Title: Wicked Saints
Series Details: Something Dark and Holy #1
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Imprint: Wednesday Books
Release Date: April 02, 2019
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Blurb 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. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy…
Bloody, dark, and brutal! This book was not perfect but it sure made my black soul sing. Not only was it loaded with twists, lies, and betrayals, it also ticked every box of the things I want to see in a fantasy novel—beautifully developed characters, lushly painted worlds, powerful and intricate magic system, compelling plotline, and a dash of complicated romance. I’ve got to say, I haven’t found evil this compelling since The Darkling. This book is not without faults though. And sadly, those faults have cost it some stars from my rating.
The story kicked off with action as it thrusts us into a war between two nations—Tranavia and Kalyazin. These two had been at war for centuries because of their opposing beliefs about gods and magic. Kalyazi worship the gods and see them as a higher entity that they relied upon in almost everything. Theirs is a world where prayers are answered. Immediately. Tranavians abhor these same gods and had cut them off completely from their lives. They make their own magic instead of begging it from the gods. This conflict is what drives the plot from beginning to end.
Truth is never kind.
The book has two POVs—one from a Kalyazi cleric, and one from a Tranavian blood mage. Through them, we see how the war is affecting both sides. We see how dark magic, court politics, and religion play a part on their war. It’s impressive how seamlessly Emily Duncan tied these three together in this book.
The stars of this book lie on its incredible world-building and its ferocious yet captivating magic. I’ve read fantasy books with blood magic before but none as bloody as this. The worldbuilding is monstrous and gorgeous at the same time. It’s rich, and vivid, and easy to follow. It comes more and more alive as the story goes.
“We’re all monsters, Nadya. Some of us just hide it better than others.”
Dark world requires dark characters. And that’s exactly what we have—brutal, dangerous, and destructive characters. They weren’t afraid to do the dirty work if it means being one step closer to their goal which is to destroy the other. The main character—Nadya—grew up in a monastery, who communes with gods, and is very good at praying. But even Nadya isn’t absolutely spotless at the end. None of them are. I also love how each of them have this distinct personality—including the gods—that separates them from each other. Even though the names can get a little bit difficult to read, there’s certainly no confusing who’s who in this one.
Once there was a boy who was shattered into pieces and put back together in the shape of a monster.
This book does have some Shadow and Bone vibe. Maybe a bit darker and bloodier. That can be a good thing if you’re looking for something that treads close to the Grisha series’ path. But personally, I think this would be more enjoyable for those who haven’t read Shadow and Bone yet. I find that the big twist doesn’t work a hundred percent if you’ve already had the Darkling vibe and had already guessed how things might turn out.
While I craved for some romance, I don’t think I love this one. It has so much instalove feels. Despite how enigmatic and good-looking Malachiasz is, how he makes Nadya’s heartbeat hitch up a notch, I still wasn’t convinced that what they have is something deeper than curiosity and physical attraction. I like how they challenge each other though—trying to shake each other’s beliefs, trying to make the other question some things. It’s also nice to see that the characters weren’t easily swayed by the romance. They chose to stick to their sick goals at the end.
The ending was insane! But there were some noticeable gaps in that part of the story. Like it’s missing some huge bits of information between events which made the story a little confusing. I wasn’t thoroughly touched by the ending but I did feel sad for losing a beloved character to the dark.
Wicked Saints isn’t perfect but it is a strong series starter. Duncan had successfully made a strong series foundation out of this book. I can see this getting even better in its coming installments.