Hot Best Seller

Wicked Saints

Availability: Ready to download

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, wher 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..


Compare

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, wher 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..

30 review for Wicked Saints

  1. 4 out of 5

    Chaima ✨ شيماء

    Ah yes, the place I truly dwell, a cold eternity of endless disappointment. Fine. I’m just being dramatic (again). But seriously—being this sensitive is really inconvenient. Your most anticipated book of the year doesn’t live up to your expectations and you have to cancel your plans for the day to mourn. So, what’s this book about? For a century, Kalyazin and Tranavia bled great gouts of men into a holy war that served no greater cause than one country’s fear, and one empire’s hubris. Nadya, a Kal Ah yes, the place I truly dwell, a cold eternity of endless disappointment. Fine. I’m just being dramatic (again). But seriously—being this sensitive is really inconvenient. Your most anticipated book of the year doesn’t live up to your expectations and you have to cancel your plans for the day to mourn. So, what’s this book about? For a century, Kalyazin and Tranavia bled great gouts of men into a holy war that served no greater cause than one country’s fear, and one empire’s hubris. Nadya, a Kalyazi cleric who can commune with an entire pantheon of gods, is training in secrecy in the holy mountains by priests who sought to wield the power that sheltered inside her into the one thing that could save Kalyazin from sinking to its knees. But a sudden Tranavian attack on the monastery sends Nadya’s destiny spilling out into the air, the storm of it no longer a far future to be reached, but a typhoon here and now. All this mayhem is like blood in the water, and Nadya isn’t the only one swimming in it: Serefin, the High prince of Tranavia and a powerful blood mage, has scant interest in anything unless it involves alcohol but now finds himself forced to constantly look about him in trepidation for those who might be in a position to oppose his succession, including his father, the king. And there’s Malachiasz, a Tranavian defector whose real intentions are shrouded in secrecy and with whom Nadya forms a reluctant alliance while they’re both on the run from the Tranavian soldiers. Nadya soon discovers that unknown forces are scheming to carve a new avenue to power and fulfilling her destiny of helping the gods reclaim their hold on the world might prove harder than she'd thought. “We’re all monsters, Nadya,” Malachiasz said, his voice gaining a few tangled chords of chaos. “Some of us just hide it better than others.” Reading the first couple of chapters, I was intrigued by Wicked Saints’ twining of religion, politics and magic, and the provocative questions it rises at every turn, but, sadly, what tatters remained of that interest quickly deserted me as the story progressed. I expected more from this book than a sequence of interesting situations and a setting that felt more built from analogues than originality, a little more than a scaffolding made of concepts—like holding up a cracked mirror to the world. I was also disappointed with how the political exposition and the magic system sometimes read messily, especially towards the end when suddenly the logic that belonged to the story seemed as if it had remained behind, like luggage on a dock. I was also—and I can't stress this enough—really bored.  Yes. Tension clambers up. Portents simmer. Dark magic threatens to consume everything it touches. But nothing much comes of any of it until the final pages, when the narrative bends towards a showdown that was massively anticlimactic. I saw a lot of people evoke how similar this book was to The Grisha Trilogy, and I have to agree. Quite frankly, it felt like an uninspired rip-off. The intricate plot turnings in TGT are so strong and so compelling because Bardugo spends so much time placing us in the minds and hearts of her characters, ensuring that we care about them long before danger comes for them. That isn't the case with this book at all. I couldn't connect with any of the characters. There were some minor characters and relationships I wish had been focused on instead of others: Rashid and Parijahan—Malachiasz's companions and the only POC in the story as far as we know—make brief appearances but we never really get much chance for them to settle into being multi-dimensional, or find out what their revenge agenda is. This is not the only way that Wicked Saints doesn't entirely commit to its potential. The premise of the story led me to believe it wouldn't adhere to genre conventions, clichés and staples, which meant I was really dispirited when it did. Wicked Saints plays the enemies-to-lovers romance without any attempt at subversion. I feel as if some deficiency of the soul has made me unable to ship Nadya and Malachiasz. I couldn’t give a tuppenny damn about their relationship—for many reasons. Least of which is the fact that there was absolutely no real reason for them to hate each other in the first place, other than that they’re on opposing sides, and no real reason for them to fall for each other, other than because that’s the trope. But chief of which is this: my least favorite thing in fantasy is when a female character is reduced to a love interest. It couldn’t be more obvious that this was Malachiasz’s story and Nadya was merely a minor player in the drama of her own life. Sometimes, she wasn’t even the focus of the story within her own POVs. In the beginning, we learn that Nadya had grown up in a monastery, trained in the hope that she’d prove to be a weapon against Kalyazin’s enemies. The face of the world was long kept veiled from her and I was really excited to see her take possession of her destiny and determine the path of her own life, but, in the end, it seemed she had not learned how to hold another shape other than what others dictated for her. Malachiasz honestly raised my hackles by coming out of nowhere, like an impossible vision, and making Nadya immediately buckle under his—extremely attractive—stare. (The appropriate response is usually an eye roll.) It was repeatedly revealed that amidst so many secrets, he too seldom shared his truths, and whenever Nadya tries to settle into his memory, she quickly realizes that she knew him so little that he was not really hers—yet, that was still not enough to finally break through her blindness and naivete. It was so frustrating. I've read a staggering number of excellent fantasy books recently with lady leads that had their own agency on full display—from Arden's Winternight Trilogy to Novak's Spinning Silver to Kuang's The Poppy War—and I think it's done things to my head because I now can't settle for anything less extraordinary. I certainly don't deny the allure of stories where a powerful, shadowy man is wholly committed to the female protagonist and her own innocent mystique—but here’s the thing: female characters can have strong, compelling narratives without preventing them from experiencing love, intimacy, and affection. It's frustrating when books make it seem like women must choose between a romantic interest and depth of character and ignore a far more productive message: women are capable of possessing both. I kept waiting and waiting for the author to twist the trope into something original and interesting, but the unexpected just never arrives. I hope the events of the sequel will smooth out this rough patch, but I'm honestly not sure if I'm curious enough to find out. TW: self-harm and parental abuse. ✨ wishlist ✨ blog ✨ twitter ✨ tumblr ✨

