Title: Wicked Saints
Series: Something Dark and Holy #1
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: April 2nd, 2019 (Wednesday Books)
Synopsis: 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.
“We’re all monsters, Nadya,
some of us just hide it better than others.”
Wicked Saints follows the story of Nadezhda “Nadya” Lapteva who has been raised in secrecy in a secluded monastery in Kalyazin to hide the fact that she is a cleric, someone who can communicate with the Gods and wield holy magic. As the first cleric in thirty years she could potentially end the long raging war between the neighbouring kingdoms in favour of Kalyazin. On the other side of the war is Serefin, the High Prince of Tranavia, and a powerful blood mage, a magic seen as heresy by those who follow the Gods. He was sent off to war at a young age, not only to fight, but also keep him at a distance from his father who is threatened by his power. But there is more to ruling a country than fighting, and Serefin begins to realize that plots are afoot against him at home. When Serefin attacks the monastery and finds Nadya, she escapes and goes on the run, soon joining a group of rebels who aim to assassinate the king of Tranavia and end the war, and as the mission progresses, finds herself beginning to question everything she has always stood for.
I loved how this book starts out with a bang and doesn’t bother getting into the world building until later. This would usually annoy me as I like to have an idea of the world before getting into a story, but in this case, the approach worked very well. The magic system and Nadya communicating with the gods and goddesses through the beads on her necklace sort of reminded me of Angel Mage, another book I really enjoyed this year. The overall feel of the book was also similar to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, with the saints and the culture surrounding them that Kalyazin is based on. It was also really nice that while on one side we are following Nadya’s journey as she and her new friends make their way into Tranavia, on the other hand, there is no lack of court intrigue and plots on Serefin’s side of things. Wicked Saints is a combination of many YA fantasy elements from magic to monsters to battles, and there is never a dull moment – the surprises never stop with this book!
When it comes to characters, Nadya was not bad, but I personally liked Serefin and Malachiasz much better. Their backstories are far more interesting – for the moment atleast. There is still a lot of Malachiasz’s past to be unveiled, especially considering the revelation of who he used to be. And after that twist at the end, I’m curious to see how the events have changed the two of them, and of course, how the truth of the gods is going to affect things. There are also some very well written secondary characters, and I have my fingers crossed for POV chapters in the sequel.
The major downside I found with this book was that the character names are difficult and hard to both pronounce and remember – especially considering that out of the three main characters, only one is given a nickname (although I hear there is a pronunciation guide for this somewhere). The other thing is that after all of the amazing build up, the climax of this book felt very rushed and vague, and hopefully the sequel will clear up some of this.
This is a book from earlier this year that I’ve been shuffling around on my shelves, moving it between my main TBR and the maybe pile multiple times because I saw such mixed reviews for it. I ended up really liking it however, even if the twist after twist that is thrown out scarcely left me a moment to gather my thoughts and attempt to predict the path of the story – and that was half the fun. Action-packed and engrossing, Wicked Saints was a wonderful read and I’m really glad to have the sequel, Ruthless Gods at hand because there’s no way I could manage to wait until April to know what happens next! This was a strong start to a new series (and also a debut), and I would definitely recommend it.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!