[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.]
Took me a while to get to this one, I don't know why, so apologies to the publisher—I've had the ARC for a few months.
I guess it didn't turn out like I thought, although I don't know what I expected. Something more... intense? Savage, like the title? More action? Or maybe for the "failed assassination" part to happen sooner?
On the one hand, I really liked some of the concepts introduced here. First, the city divided between North and South, each side in the hands of "leaders" with their own ruthless ways—one a mobster-like crime lord who keeps the monsters in check by being a monster, too, and the other a benevolent military type who nevertheless has no qualms to associate with monsters as well. Second, the way those monsters are born: the shadowy Corsai from violence that doesn't result in death, the Malchai from actual murder, and the Sunai for massacres, which contrasts in a terribly beautiful way with how they feed: born from the ugliest acts of violence, of dozens, hundreds, thousands of people killed in bombings and the likes, yet performing their killings through enchanting music. And let's not forget the conundrum of the monster who wants to be human, who knows he cannot be, and who risks turning into an even worse monster if he denies his nature (not feeding basically means he'll turn into a mass-murder predator, then will wake up having lost some bits of his hard-won personality... forever).
Also, no romance. Seriously. Not for one moment is it implied that Kate and August are meant to end up with each other in that way. As reluctant partners-in-crime? As friends at some point? Sure. But no twu wuv for these two, and that's a breath of fresh air in a category (YA) where you know almost every main lead will meet one, potentially two (or more!) love interests.
Wonderful, wonderful ideas. The boy-monster who desperately wants to be human, even trying to believe in that dream when he gets to attend a school full of human beings, and the girl who's ready to any length, including threatening her schoolmates and setting fire to a chapel at night, in order for her father to finally acknowledge her—meaning she needs to be as bad as him for that to happen, therefore turning into her own kind of monster.
And yet... Yet I couldn't feel much of a pulse in the story. Maybe it went too slowly. Maybe it's the kind of story where the characters need to be thrown in the action first, and then get to meet and to know each other, to discover their respective secrets and accept who they are (and who the other is). The Colton Academy part was perhaps too long, with August and Kate appearing like generic characters rather than real people (they remained a bit bland throughout the novel, in my opinion). And while I tend to like information about the world being given regularly, distilled between two events or two dialogues, instead of being chunked at the reader in huge blocks of info-dumping, in the end I still don't know what that world is made of. Strangely enough, I may not have minded this if the story had been set in V-City only, with "The City" as a character itself; here, it was too much a "yet another USA turned dystopian for some unknown reason".
Conclusion: loved the concepts, execution though was too weak compared to what could've been (and I know it definitely could've been, coming from this author!).