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    ARC given to me by my kind friend - Lilly at Lair of Books! “If you fall to him the war will be lost. You have to live, Nadya.” I’m going to be really honest with you all; I feel like Wicked Saints is the book of my heart. From the lyrical writing, to the cold atmosphere, to the beautiful themes, to the characters that I’d already be willing to give my life for; this book just felt like it was written for me. This debut fantasy, all about blood magic and a cleric who can speak to all the gods ARC given to me by my kind friend - Lilly at Lair of Books! “If you fall to him the war will be lost. You have to live, Nadya.” I’m going to be really honest with you all; I feel like Wicked Saints is the book of my heart. From the lyrical writing, to the cold atmosphere, to the beautiful themes, to the characters that I’d already be willing to give my life for; this book just felt like it was written for me. This debut fantasy, all about blood magic and a cleric who can speak to all the gods (be still, my wishful D&D heart), blew me and my expectations out of the water. The author very much pulls from Russian and Polish inspiration and we get to see two countries, the Russian inspired Kalyazin, and the Polish inspired Tranavia. There is also the desert lands of Akola, which we meet a few characters from, but I think the land will be explored much more in later books! But we quickly see how differently the first two places view religion, and how both nations are willing to do whatever it takes in the name of their beliefs. These two countries are warring, and the author never shies away from that, but they are also beautifully woven together to create such an immersive and captivating world and setting. “Cannons only meant one thing: blood magic. And blood magic meant Tranavians.” But this tale starts out with a girl who has lived and hidden within the protection of a monastery’s walls her entire life. She has a power unlike any other, and it is her people's hope to not only restore the faith of the gods, but bring them back into power. Yet, there are people who are willing to do anything to make sure the gods and their religion(s) stay silenced forever. And one night, the girl’s monastery is brutally attacked, and she and her friend barely escape with their lives, while everyone else stayed back to ensure they could run away. Yet, the war commander prince notices that this girl is not among the dead. The girl, desperate to live and to not have the gods be silenced, is willing to do anything it takes to live. Even if that means getting help from a powerful rebel mage, who is harboring many secrets of his own. “The girl, the monster, and the prince…” ➽ Nadya - The cleric who can speak to all of the gods. ➽ Malachiasz - A blood mage, who believes he is a monster. ➽ Serefin - Bisexual icon. Also, a blood mage prince of one of the most powerful realms in this world, but the king is trying to ensure that no one can contest his power, while also wanting to use his son as a martial pawn. He also has a visual impairment and is unable to see out of one of his eyes. (Breathtaking art by Therese at warickaart!) And all three of these characters? As morally grey as they come. And they all equally stole my heart. Okay, maybe I have a little bit of a soft spot for Serefin, but I can’t help it, okay? But there is more disability and sexual representation with some of the side characters, and many characters of color. I am truly in love with all the side characters, and I can’t wait to see them develop even more, but Ostyia was easily my favorite and the author confirmed she is a tiny murder lesbian, and I’ve never read anything so perfect in all my life. Okay, I’m going to spend a little more time talking about Nadya because I truly was obsessed with how the author crafted religion and the saints in this book. First off, I’m Catholic, so you know that I fuck hard with saints, anyways. But, on the opposite end of the spectrum, I have played probably over a hundred D&D campaigns in my life, and I swear to all the gods that I have probably rolled a cleric at least 50 of those campaigns. Seriously, teenage Melanie (and her Pathfinder loving friends) was obsessed with Sarenrae. But reading a book about a cleric who could speak to ALL the gods, and harness their powers if they allowed it? I am quaking. Also, the banter between Nadya and all the different gods, all of whom have very different personalities, was probably my favorite element of the entire book. Again, this is a very dark book and I implore you to read my trigger and content warnings listed down below if you are on the fence if you are in the right headspace or not. But one of the major magic systems in this book is blood magic, where people will use their own blood (most of the time, freshly cut) and merge it with pages of a spell book to be able to wield their prepared spells and harness their magic. I loved this. I loved this so much. It is something that I feel you see so much in D&D and videogames, but never in literature and I really think it was expertly done and completely made the book for me. I feel like I should talk about the romance, since I see many early reviewers not loving it as much as I seemed to. I always thought Nadya was the star of this book, regardless of who she was developing feelings for. I mean, you all know I always fall in love with the one the main character doesn’t pick, so there is that, but I still loved the romance in this book. Also, I kind of hinted a bit about this in the character breakdowns, but when Serefin was following the king’s wishes to find a marriage? I was invested, friends. Too invested, probably. But during all the situations, the angst almost killed me, in the best way possible, and I can’t wait to see where the author takes everything in book two. It was the perfect slow burn feeling, while giving us so many breadcrumbs that all tasted delicious. Overall, this book just had too many things in my personal wheelhouse for me not to completely fall in love with it. I mean, I originally heard this pitched as “a gothic Joan of Arc” and I knew from that moment my life was going to be changed. I think Emily A. Duncan has really crafted such a unique story, and such a beautiful debut and start of a series. I can’t wait to see what comes next, especially because the end of this book truly slayed me and every emotion I have ever had. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Tumblr | Youtube | Twitch The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication. Content and Trigger Warnings for self-harm (both as a magic system, and talk of self-harm in the past), torture, parental abuse, abandonment, abduction, a lot of alcohol consumption (maybe addiction), gore, violence, and war themes. Buddy read with Jocelyn at Yogi with a Book! ❤

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alex ✰ Comets and Comments ✰

