*I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. *
Title: Wicked Saints
Author: Emily A. Duncan
ISBN: 1250195667 (ISBN13: 9781250195661)
Genre/Theme: Dark Fantasy, Romance
Recommended Age: Young Adult
Series: Yes; Something Dark and Holy #1
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: April 2nd 2019 (400 pages)
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.
In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light.
cw/tw: self-harm (blood magic), alcohol abuse/addiction
I went into this book already halfway in love with the characters thanks to the months of gushing and dialogue teasers I had seen on Twitter. I won’t lie to you all, I was so worried I would be disappointed– like I was overhyping. So, I went into it cautiously.
Well, caution and hesitation didn’t last long because these characters wouldn’t accept less than my full attention and affection.
Is it different than I originally thought it would be like? Totally, but I was so down for this story.
Let me start with talking about the main characters who gripped my heart. Friends, I love morally grey characters– ones who feel real instead of archetypes. They all have their own problems, their own darkness, and goals for improving the world.
Nadya is a spitfire and I adore her. I love how she was struggling with her faith. I’m not religious at all, but there was a time I did try, so seeing how she had doubts felt very real. She’s knows her own mind though, even with the gods talking to her. She’s strong, willing to bend and learn, and her dialogue is fantastic. As much as I like Nadya, I really feel like she gets lost. I love her scenes with Malachiasz, but the more I think about it, the more I worry that most of her chapters revolve around him. I think this will change though as she grows through the series. She has a lot of space to grow, to fully believe in herself and her gift, and I’m excited to see how she matures.
Serefin might be my favorite main character… maybe. He’s so done with politics and the war and he just doesn’t know exactly who he is or how to be himself. He has expectations thrown at him and his parents are pretty horrible to him. His friendship with his two guards Ostyia and Kacper is what allows him to just… be. They are like a family and their scenes are so comfortable.
Then we have Malachiasz. It is hard NOT to like him. He’s… he’s quiet and loud at the same time. Devious, witty, and a monster, but broken. For more of the book he was my favorite character — I mean, he was my favorite before I even started the book. I was surprised that we don’t get a chapter from his perspective. I hope we get more from him in the sequel.
Before I move on to more thoughts on the actual plot, let me also mention the side characters. They are awesome and we actually learn more about them. They seem pretty flushed out and important, allowing us to grow fond of them as well. I think with a cast with this many great characters the most difficult thing for me is that I want them all to get more dialogue, more page-time, more… everything. I do hope we get more from these side characters 🙂
As for the romance… I feel like it went a bit too fast for me. It is an enemies-to-lovers trope, but I wasn’t truly convinced Nadya hated him enough or for long enough. At the same time, I totally love them. They are my JAM. I have no idea what will happen with them now, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want them to work as a couple.
Okay, storywise… look, I was hooked by this book from page one. I didn’t want to stop reading. I needed to know everything! And the magic systems!! Magic from the ‘gods’ magic from blood– but done with blood on spell pages? This book felt so new and fresh to me. Yeah, probably won’t to those of you who have played DND, but I haven’t, I’ve just read the handbooks.
The writing here is on point and things flowed so well.
Although, I will admit there were times I stepped back and went ‘that’s it?’. There isn’t a ton of action on page and some things could feel a bit anti-climatic. Yet? I’m giving this book 5 stars?
YES! Because I don’t see how events could have been done differently without feeling too cliche. I will say the ending felt… weird? it really seemed out of left field, but I mean… that might just be me. I swear for the last like 15-20% I was going “Wha… what?! Wait… no… WHAT?!” So, yes there is a bit of a cliffhanger.
So, I love this book, but I’m not calling it a favorite… yet. AS the series goes, I might call it a favorite, we will see. It is THAT close. I definitely recommend this one to people who play DND, like deeper fantasy novels, and don’t need constant action in their books.
I very much am looking forward to the next book in the series.