Review: Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab

Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity, #2)Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Kate Harker is a girl who isn’t afraid of the dark. She’s a girl who hunts monsters. And she’s good at it. August Flynn is a monster who can never be human. No matter how much he once yearned for it. He has a part to play. And he will play it, no matter the cost.

Nearly six months after Kate and August were first thrown together, the war between the monsters and the humans is a terrifying reality. In Verity, August has become the leader he never wished to be, and in Prosperity, Kate has become the ruthless hunter she knew she could be. When a new monster emerges from the shadows—one who feeds on chaos and brings out its victim’s inner demons—it lures Kate home, where she finds more than she bargained for. She’ll face a monster she thought she killed, a boy she thought she knew, and a demon all her own.

Our Dark Duet takes you back into the world where monsters are sin made flesh, and ‘haunted by your crime’ is a real thing. At the start of the book, we are 6 months past the ending of This Savage Song, and August is now the Alpha of the FTF (a position he had to take since he killed Leo) and is trying to hold a city together and protect it from monsters created on the Harker side (which is now overrun by Corsai and Malchai, leaving refugees flooding into the Flynn side). Meanwhile, Kate has been moonlighting as a monster-hunter over in Prosperity, which, surprise surprise, has a different set of sin monsters. Something to do with the type of sin and how openly it is committed, but I did find the concept a little shaky considering humans are humans, wherever they are. Anyway, when a new kind of monster pops up in Prosperity, and changes course to Verity, Kate has to return to warn August and help him in the fight against monsters.

Did ODD recapture the magic and whimsy of TSS? That would be difficult to judge, with the story’s objective shift being so different this time around – a concrete goal rather than a conspiracy, which is why this one felt a bit lacking. ODD is awesome, but it was also a little hard to hold onto – it did not enthrall me the way TSS did on its first read – even with the addition of new elements this time around. The narrative is still very much about human nature, and sin and redemption, though, which plays into the introduction of the new monster – because it changes the way the Sunai deal with the matter. Also, the Malchai, esp Sloan have an interesting arc in this book, with him going beyond just plain ambition of power. There are a bit of Snow Queen vibes with the new monster, but it is also never explained how monsters over in Prosperity are formed, and there isn’t a satisfactory ending to that arc.

August is battle-hardened at the start of this book, partly due to the ghost of Leo still haunting him, and partly because he has become all about ‘the greater good’ now. His desire to become human is mostly forgotten, until Kate re-enters his life. Kate, for her part, gets a taste of a little modern-life (like, our modern life) normalcy in Prosperity, but the ghost of Verity still keeps her tethered to her old life. August’s change makes her want to remind him of all that he wanted to be, even though she had scoffed at his ideals during the previous book. Their relationship, which was a solid friendship by the end of TSS, was given a more romantic touch in this book. I’m a bit on the fence about this – I love the two of them, but I loved the idea that they were such a good pair even without the romantic element (I remember that was one of the things I most loved about TSS) and that including that felt like a waste of build-up. I would have been much happier if their relationship was left platonic – YA has very few of those – and it would have been much more symbolic, considering Soro’s objection to it.

The ending was bittersweet, but also satisfactory in how the Verity story was wrapped up. It is still pretty open-ended, but considering the world-building, any other would have felt inorganic. Prosperity, though, I would welcome further books on it, because I feel like the characters introduced there deserved more emotional development. Speaking of secondary characters, there is diverse rep, with a gay character, Riley, notable POC characters in both cities, as well as agender/genderfluid rep in Soro (who is explicitly given they/them pronouns).

Overall, as a sequel and a finale to a duology, it is great, but maybe not as awesome as the first, This Savage Song. 4.5 stars for this one.

Content warning: violence, mutilation

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