    “Blood and blood and bone. Magic and monsters and tragic power.” Everything that has needed to be said has probably already been said about this book. I wanted to love this one so bad and what started off as a great exposition went downhill very fast. I'm still kinda just sitting here blinking... confused...unsure copyright of all fanart goes to their amazing artists: © © _______________ Is it really possible to be that bored? Short answer = yes. Long answer = Wicked Saints is truly a lavish ta “Blood and blood and bone. Magic and monsters and tragic power.” Everything that has needed to be said has probably already been said about this book. I wanted to love this one so bad and what started off as a great exposition went downhill very fast. I'm still kinda just sitting here blinking... confused...unsure copyright of all fanart goes to their amazing artists: © © _______________ Is it really possible to be that bored? Short answer = yes. Long answer = Wicked Saints is truly a lavish tale that echoes nostalgic memories of all your favourite YA high fantasy novels. I think if it had been published sometime during 2013, this would have taken me by storm. The magic system (only winning factor) and the world building (although lacking) was both interesting and enticing. Unfortunately, I wish there was something else that helped me cling to the story and keep reading but I felt like I was forcing myself to finish instead. The first thing I would like to say that I almost always say if it is an issue: Do authors feel embarrassed if they don't address their trigger warnings? I mean surely, it shouldn't be up to the reader to go look for them prior to reading the book! This has been and will continue to be a problem with me. I think trigger warnings should clearly be stated before the reader begins... Any-which-way; TW: blood, gore, self harm, torture, parental abuse. Secondly, there seemed to be no plot. It didn't quite reach a stream of consciousness writing style, but it also didn't seem like anything was moving. It felt like we were following the characters through snapshots and the plot was just something that could have been done. Serefin was the only saving grace for me, and we got little to no arc development or character development for HIM. I was also struggling to differentiate the voices between the dual POV's. Other than the fact the Gods can speak to Nadya mentally, the voices very rarely differed. “Nadya was supposed to remain a secret for another year, training in the holy mountains with priests who—while they did not have magic themselves—understood the fundamentals of divinity. Like how a peasant girl could be the one thing that would save Kalyazin from the heretics’ torches. But war didn’t care for carefully laid plans.” I really wanted to dnf at the 50% mark. I felt like I was trudging through this entire story and I wanted to be able to love it as much as my GR and book reviewing buddies did. I can say that although there were a lot of filler chapters, I loved being "thrown into the action." The romance.... I love reading romance. I love all the tingly feelings and the magic in the air. I enjoy rooting for the character's and seeing them fall for each other in real-time. BUT THIS... I felt no connection at all and the romance felt more like a friendship because there was so much insta-love. I also ended up wanting the two characters NOT to be together. Every two seconds we were reminded by Nadya that; he was a monster, he was cruel and evil, he's not to be trusted however pretty he is!... I didn't feel the enemies to lovers trope at all. I really feel like everything was just meh. I wanted so much more and nothing really delivered. Which brings me to the point that everything was just so boring... So much in the story was left undeveloped and open to surface interpretation. I feel like the problems that the characters went through and the hurdles they had to overcome diminished to nothing when it was game time. There was such big talk of having to fulfill a certain event, and the event would come and go without me even realizing it. I love books that fly by, but with this I had to re-read paragraphs a couple times, multiple times in order to understand what was happening. It wasn't that the language was hard to interpret or the layout was difficult to read. Simply, my mind kept wandering off to different things and I kept losing interest. Additionally, when it comes to diversity and representation, this book seemed to have so many cannon LGBTQ reps. There were also so many indicators to other representations such as Serefin's potential alcohol addiction. I just wish it was developed further instead of being left to the sideline. That said, I don't need any and all representation to be part of the primary plotline or story, but I felt like the presentation of it as a whole was overall lacking. “Blood wasn’t a thing to be made light of, not in these times.” This story had so much potential for breaking the boundaries of YA fantasy and spotlighting much needed topics. I loved the focus on faith, philosophy, religion, moral and ethics. I even loved the fact that this time the villain, was very easy to root for even through their destruction. I wanted to unpack this book and theorize all sorts of different outcomes and routes that the characters and the plot would take but it really turned a different path for me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    Well look what came today on my Bday, April Owlcrate! As always, click on the link below the picture to see all of the amazing freaking goodies! THE GOODIES ************************* MY BLOG OMG! OMG! OMG! PLEASE LET ME LOVE THIS...... Thank goodness I loved the book! Let just give you a little skinny on the book first before I tell you WHY I love it. The book starts out with a bang; action right out of the gates. We have Nadya, she's a cleric and has been hiding in a monastery forever! She has powe Well look what came today on my Bday, April Owlcrate! As always, click on the link below the picture to see all of the amazing freaking goodies! THE GOODIES ************************* MY BLOG OMG! OMG! OMG! PLEASE LET ME LOVE THIS...... Thank goodness I loved the book! Let just give you a little skinny on the book first before I tell you WHY I love it. The book starts out with a bang; action right out of the gates. We have Nadya, she's a cleric and has been hiding in a monastery forever! She has powers and some peeps found out about her and all hell broke loose. She has to go on the run with a friend in order to not be killed or captured for other horrible reasons. We have Serefin who is a Prince and a mage and he is after Nadya. The POV's are his and Nadya's but we get other characters through their story lines. Then we have Malachiasz who is another mage character and from the same place as Serefin, but who helps Nadya and her friend get from point A to point B. I loved the book in the very beginning but the only reason I kept loving it is because I fell in love with the villian! Yes, you heard it first here people. And there are actually a few villians in the book. I also love the Vultures! They are bad guys and girls in the book as well. What is it with me and the bad guys! I don't always love them so there! I am interested to see where this will go in the next book because that ending had me "shook" and I'm not over it yet. I hope that it gets better and doesn't suffer from second book syndrome! Anyhoo! *Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for a digital copy of this book to review.* Mel ♥

  5. 4 out of 5

    jessica

    'we are all monsters, nadya. some of us just hide it better than others.' this book is so seductively dark and holy, so gothically bloody, so cruelly romantic; and my black soul has never been happier. 🖤 the strength of this story is the magic, the ferocious yet satisfying magic. hands down. the characters are brutally intense and beautifully developed, but its how magic affects them and their world that is so captivating. the entire plot is driven by the opposing beliefs about the nature of mag 'we are all monsters, nadya. some of us just hide it better than others.' this book is so seductively dark and holy, so gothically bloody, so cruelly romantic; and my black soul has never been happier. 🖤 the strength of this story is the magic, the ferocious yet satisfying magic. hands down. the characters are brutally intense and beautifully developed, but its how magic affects them and their world that is so captivating. the entire plot is driven by the opposing beliefs about the nature of magic and i thought emily duncan did a great job at bringing that struggling debate to life. its impressively well thought-out and a real high point to the story. i will admit this isnt without faults. the romance is a very insta-lovey and the writing can get confusing/muddled at times, but there is such a strong foundation here that i know great things can be expected from the future installments of this series. also, the physical aesthetic of this book is so drop dead gorgeous, it makes me want to cry. the incandesce foil artwork, the colour tones, the spine, and overall design is just so much, i cant stop looking at it. this gets 5 stars for that alone! ↠ 4.5 stars

  6. 5 out of 5

    Roshani Chokshi

    This is for everyone who shipped Alina and The Darkling. WHICH MEANS THIS BOOK IS FOR ME, OKAY? NO TOUCHIE. MINE. ahem. It's like if you go into a snow-dusted forest to free a beautiful maiden/dude from a glass casket only when you get there, that person has been devoured and this glorious, talon-ed creature with killer hair, a only-way-to-get-rid-of-my-smirk-is-to-kiss-me mouth, and eyes so dark they look like a freaking dimension is chilling on top of said casket, which is now smashed to pieces This is for everyone who shipped Alina and The Darkling. WHICH MEANS THIS BOOK IS FOR ME, OKAY? NO TOUCHIE. MINE. ahem. It's like if you go into a snow-dusted forest to free a beautiful maiden/dude from a glass casket only when you get there, that person has been devoured and this glorious, talon-ed creature with killer hair, a only-way-to-get-rid-of-my-smirk-is-to-kiss-me mouth, and eyes so dark they look like a freaking dimension is chilling on top of said casket, which is now smashed to pieces on a snow-strewn floor, and you just stand there, nodding and say: "Aight. I'm into it." That's this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Brittney ~ Reverie and Ink

