My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is beautifully written in the style that is classically Victoria Schwab. If you think it's going to be a traditional dystopia or another "monster" book, then think again. It's a story about family, trust, friendship, and looking past the surface to see what lies beneath. I'm going to discuss the types of monsters and the characters, but not the specific events. So, not so spoilery.
"Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw, Shadow and bone will eat you raw. Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly, Smile and bite and drink you dry. Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal, Sing you a song and steal your soul."
Verity is a city home to both human and three types of monsters; Corsai, Malchai, and Sunai. Corsai are the most feral of the monsters. They are all teeth and claws, travel in the shadows (becoming shadows), and leave nothing but a mangle of limbs behind as they eat people raw. Malchai are sly humanoid creatures with red eyes that drink the blood of humans. Callum Harker has managed to subdue most of the Malachai and keeps them as pets to do his bidding throughout the city. The last and most rare of the monsters are the Sunai. August is only one of three Sunai, his older brother and sister being the other two. They are able to pass as human with the ability to feed off of souls using the power of song. If photographed or caught on camera, their eyes appear blacked out.
Verity is a city divided between two leaders; Callum Harker and Henry Flynn. Kate Harker's father, Callum, controls the monsters of Verity through fear and submission. In Verity, the name Harker isn't spoken lightly. Callum Harker has such control over his monsters that he issues medals to the people, which allow them protection from monsters. A monster is literally not allowed to attack you if you're wearing the medal. On the opposite side, August Flynn's adoptive parents Henry and his wife Emily are leaders of the Flynn Task Force, FTF for short. They are the first on the scene when there's been a monster attack and are trying to mount a force against them. Harker believes in subduing the monsters and using them to help keep a hold over the city. The Flynns know the truth; monsters will never be controlled.
The Flynns have adopted three deadly Sunai as their own children. Leo is cunning and deadly, curt to the point of being brash, and knows his limits, but insists in pushing them. Leo believes in harnessing his Sunai powers instead of suppressing them to please the humans around him. Then there's middle sister Ilsa. Nothing but sweetness and kind words, Ilsa's locked up like a fairy tale princess in her tower for something she can't remember doing- or controlling. Don't get her wrong. Ilsa is far more powerful than anyone would take her for at face-value. It's her big heart that keeps her in check. Youngest son August is the emotional, worrisome one, who is always fretting over is maintaining his self-control. He hates the idea of hurting people or going feral like the other monsters. For him, appearing and being treated like a human is of the utmost importance.
August is sent on his first FTF mission to shadow Kate at their high school, at Colton Academy. She has recently returned to the city after being sent away by her father for most of her childhood. It's the first time August has been allowed to leave the Flynn Compound by himself and he's determined to prove himself capable of taking on more missions. On the other hand, Kate is also frustrated that her father has ignored her and wants to show him she's worthy of bearing his name. She's not a scared little girl who can be shovelled off from boarding school to boarding school anymore. Kate has proven that she has the gall to take care of herself. Now, she needs to show it to her father. And she's going to do it by taking down monsters. Perhaps she should look closer at the new guy with the violin. He's someone her father would love to get his hands on.
When you look at August and Kate, you really see the opposite sides of the war clearly. August is a monster, but he's not a monster. He's calm, loving, and so sweet. August doesn't want to hurt people and only feeds on people who have committed serious crimes (those marked by heavy sins). He's a monster who hates being a monster. Kate is a tad bit more trigger-happy. A tad. She doesn't think there can be a 'good monster.' She's only ever seen the violent, brutal aspects of the monsters her father keeps. She also doesn't get that her father is enslaving an entire group for his benefit. He has a Malchai butler!
I loved seeing these two together. Rarely do you get to have such different characters alternating and bringing in their strong opinions. You will be cheering for a side you didn't think you were cheering for. Or maybe not. It's really one of those situations that leaves you asking, "Do all monsters have to be bad?" When you find out the backstory behind how monsters came to be, you'll be kicking yourself for judging anyone. Who's really to blame here? Us or them?
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