Rating: 5/5 hoots
Published: September 4 2018
Number of pages: 363
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: urban fantasy, horror, mystery, supernatural
Audience: young adult
Get it at: Chapters Indigo
Shelve it at: Goodreads
Nita doesn’t murder supernatural beings and sell their parts on the internet, she only dissects the body. Her mother brings Nita the specimen before shipping them off to buyers. But one day, things change for Nita when her mother brings a live specimen and orders her to cut it off to pieces. It’s a live teenage boy who won’t stop begging for help. Nita wants out.
But after she saves her victim, Nita ends up in his place and since she isn’t human, Nita is shipped to the Death Market where all the other supernaturals are sold. She has this special ability to alter her biology, which is priceless in the black market. Locked in a cage, struggling to escape, Nita must ask herself if she is willing to be the worst kind of monster if she ever wants to be free from her prison.
An advanced reading copy was received by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I have never watched the Dexter TV series so I’m just going to use NBC Hannibal meets This Savage Song instead. It still works as they’re both TV shows with psychopathic serial killers and cannibals. So if you watched the TV show Dexter or Hannibal or both, and you absolutely enjoyed the Dark Duet duology by Victoria Schwab (my most favorite author of all time) then you might enjoy this new debut by Rebecca Schaffer who decided to make this into a series and I’m very excited by that.
I know the next book doesn’t come out until next year but after following the story, the plot twists, the dark and grittiness of the characters and the theme of cannibalism, morals and humanity, really enraptured me. I was so attentive with the story and the characters that everything was building up so well, including that cliffhanger. I have high hopes for this series now which could also bite me back because who knows how the next book will turn out, but nonetheless I was pretty impressed of how well this turned out. So I’ll leave it at that.
We follow Nita, our narrator who recounts her life with her mother and helps with the family business by dissecting dead bodies of unnaturals, supernatural creatures living among humans. There are some pretty bad unnaturals that are a danger to human society and it’s not uncommon to sell their body parts for business. Species like zannies are the most dangerous to humans and are willing to work for mafias in exchange for fulfilling their hunger. That’s why dissecting unnaturals seem indifferent to Nita because she thinks that by cutting up their bodies and having her mother sell them to the highest bidder is doing good for society. But she is also doing this because studying bodies has always been a passion for her. Scooping up eyeballs, taking out organs and plopping them into glass jars have always been a satisfying ritual for Nita.
Everything seems normal at first until her mother brings in a specimen that not only is it still alive but also looks human. Suddenly Nita can’t decide what she should do with it: cut him up to pieces like her mother ordered or don’t. So Nita decides to do the right thing which ends up slippery then she thought, and when her mother finds out what she’s done it’s too late. Things go terribly wrong after that as Nita finds herself in an unlikely place: inside a cage, and to the only place her specimens go to: the Death Market. As if things couldn’t get any worse, Nita has been sold to the most creepiest and vile person. I don’t blame Nita trying to find her way out of this horrible place where buyers and even tourists go and see unnatural body parts on display. The whole market is a real eye opener for Nita as she learns what it is these unnaturals go through inside the walls of the Death Market. The screams, the agony, and the pain that comes from these cages are more then enough to make Nita quaking with fear. But that’s nothing when she learns what happens to her only cell mate Mariella after she is taken away with the zannie, Kovit. Nita gets horrible nightmares after that. It’s hard to see that Nita and Kovit would get along in any terms at all, but didn’t I mention before that there are twists in this story? Somehow they find common ground between them and before you start to think that this grows into a romance, it doesn’t. Which is good because I prefer if this didn’t have a romance or else it may distract readers from the dark and grittiness of this story.
During her imprisonment, Nita learns more about herself and how she is more a monster then she realized. There is this one scene when the tables are turned between Nita and Kovit and she is just grinning from ear to ear thinking of the many ways to dissect him. It was scary as fuck because for a moment, I really believed she was going to do it, but it only latest for the briefest of moments before Nita gained control of herself again. It was still creepy though. Nita reminds me of Kate Harker, another character from This Savage Song that they both share similarities. Two young women with a darker side than they believe in and both trying to take control of their shadow before it consumes them turning them into an entirely different version of themselves, so I can see why fans of This Savage Song will like this story. During her time at the market, Nita pauses to think what is the difference between right and wrong and whether saving that boy was a mistake. But then it strikes her that sometimes the line between right and wrong are blurred, and instead you should think about your values, and what you think is important for your self instead of what others think of you.
I love the complexity of our characters, the unlikely alliances forged between Nita and Kovit, the events from the market and the after events, and I loved how there was only a small hint of a possible romance between Nita and Kovit. There is no guarantee that they become more then friends/allies in the next book and from all we know, they could turn out to be really good friends and not have any chemistry. Perfect for a fall read.