    “He was a liar and she wanted his truths.” Trigger Warnings: Self-harm and parental abuse. The author has been very vocal about it – which I appreciate – so readers, just be aware before diving in. Please take care of yourselves! Anyway… Most clerics hear the voice of one god who grants them a particular power. Nadya, however, hears the voices of all the gods, and they all grant her power when she asks – which puts a target on her head. The opening pages immediately set the tone, where we’re “He was a liar and she wanted his truths.” Trigger Warnings: Self-harm and parental abuse. The author has been very vocal about it – which I appreciate – so readers, just be aware before diving in. Please take care of yourselves! Anyway… Most clerics hear the voice of one god who grants them a particular power. Nadya, however, hears the voices of all the gods, and they all grant her power when she asks – which puts a target on her head. The opening pages immediately set the tone, where we’re thrown into the middle of a war as Nadya’s monastery is attacked by an enemy prince – a dangerous blood mage. Nadya is forced to flee and leave behind the only friends she’s ever known because if she stays, he could kill her and take her power. While on the run, she ends up alongside a group of rebels (for lack of better words) who want to end the war. Their ‘leader’, Malachiasz, convinces Nadya to help them infiltrate the enemy palace… and that’s all I’m going to say. Since we’re nearly a year from the release, I don’t want to give away too much of the plot. What I loved were all the twists and turns, the characters that beg you to trust them when deep down, you know you probably shouldn’t. I love finding new morally gray (or are they?) characters to root for. Nadya reminded me a little of Alina from Shadow and Bone (my favorite series – in fact, I think I caught some nods/references – heyooo). I will add though - don't go in this expecting the Darkling. There was a heavy focus on magic and religion and the theological debates that accompany them. In fact, I often found myself switching sides on who was right, who was wrong, and who Nadya should trust (and if she should trust herself). The magic system was unlike anything I’ve read before, and same for the world. Though inspired by Russia (and Poland if my assumptions are correct), it totally stands on its own. What I loved most was the ‘anything can happen’ fast-paced plot that had me turning pages like nobody’s business. From the first chapter, I was totally swept away and there was no turning back. And trust me when I say the world is dark dark dark (probably the darkest I’ve read), which after following Emily on twitter, I think she’d take that as a compliment 😉 On that note, I highly suggest taking a look at fanart to get a good feel for the vibe! Click here to see it! The hardest part about having read it is that I’ll have to wait forever for the next book. *A huge thank you to Wednesday Books for this gorgeous early edition, and allowing me to read and review! *All quotes are subject to change in the final copy* My Blog ~ Instagram ~ Twitter ~ Etsy

  8. 4 out of 5

    Angelica

    I felt one thing while reading this book. Just one: This was a buddy read with the lovely Rendz. She is all around wonderful and I suggest you check out her page and her reviews! I had a great discussion with her on this book and there I realized that I might be, in fact, heartless because I gave very little mercy to this book. But hey, at least Rendz had better luck with it than I did. I wanted to love this. I wanted so badly to fall head over heels for this book. I went into it expecting it to I felt one thing while reading this book. Just one: This was a buddy read with the lovely Rendz. She is all around wonderful and I suggest you check out her page and her reviews! I had a great discussion with her on this book and there I realized that I might be, in fact, heartless because I gave very little mercy to this book. But hey, at least Rendz had better luck with it than I did. I wanted to love this. I wanted so badly to fall head over heels for this book. I went into it expecting it to be dark and epic and just plain good. But alas, I did not love it, nor did I think just plain good. This book had the potential to be one of the best books I read in 2019. I think that knowing it had so much untapped potential is what makes it worse for me though. The novel’s premise is extremely interesting. The foundation is set for this novel to be amazing. The three main characters, Nadya, a girl who speaks to gods; Serafin, a warrior prince trying to save himself from the dangers of court; and Malachiasz, a boy with terrible magic that hides secrets and monsters inside of himself. Mix them all together and have them plot to assassinate an evil king. Throw in some blood magic, some gods that may or may not be gods, some betrayal, some secrets, and a sprinkle of romance and you have the recipe for awesome. But alas, that potential was never met. Everything felt halfway to me. In theory, the characters are all really cool. Still, I couldn’t connect to any of them. I felt like we were only shown the surface of who they were. This was made worse when the romance started coming forth. It felt like Nadya (whom I never really liked) and Malachiasz (who had serious character potential) completely undid their character arcs the moment they fell in love, especially Nadya. As for Serafin, I feel like I know very little about him, other than the fact that he likes being drunk. The magic system was also that was in theory, very cool, but was in reality pretty confusing. There was never a set of rules established for how the magic worked. I think that giving it parameters and letting us know what could and couldn’t be done with it would have been cooler. Another issue I had was with how easy everything was. There would be a lot of build up for things and then nothing would happen. They would just accidentally slide into convenient situations. Or, they would just effortlessly get a hold of information that was supposed to be secret. It felt anticlimactic. (view spoiler)[Like when they made the plan on how they were going to sneak into Tranavia and they made a big deal of it talking about how important it was to get the plan just right. Mal kept pressuring Nadya to perfect her accent and saying all the terrible things that would happen if they got caught. Then they just sort of walked into Tranavia wasn’t even that hard. They literally said like two lines to the guard and they let them through (hide spoiler)] This book had ‘a lot’ of representation. Serafin is bi, Ostyia was a lesbian, and Rashid and Parajihan were people of color, also Kacper is definitely either gay or bi because I was totally getting that vibe when he was alone with Serafin. That said if any, or even if all of those characters had been removed, the story would probably have gone down pretty much the same, I think. Their presence never felt vital to the story. In fact, no one but the three main characters, felt necessary for the story to happen. It’s a shame too because all the minor characters had the potential to be really interesting if their backstories had been fleshed out. But they never were. Overall, I didn’t love this one. As you could see. This is the kind of book that I’m certain that many of you would like. It’s also the kind of book that many of you would find problems with. It currently (as of 4/1/19) this book has a 3.91 on Goodreads. So, it’s your call. I personally don’t recommend it. Sorry. Not sorry. TW: Self-harm and just general cutting of one's flesh. Parental Abuse. **I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.** Follow Me Here Too: My Blog || Twitter || Bloglovin' || Instagram || Tumblr || Pinterest

