, and he knows that he needs to be stopped. But if Eli is a hero, and Victor stops him, does that make him the villain?

There are no clear-cut answers in this book. Nobody is purely good or evil. Everybody seems to fall into a kind of gray area, where they might be doing bad things, but at least they’re doing them for a good reason. I can see how this might turn some people off, but I personally loved it.

If I say much more about this book, I’ll get into spoilers, and it’s better to go into this book without knowing what to expect. I’ll just end this by saying that the first half is definitely better than the second. I’d give the first half a solid five stars, while the second half is more of a three. It evens out to four for me, and I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the sequel, Vengeful.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

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“Everyone thinks I have a death wish, you know? But I don’t want to die – dying is easy. No, I want to live, but getting close to death is the only way to feel alive. And once you do, it makes you realize that everything you were doing before wasn’t actually living. It was just making do. Call me crazy, but I think we do the best living when the stakes are high.”

It seems like just a few days ago that I read A Darker Shade of Magic, but looking back into my Goodreads history, it looks like it was actually back in December 2014.  (I guess that explains why I was a little fuzzy on the details when I started A Gathering of Shadows.)  Anyway, ADSoM was one of my favorites of 2014, and AGoS will probably be one of my favorites of 2016.

I love this world.

So many fantasy novels delve too far into the romance.  They set their plot aside, particularly in sequels or as the series continues on, for the sole reason of developing their love interests.  One of my favorite things about this book, this series actually, is that the focus is on the action.  The focus is on the magic.  On the different worlds.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some serious romantic tension building between Kell and Lila.  (I’m definitely hoping for some resolution there in the next book!)  But for most of the book, Kell and Lila are on opposite sides of the world.  Even when they’re not, the focus is on the Essen Tasch, a magical tournament bringing all of the (Red) world’s empires together.

It’s not all fun and games, though.  A threat lurks in White London.  Kell and Prince Rhy must deal with the aftermath of the spell that saved Rhy’s life, but bound it to Kell’s.  Add to that a cruel, cruel cliffhanger, and I am eagerly anticipating book three.

Please don’t make me wait too long for it!

Final rating:  ★★★★☆

Book review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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Four different worlds. Four different Londons. Blood magicians, a feisty thief, and body snatching royalty – just a few of the things you’ll get in A Darker Shade of Magic.

Kell is from Red London, a flourishing empire where magic is celebrated. As an Antari, a blood magician capable of traveling between parallel worlds, his job is to deliver news between Londons. White London is a terrifying, ruthless place where magic is power and people will do anything to gain, or hold onto, what little magic they can. In Grey London, a sad, colorless place with almost no magic remaining, he meets Delilah Bard. Lila is rough around the edges, quick to fight, and hopeful that someday she’ll be able to get away from London and become a true pirate.

Kell and Lila find themselves drawn together as Kell is tricked into an impossible situation involving the fabled Black London, shut off from the world because of a magical plague.

I’ll be honest and say that it took me awhile to get into this one. There was really an awful lot going on – not in a bad way – and it took me a few chapters to immerse myself in Kell’s world. Once I did, the pages flew by as I read as much in one sitting as I possibly could. I loved the whole idea of the Antari, blood magicians who can do just about anything. With a drop of his blood and a few words, Kell can create doors out of nothing, heal the sick and injured, and change the world around him. I look forward to learning more about the Antari in the book(s) to come.

While I wasn’t a huge fan of Lila at the beginning – I thought she was reckless and took far too many stupid risks – I grew to love her toward the end. Schwab develops her character very well, showing the motivation behind her actions and giving her hopes, dreams, and goals. You see, Lila just wants to get out of Grey London. She wants to see the world. She doesn’t want to be stuck in a boring life, doing the same boring things day after day, until she dies. She’d rather live an exciting life, even if it’s dangerous, or even deadly.

Fans of YA and adult fantasy are likely to love A Darker Shade of Magic. I highly recommend it.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy!

Final rating: ★★★★☆