Hello everyone, and welcome back!
Today is the release date of Our Dark Duet, so I thought it’d be a good time to drop some thoughts on it! I was lucky enough to get my hands on it ahead of time and even have some time to think thoughts, so.
It’s always tricky to review sequels and avoid spoilers, hence the listiness. Spoiler alert for this review: I liked this, but not as much as the first book, This Savage Song. My instincts are telling me that if you liked that book, you’ll probably like this one, but maybe not quite as much. But if you want to know some of what I felt, keep scrolling!
Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab
If you’re new to this duology, it starts with This Savage Song, and it’s about a kind of dystopian supernatural fantasy future where monsters, borne from human crimes, stalk the streets of Verity, which is a city divided down the middle: one wealthier half protected by a monster hunter who’s paid for protection, another more dismal half patrolled by a group of civilian soldiers trying to take back the night.
August is a type of monster who can play a song and steal your soul; Kate is the daughter of the monster hunter. From either side of the city, they meet in a star-crossed friendship kind of situation and negotiate a lot of shades of grey. This second book…pretty much deals with the aftermath of their first book actions. So.
1. There’s a bit more worldbuilding in this book, as you would expect, only…okay. So the first book explains some few things, and there are definitely questions left unanswered. But the story has the narrow scope of one city and (mostly) two characters, and a sequel was looming, so it worked out okay. Here, the scope expands, the stakes are higher, but…there are more questions, and it felt like fewer answers. And sometimes, that feels…almost unfair in a fantasy world, because it needs consistency within its confines, to the extent that any change in the norm has to be explained. And here, I felt that some of those explanations just…lacked.
2. There’s a non-binary character just casually in this book, which made me happy! I wish we had gotten to know more about them, though? There are some things I would’ve sacrificed to get more of a sense of their personality and motivations, for sure, because they’re kind of an important figure. But if that’s some representation you’re also stoked to see, then enjoy, prospective reader!
3. This book does the Thing that I don’t necessarily love that seems like a real problem these days in movies and YA books: the thing where you get sucker punched in the feels and the narrative just moves forward quickly, so there’s no time to really catch your breath and feel the impact. I can live with this when the protagonists are busy and we get the reaction/quiet moment later, but not so much when it feels like we have to imagine most of it. I think, to me, for a sad character beat to land, letting it sink in at some point is crucial.
4. Okay, this is coming off pretty negative so far. To be fair, I was expecting a lot, because I liked This Savage Song pretty well. So here’s something I liked: This Savage Song was a lot about shades of grey, but Our Dark Duet went further in considering the moral questions that’d haunt characters like August and Kate. More grey! Fifty or more shades! (Okay, I’m sorry.)
5. And I still really like Kate, who is still an unapologetically “difficult” young woman, tough as nails with mile-high walls. I don’t know if I realized how much I appreciated her until I picked up this book and she was there again. She’s cut from a lot of the same cloth as A Darker Shade of Magic‘s Lila Bard (with one bad ear instead of Lila’s particular disability), but when you write this type of character well, then I’m happy to see more of them, and I feel Victoria/V.E. Schwab does.
6. August’s arc in this book kind of bored me, to be totally honest; his first book inner conflict as a monster who wants to be human was a common one, but it was fun in the context of the story, particularly given his unique type of monstrosity. His conflict in this one was usual without much to lend it interest, for me. That put a bit of a damper on things at the times he was on his own in the book.
I don’t think I have too much else to say on this book right at the moment; sequels are always tricky. If you liked the first book, I think you’ll probably like this one, but if my instincts are right, I think you’ll probably not like it quite as much. SORRY BUT I have to keep it real with you, my bookish friends.
What are some of your favourite sequels? Better yet, what are some of your favourite supernatural fantasy books? (I definitely need more in my life.) Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!