  9. 4 out of 5

    Emily A. Duncan

    Update 10.17.18: Hi! We have a cover! It's black metal as hell and I adore it! The book is also up for preorder if you feel so inclined! The link will lead to a landing page that directs to all major retailers. <3 Update 5.10.18: So the book is going into the world now and I wanted to note some content warnings. There's a blanket content warning on self-harm because this book has multiple blood mage characters and that rather comes with the territory. However, on page 350 (in the bound MS) Update 10.17.18: Hi! We have a cover! It's black metal as hell and I adore it! The book is also up for preorder if you feel so inclined! The link will lead to a landing page that directs to all major retailers. <3 Update 5.10.18: So the book is going into the world now and I wanted to note some content warnings. There's a blanket content warning on self-harm because this book has multiple blood mage characters and that rather comes with the territory. However, on page 350 (in the bound MS) there's a conversation about a character's past self-harm. It's small and they're talking about scars but, still, the allusion is there. There is a torture scene early on in the book in chapter 5. It's not particularly graphic but I do like to warn about that. And another kind of blanket content warning on parental abuse. There's a specific incident on p. 290 (again, bound MS) however where Serefin is struck by his father so just a warning. Stay safe and only read what you feel comfortable with. Update 4.4.18: New title! The book is now WICKED SAINTS and Something Dark and Holy is the trilogy title. I mean I COULD rate this five stars but I won't. I'll just say I'm very excited for everyone to meet my weird cast of kids. I love them a lot and I hope you all do too. For clarity I’m going to add some facts to this. WICKED SAINTS is high fantasy, the Joan of Arc bit is a marketing comp, this is not a Joan of Arc retelling, this is a story completely its own that takes on thematic elements similar to Joan of Arc’s story. Nadya is her own person, she is not Joan. The book takes place in two countries, Kalyazin, which is a Russian analogue, and Tranavia, which is Polish. The book is also dual POV, while the trilogy as a whole has three main characters (oh, yeah, goodreads has it listed as a stand alone, it’s a trilogy). That’s all for now! Xoxo

