With Our Dark Duet, Nashville novelist Victoria Schwab concludes her dark fantasy sequence for young adults that began with This Savage Song. The dangerous world of these books is populated by three breeds of monsters who rise from the death of anyone whose soul is stained by sin. Our Dark Duet, the story of the slow redemption of a human being whose father was monstrously evil, brings the series to a shattering conclusion.
Following the event that spawned the monsters, the United States has collapsed into ten city-states. One of them, Verity, was once ruled by a ruthless dictator, Callum Harker, backed by his own army of monsters. Harker’s death has left his daughter Kate orphaned, but she is gradually finding her place in the adjacent city-state of Prosperity among a group of teenage hackers who work to identify monsters that Kate helps to destroy. War rages between the monsters released by Harker’s death and the embattled remnants of humanity.
But in Prosperity (this being a dystopian novel), Kate finds a new horror, a dark spirit that feeds on human chaos. It is drawn to the battle in Verity, where Kate’s monster friend August Flynn—a Sunai monster who secretly longs to be human—is working with the last humans in a losing battle against the other monsters. Kate follows the new demon, fighting its infection in her soul, resisting the urge to kill everyone close to her: “This thing, whatever it is, I’ve seen what it can do. It gets into people’s heads, and it brings out something dark. Something violent. It turns them into the monster,” she tells an interrogator when she’s caught back in Verity. “And then it spreads. Like a virus.”
August, watching the questioning, sees something no one else does—the streak of dead silver in Kate’s eye. He recognizes that the demon has infected her and that it’s trying to break her will to resist. But when he rescues her from her prison cell, Kate finds that August, too, has changed. Just as she is fighting the monster’s violence within her, August is fighting to quell his deep desire for human softness and connection.
As in This Savage Song, Kate and August are mirror images of dark and light, each the yin to the other’s yang. Kate has nearly surrendered to her dark side, becoming the ruthless killer she has always felt rising inside her. At the same time, August, a monster born from mass murder, a reaper of souls, is a reluctant leader of the human forces of resistance: “He closed his eyes and saw two versions of himself, the first surrounded by bodies, blood and shadow climbing his wrists, the second sitting on the roof, hoping to see stars,” Schwab writes. “And as he watched, that second self began dissolving, like a dream, a memory unraveling moment by moment, slipping through his grip.”
Caught between their conflicting desires to resist both the violence in Kate’s heart and the softness in August’s, they go to war shoulder-to-shoulder against chaos. “If This Savage Song was a tense exploration of human nature, this sequel is the reckoning,” notes a starred review in Booklist.
Schwab is the author of several other young-adult novels, including The Near Witch. Writing as V.E. Schwab, she is also the author of a dark-fantasy trilogy for adults that began with A Gathering of Shadows and concluded with A Conjuring of Light, which hit shelves earlier this year.
Lyda Phillips is a veteran journalist who grew up in Memphis and has earned degrees from Northwestern, Columbia, and Vanderbilt universities. The author of two young-adult novels, she worked for United Press International before returning to Nashville.