“People were messy. They were defined not only by what they’d done, but by what they would have done, under different circumstances, molded as much by their regrets as their actions, choices they stood by and those they wished they could undo. Of course, there was no going back – time only moved forward – but people could change.
And for better.
It wasn’t easy. The world was complicated. Life was hard. And so often, living hurt.
So make it worth the pain.”
So, I feel like I would have enjoyed Our Dark Duet a bit more if I had read it closer to when I finished This Savage Song. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed this second and final novel of the Verity books…but it was surprisingly a little lackluster for me in places. That sense of urgency, that feeling of needing to read more and find out what happens next, that I had after This Savage Song just was not really there for me anymore. That and a few other things lead me to give this book 2.5 stars.
This will have spoilers!
This second book picks up 6 months later, with Kate living in Prosperity and living a life as a vagabond, monster hunting vigilante. She’s as badass as ever and she has found a little circle of not-quite-friends who know the truth like her and are willing to fight back against the monsters infiltrating the city. That is until a new kind of monster shows up and slightly infects Kate. That gets her moving back in the direction of Verity, which, let’s be honest, is where we all knew she was going anyway.
That’s why this longish setup with her in Prosperity felt kind of disjointed to me. I know we are supposed to see this new life Kate has made for herself and see these people that kind of care for her now, and we are supposed to feel something about her having to leave them. But I didn’t really feel anything. There was not enough build up or development into this little detour to make it all that relevant to me. The new monster was interesting, of course, but I feel like that easily could have taken place in Verity and been just as impactful.
Meanwhile, August is back in Verity and he is basically a shell of his former self. He is all business now and he reaps souls whenever he needs to, and he has absolutely no room for thoughts about his humanity anymore. I get it, August can be super emo, but at times it felt pretty repetitive, like it was beating the reader over the head or something. I found Leo’s voice in his head pretty odd and unexplained. And again, in terms of new people we are supposedly supposed to care about or at least be intrigued by, and their relationship to August, like Harris and Rez and Ani, I felt that they were wildly undeveloped. The only other person who made an impact was Ilsa, despite not having a voice this book. I was just waiting for Kate to get back already, because I felt like then the book would pick up some and the action would start.
I guess that was my main issue with the beginning. The first 200 or so pages felt pretty much like filler to me, which is disappointing, because there was so much potential for what could have been done with this story. Why separate August and Kate, the two main characters who are much more interesting together than they are apart, for so much of the story? Their’s is the dynamic that pulls readers in. Nothing would mean much of anything in the books if it wasn’t for the two of them and their reactions/interactions to the world around them. And yet, they barely had any time together in this novel. Not even “romantic” time, just any time at all to have a conversation. I am all for the characters having other important interactions and relationships, of course that is only natural, but for them not to have much of any together was just odd to me.
On the other hand, the parts where they were together again, the few that there were, were great! I loved how you could see with perfect subtlety how much they truly cared for one another, how they were willing to challenge the other and help them fight for what is right and what they deserve. Kate’s speech to August about holding on despite the pain he feels was poignant and well done. Seeing their interactions here reminded me why I was so invested in them in This Savage Song. I just wish there was more of it. And the kiss that they shared was sweet, but so sad. Not only did they realize that they could never be together because August could kill Kate, but it just had such a heavy weight of goodbye over it. I felt then that it would be the first and last time they were intimate and I was right.
The whole thing with Sloan and Alice was good in a creepy way, if a little overly dramatic at times. I again liked that the monsters were actual monsters in this series and Schwab never shied away from the brutality and bloodshed of the world. I liked the feints and schemes that Sloan cooked up, because they kept me guessing about how everything would turn out. I did not see some of the twists coming.
The final showdown had all of the suspense, gore, action, and heartbreak that I expected from Schwab, even if parts of it did feel a little rushed. The ending of the Chaos Eater was a little too fast for me. But overall, it was a satisfying climax in terms of the fight between the Sloan’s monsters and Henry Flynn’s army. I was of course sad to see Ilsa go, but it felt fitting that she died to protect August. I was much less prepared for Kate’s death, although a part of me knew that there was really no other option than for either her or August to die at the end. How else would you wrap up the story of a monster-hunting girl and a monster that wishes he was human who are tragically in love with each other but know they can never actually be together? It’d be hard to do. So yes, I on some level expected one of them to die. I did not think it would be so quick though and so “off the page.” It felt kind of unfinished, leaving August holding Kate’s dead body without much of a goodbye between them at all. It almost diminished the impact of her death for me. And to leave August without any of the people he really cared for (Kate, Ilsa, Henry) when he was so recently on the verge of losing himself, while at the same time taking Kate away from August and her new life in Prosperity, it felt pretty damn unfair. At the same time, it is realistic, which I give Shwab credit for. She didn’t back down from a harsh and brutal outcome. Things don’t always work out like we want them to and words are left unsaid. I can appreciate the grim reality.
Schwab’s writing was, as always, fluid and poetic. Her voice between the characters was great and her world building, action, plot buildup were all on point. Like I said, the only things I would fault her on here would be the pacing in the beginning and the lack of development in some areas. On a thematic level, I continued to enjoy the concept of humanity and what makes one a monster vs. a human. The introduction of Soro, while also being a wonderful depiction of a gender-neutral character, was an interesting study of how you can judge a soul. How can someone ever be deemed truly pure or a sinner? I found those concepts fascinating and liked that they were explored further here. Overall, this was a good and satisfying conclusion to the duology, with just a few things I wish were done differently. Some of the potential was wasted, it seemed, and I was not in agreement with certain choices. Still, I really did enjoy this book and Schwab continues to be one of my new favorite authors!
Thank you for reading!