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kiki

    To say that this book let me down is an understatement. It disappointed me in ways I didn’t know were possible. Is it me? Maybe. Is it the book? Oh, definitely. You’d better get your landing gear on, guys, because this is going to be a long one. Warning: gentle spoilers. The biggest problem with this book is the worldbuilding, in part because the relationship between the gods and the people doesn’t make sense. The pantheon of gods in Wicked Saints is comprised of deities that can be quantified ( To say that this book let me down is an understatement. It disappointed me in ways I didn’t know were possible. Is it me? Maybe. Is it the book? Oh, definitely. You’d better get your landing gear on, guys, because this is going to be a long one. Warning: gentle spoilers. The biggest problem with this book is the worldbuilding, in part because the relationship between the gods and the people doesn’t make sense. The pantheon of gods in Wicked Saints is comprised of deities that can be quantified (that talk directly to clerics and give them magical powers), but characterising gods as tangible voices with personalities drastically shifts the power dynamic. It eliminates the essential subjectivity of religion. The Zoroastrians did not believe in their principal deity, Ahura Mazda, because they had heard him speak; they believed out of pure necessity. Why, they asked, does rain fall from the sky? What is the moon? These are questions of faith. How do we prevent crime? How can we legitimise the absolute rule of monarchs? These are questions of churches, religious institutions being separate from faith itself, but what they have in common is the answers can be adapted to survive in different cultural climates. Faith, at its core, depends entirely on belief in a power that cannot be quantified. Tranavia turned away from the gods, but there is no real discourse as to why; that the existence of the Kalyazi gods can be proven should heavily impact the way that religion functions across the world, and should give Nadya an immense amount of power over her countrymen, but because there is no explanation ever given of the role of the gods in Kalyazi life - there is no explanation of Kalyazi life, period - the concept crumbles. This world, at its basest level, doesn’t feel lived in. How can it, if all we know is what we see on the page? When the characters leave the page they turn to dust, because Kalyazin and Tranavia are like Flat Earth. If you leave the designated area, you’ll fall off the edge and die. There is nothing across the horizon. The gods in Kalyazin (this religion has no name) are listed here by the author, who asserts that this is not an exhaustive list, though for the amount of time we spend inside Nadya’s head, it falls short. There is a god of silence, but no god of sex and fertility. There is a god of speed, but no god of the hearth. How? The hearth has, from the most ancient eras of history, stood as the central pillar of the home and community; for instance, the Ancient Greeks would greet new immigrants and visitors to their region in their town’s common house, known as the prytaneum, near the communal hearth and a statue of Hestia. The hearth was the pin around which community and family life revolved, family being another fundamental building block of any society: this, why gods and goddesses of sex, fertility, and childbirth feature so prominently in a wide number of polytheistic religions across the world. Even monotheistic/Abrahamic religions, while not extending separate deities to preside over sex and fertility, cycle through multiple stories of miraculous birth, sacred unions, virgin mothers, divine marriages, and father figures. The Abrahamic God is exhaustively referred to as a father, which - while the Abrahamic God maintains an asexual veneer - stresses the archaic role of a father as a genetic creator. (On somewhat of a tangent, it is also worth noting that the idea of clerical celibacy is rare; for example, Judaism has never enforced celibacy for its rabbis or kohanim (priests), and in Islam, lifelong celibacy is forbidden. Sex, family, and reproduction are at the core of most, if not all, religions). Once could argue that this isn’t directly relevant to Nadya’s journey to assassinate the king (more on that later) but… Isn’t it? There are vague mentions of Nadya praying, and she spends swaths of time condemning the Tranavians to heresy, but where is the intricacy of her faith? There are no rituals, social parameters, or legal systems discussed that in any way hint at the power of religion over Kalyazin. The gods don’t influence Nadya’s clothing, food choices, language, sexuality, literacy, or her understanding of her environment; the only time Nadya ever references the gods is during battle or when she is mumbling about the Tranavians being heretics. Heresy has no concrete definition, but is generally understood as dissent from a commonly established religious belief. ‘Heresy’ is a deeply nuanced and complex topic that Wicked Saints, of course, does not have the mettle to tackle: Nadya deems the Tranavians heretics - a term that historically justified mass slaughters, notably during the Spanish Inquisition - with such wild abandon that it completely delegitimises the term. The word just stops meaning anything. There is a vague reference to how magic is only supposed to come from the gods, but Nadya does not quote scripture, makes no reference to any pulpit preaching or schooling, and the gods themselves don’t offer any clarity. “Blood magic” is not a reason to waste money, lives, and time on war, and nor does it elaborate on the ramifications of heresy in Kalyazin; are there misconceptions about Tranavians? Are there stereotypes? It’s never discussed. They’re just “heretics”, and the reader is expected to accept that without any further clarification. An example of the enormity of the notion of heresy is the use of fatwas in Islam. Fatwas are a woefully misunderstood concept in the West; after the hoopla around Salman Rushdie, a misconception of fatwas grew, in which the West characterised fatwas as “religious death warrants”, which is like saying that yoghurt is strawberry flavoured. Some is, but most of it isn’t, and only eating strawberry yoghurt when there are a thousand better and more interesting flavours is wilful ignorance at best. A fatwa is a legal opinion delivered by a mufti (Islamic scholar) on a question posed by an institution, community, or individual. Fatwas are legally non-binding, but given that they’re issued by qualified experts, they can and have influenced shifts and actions across the Muslim world. Historically, fatwas were used to spread Islamic doctrine among the wider populace, advise courts on aspects of sharia (Islamic law), and encourage resistance against colonial rule. The historic use and context of fatwas is incredibly complex and speaks to the textured tapestry that is the Islamic legal system, but one interesting historical usage of fatwas was to enact a controversial practice known as takfir, in which communities or individuals professing to be Muslim were declared by a mufti to be kafirs (unbelievers), therefore justifying resistance against them or excommunication. Takfir was imposed on the invading Mongols, who claimed to be Muslim, but who were declared apostate by Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah due to their opposition to sharia. This is only one example of the immense complexity of the notion of “heresy”. Nadya claims exhaustively that Malachiasz is a heretic, yet she does not put up an iota of resistance against him, and even their theological arguments are flirty and cutesy, which, if you’ve ever seen theologians get into a quarrel on faith, you’ll know is disingenuous at best. Neither character ever moves beyond the most childish questions of faith or religious warfare. Furthermore, at no point is any concrete explanation given for the long and costly war between these two nations, other than their divergent religious beliefs. This in itself is a dangerous model: religion doesn’t cause wars, politics and class warfare does, from the modern wars in the Middle East to the Jacobite Rebellions, and to notably the Thirty Years’ War, one of the most destructive conflicts in human history, which boils all the way down to Martin Luther’s landmark break from Catholicism, stemmed from his disenchantment with the corruption and money-grubbing of the Catholic Church. The fatwa I previously mentioned about the Mongols being declared kafirs is a good example of this. One might argue that this fatwa endorsed religious warfare, but what were the Mongols doing? Invading, and this fatwa mobilised the affected Muslim communities to push back against colonial rule. Politics were the root reason for this, not religion alone. Simply put, religion is a vast, complex, and nuanced topic that Wicked Saints does not have the range to tackle. Most of the page time is wasted on a forced and saccharine romance between two bland characters: an alleged cleric who bizarrely seems to know nothing about her own religion, and a limp analogy for Kylo Ren. I said in my status updates that I had a lot of feelings about this comparison with Kylo Ren, and I do. There’s no but here. Just buckle in. Kylo Ren is an infuriating character, mostly because his turn to the dark side is conflated with Darth Vader’s, whose story is vastly more layered. (I could rabbit on here about the excellent and subtle examination of church corruption that is mirrored in the Jedi, but seriously, I can’t. Oh, I want to, Long Pause, but I can’t.) Here’s the thing. Death of the Author is a legitimate angle in literary criticism, and there’s a great video here where Lindsay Ellis explains it, but it’s almost impossible to fully extract the author from this work, partly because she has a flourishing internet presence. Duncan makes no secret of her fan status for Kylo Ren, and the hallmarks of his character are so blatantly obvious in Malachiasz that I cannot in good conscience ignore it. Not only are both characters physically identical, but ideologically, they’re the same. Kylo Ren’s quest for power at the detriment of his own sanity and moral integrity and his (fan-interpreted) thirst for a plucky Jedi (space monk) hang around Malachiasz like a bad smell. But pulling from a character as loathe-worthy as Kylo Ren left a really bad taste in my mouth, and I think I hated Malachiasz for the same reasons that I hated Kylo Ren. They both follow this exhausting arc of the “broken boy” who was made this way by a flawed mentor and who has a good side that was ripped from them in some contrived way; granted, Malachiasz was forced to become a vulture, but when offered a chance to escape a life of 2005 Goth Torment and live with the space monk, he turns it down in favour of more power, a mirror of Kylo Ren killing Snoke with Rey, but then turning against her and seizing his seat of power for himself. Of course, Wicked Saints boasts none of the political complexity that makes the Sith/Jedi conflict compelling, and while it makes a half-baked attempt at “political intrigue” it fails on the most basic level, mostly because the politics of Tranavia are not remotely interesting and the politics of Kalyazin don’t exist. But here’s the crux of it: if you’re going to rip off a character, at least make it a good one. (I know there are some Darkling vibes here, but the Kylo Ren comparison stuck out to me.) I suppose you could argue that Kylo Ren’s desire to be like Darth Vader is an allegory for how power-hungry people pluck half-truths from history to suit their own personal agenda, but the fact that he is a Skywalker and “the one that Luke couldn’t save” leans into the narrative conflating him with Darth Vader. Alas, because no coherent or sympathetic build-up was lent to properly justify Kylo Ren’s turn to the Dark Side, it just feels…uncomfortable. Anakin Skywalker is my favourite Star Wars character, and Revenge of the Sith is my favourite Star Wars movie. Sure, it has holes and the acting is ropey, but what a layered, nuanced portrayal of a villain arc. The thing is, that villain arc was built slowly and methodically from The Phantom Menace, rooted in Anakin from his early childhood. Anakin’s arc is about servitude, manipulation and corruption: he was born a slave and ripped from his mother by the Jedi order, but while the Jedis professed to have freed him, all they did was force him into a more subtle indenture. The Jedi order treated Anakin like a tool to be used, like a slave all over again, and the pain of Anakin’s arc is that he was the chosen one, but was so stunted by his upbringing and the manipulations of the corrupt Jedi that he fell prey to Palpatine, who offered him only another form of bondage, this time to the Sith. Anakin’s sole moment of personal agency was when he turned on Palpatine and killed him, saving Luke, but condemning himself to death. Anakin’s final moments, in which his sweet son forgave him, were the only moments in which he was ever truly free. Contrast this with Kylo Ren, whose arc revolves around him being a privileged brat who, after one (probably drunken) moment where Luke considered killing him because he thought he was a child psychopath, turns into a mass murderer. He is tolerable because Adam Driver is a truly excellent actor, but it’s the edgelord “limpid tears” quality to Kylo Ren that Malachiasz captures. I hated him because all I could think about was Kylo Ren’s mask, that he wore for no reason other than to be a theatrical douchebag, while Anakin’s mask was keeping him alive. (I love this very specific trope, and another character who pulled it off beautifully was Christopher Nolan’s Bane, whose backstory was excellent and heartbreaking, and please stop these tangents. Please. I am begging myself to stop.) I said in my status updates that this book could have benefitted from being reworked as an adult novel, and this is perfectly encapsulated in Serefin’s chapters: he is 19 and leading an army, and he’s also an alcoholic. What a relatable character for teens, right? Serefin had no arc, and instead spent most of the book wafting from one boring locale to the next, until his story culminated in some utterly batshit nonsense about moths and stars. I wanted to avoid talking about the author’s reprehensible behaviour on Twitter, where she slams readers for daring to criticise her book, as if the only reason anyone would dislike it is because they’re dumb, but I think it’s worth noting that if a good number of people come to you with the same criticism of your product, you might consider doing a bit of self-reflection. Put it this way: say I’m shopping for vibrators on Amazon, and I see one with fifty reviews out of a hundred that say it put them in the hospital. I’m likely to trust that verdict and save myself an injury. Books are art, yes, and art is subjective, but when everyone complained about the finale for Game of Thrones being rushed, it wasn’t because millions of people just suddenly lost their collective marbles. It was because the finale was rushed, and that’s the tea. The author argues that it’s fine for a book to be “confusing”, and goes on to say: “I just… think readers could do with becoming comfortable with things not being explained in rote detail. / Anyway! Plenty of fantasy authors will hold your hand! I won’t, sorry!” (10/05/2019) What a lot of nonsense. “Confusing” is an error in storytelling; complex, mysterious, or abstract are legitimate literary techniques (Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal does this brilliantly). The ending of this book was a complete mess, not only because of the absurd, anachronistic, and poorly edited prose (a feature throughout the book) but because it’s just so fucking jumbled, and I won’t stand for being mocked on a hellsite like Twitter for this book’s own lack of basic detail or coherent plot. The characters’ bid to kill the king makes no sense besides; their initial plan is to kill both the king and Serefin, which will create a power vacuum and only exacerbate the problem, but the Dramatic Showdown reads like the view from a Go Pro thrown into a bag of fighting cats. The inept chaos of it isn’t even good for a cruel laugh. Furthermore, the side characters could have been backspaced from the text and it wouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference. At one point, Malachiasz tells Nadya that Parijahan, one of their token POC companions on this journey, has gone missing which may mean she’s dead. Nadya makes no comment on this, despite naming Parijahan as her friend in a previous scene, and instead flirts with Malachiasz and faints dramatically in his lap. That said, Nadya becomes a side character in her own journey, as the author forces Malachiasz down our throats like salted corn into a French duck, but it’s telling that two of the few characters of colour are scarcely given a backward glance when their lives may be in danger. Similarly, Ostyia, the only explicitly queer character in the book, has no agency or depth, just a talking doll for Serefin to frown at. Serefin has the potential to be queer, though all of his romantic interactions are directed toward women and he shows no romantic or sexual interest in anyone of any other gender. At this point in my life, I am not willing to hunt for queer representation. I am sick to fucking death of begging for scraps, and I will not sit around parsing through lines of text with a magnifying glass, pawing for sustenance like a starving possum. The answer is no. This book suffers because of the romance, which hoovers up page time, chapter after chapter dedicated to Nadya mooning over Malachiasz. Landmark beats like crossing the border into enemy territory and battling through a duel and getting attacked by the vultures flit by as Nadya laments about her “broken boy”. This is not high fantasy, just the story of a ghost-girl and a Kylo Ren body double coldly bumping together, as much chemistry between them as two puffs of inert gas. Us gays are over here starving for rep while this is the accepted standard for straight romance? Give me a fucking break. I can’t praise any element of this book and maintain my integrity, but if it were reworked as adult and another hundred pages added, this could have been an interesting story. If the sexual element was completely removed from the central relationship, Malachiasz aged up to forty and Nadya aged down to nine, and the connection between them rewritten into a tender friendship between a crotchety father figure and a stubborn, angry orphaned child, this could have blown me away. What a tale that could have been, especially if it revolved around a civil war, with Malachiasz and Nadya being actively chased by Serefin, aged up to thirty-five. Give Serefin a menagerie of bastard children and an earned reputation as an actual axe murderer and I could have really gotten on board with this. But I can’t, and nor can I ethically endorse another botched Slavic fantasy. If you’re interested in Slavic fantasy written by actual Slavic people, then I’d suggest Andrzej Sapkowski or Lana Popović. There’s also a list of authentic Slavic reads here. I suppose it says more about me than it does the author that I’d have preferred this to be grimdark, but what would I know? I’m just a woman, standing in front of a bookcase, waiting for an author to hold my hand.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Clemlucian (&#x1f3f3;️‍&#x1f308;the villain's quest)

