Thursday, 22 June 2017

Our Dark Duet


Book Title: Our Dark Duet
Author: V.E. Schwab
Series: Monsters of Verity #2
Date Started: June 16th 2017
Date Completed: June 22nd 2017
Genres: Dystopian, Action, Fantasy
Quality Rating: Five Stars
Enjoyment Rating: Five Star
Final Rating: Five stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.; finished in about three sittings. Even more than This Savage Song, I couldn't put it down. I'm a bit gutted it's over, honestly.

Victoria has such well-written action in her books. It's probably one of the smallest praises I can put on her writing - she's talented in a great many ways - but action and physical movement is always something that a lot of writers miss out on. You'd be surprised how many 'epic end battles' I've read that can barely string together two moves in a realistic fashion. But Vic manages whole fight scenes that you can visualise as easy as the characters themselves. There are human touches to the actions and a wordless fist fight can tell you just as much about the people as a dialogue scene.

The triumph of this series is its concept; I think I said a similar thing in my review of This Savage Song. The idea that acts of violence literally create humanoid monsters in their wake is genius, and the relationship those 'sinners' then have with the creatures even more so. The idea wasn't as key to the story as it was in the previous instalment, but gave the book a very solid foundation to work from. Our Dark Duet is more about the characters learning how to deal these monstrous creations and keep their own humanity while they're at it.
Something that struck me personally last time was the parallels between the monsters and mental health, and I was very happy to see it continued in this book. More so through the strength of the protagonists in the face of it than the experiences themselves this time, but it gave me a hand to hold and was actually pretty damn empowering. I'll get onto specifics on characters in a minute, but the narrative of accepting something as part of your existence without letting it take over struck home for me.
I have to say, while I loved the story of Our Dark Duet, there were a few things that were left unanswered or lost; Kate and her connection to this new monster was never really revealed (I don't think? Perhaps I was too caught up in the climax to catch the explanation), and her relationship with the people in Prosperity was somewhat abandoned after the first half. While I don't think these were things that were just 'conveniently missing' to make things easier, I was really interested in their part in the story and so was a bit sad they weren't carried the whole way through.

If there's one thing Victoria knows how to do, it's characters (and action, and story, and magic, and politics etc.). It's always the first thing I latch onto in her books, and it enhances the world she's constructed around them until it feels real.
Praise be (I've been watching The Handmaid's Tale) for kickass girls, and Kate is right at the top of the pile. Seeing her development from the first book is great, and her ability to have humanity but make the cold decisions that need to be made this book interesting. Kate almost goes solo in this book: she's with August of course, but a lot of her actions are her own and isolated from the rest. It was nice to see a female protagonist make her choices solely in her own mind, even if they aren't always the best options. Kate knows what she wants, for better or worse. And she's terrified, but all the braver for it.
August was someone I sorely missed wanting to hug, but he's not kidding when he says he's changed. He's still loveable, but while This Savage Song felt like his story, Our Dark Duet favours Kate. There's a very, very gentle relationship between the two which I appreciated and enjoyed for various reasons, especially from August's darker perspective in this book. Neither have had sheltered lives, but August was thrown into the middle of the chaos at the end of the last book and it's taken its toll. Very well done, of course, but I felt Kate's distress at finding a different August than the one she left behind.

Despite being dubious about the sequel to start with, The Monsters of Verity series works very well as a duology. This Savage Song was great as a stand alone (which is what I was convinced it was when I read it), but I can't complain about getting to follow Kate and August's story just a little further. It didn't feel unnecessary, it felt like a continuation, and it's joined the long list of five stars book from Vic in my library.

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