Format: eAudiobook from Overdrive / physical book
My Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars for both books
Over the past few months, I’ve read quite a bit of Schwab’s writing. Recently, I finished her Shades of Magic series, which I adored. Several of my friends on Goodreads were reading her YA Monsters of Verity duology, so I jumped on the bandwagon. In this post, I discuss both books in a relatively spoiler-free fashion.
On the whole I was… underwhelmed by these books. While there were aspects I really enjoyed, there was quite a bit that just didn’t capture my imagination. I’m realizing more and more that dark dystopia might not be my thing.
A bit about the books: the series takes place in a dystopian America in which the states are split into territories named after virtues. The main action takes place in the city of Verity, where monsters roam at night keeping everyone in terror. Verity is a city split in two, held together by a tenuous agreement that is quickly fraying. The north is lead by Callum Harker, who reigns through fear and uses the monsters to his advantage. The south is held by Henry Flynn, an ex-surgeon who heads the military-like organization, FTF.
The series centers around Kate Harker and August Flynn, the children of these two leaders. Kate is reckless, impulsive, and on a mission to prove her worth to her father. August, quiet and sensitive, just wants to be human. Pushed together by circumstances, they forge a deep friendship.
By the end of the first book, Kate and August’s primary motivations have changed significantly, which altered my enjoyment of each character. In the first book, I found Kate really annoying and August extremely compelling. In the second, my opinions were reversed: August’s character arc had lost its shine, while Kate’s became more interesting.
I’ve come to appreciate Schwab’s ability to write strong friendships without veering too far into the territory of romance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good love story, but it’s refreshing to have male/female friendships that largely stay friendship. There’s a bit in the second book that had me rolling my eyes and thinking, “Really? I thought there wouldn’t be any of this.” But, even with that particular scene, August and Kate’s bond remains largely unromantic.
One of the most compelling things about this series are the monsters–the violent Corsai, shadowy Malchi, and mysterious Sunai. These creatures are bred out of the darkness of humanity, from acts of violence and terror. When humans do terrible things to each other, their souls become tarnished and monsters are born. Is this creepy and terrifying? Yes. Yes it is.
The Sunai are easily the most interesting of the monsters. They look like humans, but are sustained by consuming the souls of sinners. They harvest these souls by playing music. As the series goes on, this ability leads to some interesting musings on morality. Some of the Sunai see the world in black and white–if someone’s soul is stained red, they are a sinner and therefore must be reaped. But what if that person committed violence out of necessity? What if it was an accident? What if, despite their sins, are trying to make things right? Are they still a sinner? Do they still deserve to die? I found these situations the most interesting parts of the books.
I’ve heard Schwab praised for her world building and, while that definitely rings true for the Shades of Magic books, isn’t the case here. The world of Verity felt flat and undeveloped. It felt like something I’ve seen before. Aside from the city, the waste that surrounds it, and some brief bits about the other territories, we hardly got to see any of the world. We see a bit of Prosperity (one of the other territories) in the second book, but not enough to give a full picture of what the place is like. I’m left wondering–are there monsters only in Verity? If so, why is that? If not, are the monsters from the other territories different? One monster did come out of Prosperity in the second book, but why only that one? What sin created it?
All in all, these books were enjoyable, but I wasn’t blown away. I didn’t love them, didn’t hate them, and while they raised some interesting questions of morality, will probably forget them as time goes on.
Have you read these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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