    2/5 Stars SOME TEA IS ABOUT TO BE SPILLED. I'M AN ANGRY CUNT. Instagram | youtube Ughhh, where do I start? Wicked saints was such a mess. I'm left picking up the pieces and I'm not okay with it. Okay, so the pitch is this; A girl can talk to Gods, a Prince is at Death's door and a monster is looking for redemption. The three of them must ally to stop the war currently ravaging the two opposed countries. This story is just so problematic on so many levels, I can't even mention it all because I ha 2/5 Stars SOME TEA IS ABOUT TO BE SPILLED. I'M AN ANGRY CUNT. Instagram | youtube Ughhh, where do I start? Wicked saints was such a mess. I'm left picking up the pieces and I'm not okay with it. Okay, so the pitch is this; A girl can talk to Gods, a Prince is at Death's door and a monster is looking for redemption. The three of them must ally to stop the war currently ravaging the two opposed countries. This story is just so problematic on so many levels, I can't even mention it all because I have bigger fish to fry. Here's a short list though: -the MC is the dumbest in town. She's useless and hopeless and I fucking hate her guts. For 85% of the book, I was wishing she would die. She can't do anything on her own and she's always scared of everything all the time. She doesn't think. She falls in love for the first guy who breathes in her direction and is the blandest cunt in the neighbourhood. -The villain is such an important character that he doesn't even talk once in the story. We never learn his motivations apart from the obvious fact that he wants power. So what if the dude wants power? What does he want power for? What's the goal? Why is he scared? What is happening!!!! -The plot is so dumb. The characters don't even believe in what they're doing. It feels forced because what they're doing doesn't align with their 2 cents motivations and personality. They did a U-turn from their original plan to go to another country to kill some distant old king which clearly, doesn't align with their goal. -The romance is forced down our throats like a turkey on Thanksgiving. There's no connection, no reason for it to exist, and yet here it is... because, of course, *eye roll* it wouldn't be YA without romance -' -This book is basically a 2019 version of Shadow and Bone and it's not even trying to hide it. the romance with the dark guy; the Russian inspired universe; the war to stop; the village idiot (MC); even the plot twist is the same! Why isn't anyone talking about that? -The writing style was so confusing. (To be honest, I didn't know what was happening half of the time.) It wasn't engaging at all and bored me to death. -I feel like Wicked Saints is the new Red Queen: everyone reads it and enjoys it at first because it's a mismatch of what we loved in our favourite series, but months later we realize how bad it actually is. The original rating was 3.5 but I began bunking it down after I read it because I started to see all of the wrong things with it. The more I think about it, the angrier it makes me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hamad

    Hello? Hey Is this Flat Earth Society Yes, how can I help you? I found another evidence that the Earth is flat Oh, wow. Enlighten us please! So there is this book that is called Wicked Saints and the characters are so flat. They can't be this flat if the Earth is rounded Oh, that's huge!! Can you give us more? Yeah, check my full review here @The Book Prescription

  13. 5 out of 5

    megs_bookrack

    ((Savage SCREAM)) That was SO GOOD. Wicked Saints is the first book in an all new YA Fantasy trilogy called, Something Dark and Holy. A more apt name for a trilogy has NEVER existed. This is so dark, so damn holy. ((clutches pearls)) This is a debut novel for this author and guys, WOW. If this is Duncan’s debut, she is definitely an author to watch. I picked this up the day before release, as I was generously provided a copy by the publisher, Wednesday Books, in exchange for an honest review, and I ((Savage SCREAM)) That was SO GOOD. Wicked Saints is the first book in an all new YA Fantasy trilogy called, Something Dark and Holy. A more apt name for a trilogy has NEVER existed. This is so dark, so damn holy. ((clutches pearls)) This is a debut novel for this author and guys, WOW. If this is Duncan’s debut, she is definitely an author to watch. I picked this up the day before release, as I was generously provided a copy by the publisher, Wednesday Books, in exchange for an honest review, and I am hella obsessed with this story. The tone of this is very grimdark and we all know, I live for that. Basically, in this world, there is a holy war that has been raging for centuries between two kingdoms: Kalyazin and Tranavia. We follow three main characters: Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz. The world is vast and complex, yet feels like nothing to learn. Last week I reviewed another YA Fantasy book, I won’t name here, but I mentioned how I felt like I needed to be taking notes as the town the characters lived in was being explained. That shook me out of the story and made it hard for me to connect. With this book, even though this is a vastly more complex world, I never felt that. Whilst reading Wicked Saints, I felt like I was living these events along with the characters. I never felt that I didn’t understand what was going on or how the world worked. This, to me, is a sign of a great fantasy construct; well thought out and balanced. Even though this story takes place in a world that is being created from scratch, although clearly based on Russian/Eastern European lore, culture, etc., it never feels overwhelming and in my opinion, does not suffer at all from the dreaded ‘first book in a series’ syndrome. Nadya, the main female protagonist, is the most fascinating to me. She was raised in a monastery in the mountains of Kalyazin where the clerics and others can commune with their pantheon of gods. Nadya is very special as she is able to commune with all the gods and she can gain magical powers from them. Even more interesting is the fact that the gods talk back! She wears a necklace around her neck with a different bead representing each of the different gods. Depending on the situation, and what powers she may need, she holds that bead and asks that god for help. The gods are all developed with their own personality and they can offer up guidance, a friendly chat or just be silent. I love this aspect! It makes me think of the Disney animated movie, Hercules, all the different gods you meet in that and their personalities; so much fun. It is a very unique element. I have never read anything quite like this in a YA Fantasy before. So, due to circumstances I won’t get into here, Nadya is forced to flee the monastery, fearing for her life, and once on the road bumps into a traveling trio that includes another of our main characters, Malachiasz. Now, Malachiasz is a complex character and one that would be a little difficult to explain without going into too much of the story. Let’s just say he was once part of a very dangerous and secretive order of powerful blood mages in the kingdom of Tranavia called the Vultures. I know, right!? Doesn't that sound creepy and ominous AF? Yep. The Vultures are hella creepy masked guys and gals with the most murderous of intentions. They are so scary and powerful that they are referred to as ‘monsters’ by people outside the sect. Malachiasz is a defector from the sect. The only person known to have done so. He confesses this to Nadya and tells her he is essentially on the wrong side of the law in Tranavia. Our final main character is Serefin, the crown Prince of Tranavia. He has been leading armies for the past few years in the never-ending war with Kalyazin but has recently been summoned home by his father, the King. Serefin is convinced his father has one goal in mind, to take him out. Is he just paranoid or does his father really want to kill him? It is clear the King isn’t playing with a full deck and he is quite volatile and secretive; whispering around with the Vultures. When Nadya, Malachiasz and their traveling companions arrive in the capital city, set on stopping the war, whatever the cost, they come into contact with Serefin and begin to wonder, exactly whose side is he on? The writing in this is so delicious. Dark and gothic from the very start! If you love that kind of story, set in a harsh and unforgiving world, you need to pick this book up. I enjoyed this so much, I am already planning a reread — no joke. Most of all I am looking forward to discussing this with other readers. This is so compelling, I just know there is going to be a huge fandom for this story, this world, these characters and this author! I am so excited to see where Duncan is going to go with this story. I just can’t even imagine what ultimately is going to happen. There are so many ways it could go, all of them bloody and brutal. Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and will definitely be buying a finished copy for my collection!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    I hate writing 3 star reviews. There, I said it. It's not because I don't think that they hold weight in the reviewing world, I just feel that those middle of the road reads are the most difficult to review without sounding like a 2nd grade book report. This book was fine. It was not great, but it was fine. Fine is how this book was. That said, I apologize for the following review and if it sounds repetitive and lacks flavor or conviction. I'm between a 3-4 star rating here, but I think I'm going I hate writing 3 star reviews. There, I said it. It's not because I don't think that they hold weight in the reviewing world, I just feel that those middle of the road reads are the most difficult to review without sounding like a 2nd grade book report. This book was fine. It was not great, but it was fine. Fine is how this book was. That said, I apologize for the following review and if it sounds repetitive and lacks flavor or conviction. I'm between a 3-4 star rating here, but I think I'm going to have to round down based on my personal reading experience. There's nothing wrong with this book, but I did find everything but the beginning and final 25% to be a tedious read. My deciding factor on a rating was mostly influenced by the fact that this felt very much like grisha fan fiction. Don't get me wrong, I love Leigh Bardugo's fantasy world and stand by my opinion that The Darkling is one of the most well written anti-heroes of all time, so I was surprised that Wicked Saints wasn't an automatic 5 star read for me. Did I swoon for the villain in this book? I definitely see the attraction to him, but maybe because I've already experienced a carbon copy of this plot, coupled with the fact that these characters felt inspired by our grisha love triangle, kept me from being as drawn in as I could have been. I'm not sure if the ending was supposed to catch us off guard, but I also found that if you've read Shadow and Bone, you'll already know what's going to happen and find a similar set up to what I imagine will be a similar trilogy from start to finish. The ending was action packed and deliciously dark (yes, this one is much darker than the grisha trilogy, despite its obvious similarities), and the epilogue was everything I could have dreamed of and more. Despite my conflicted feelings, I highly recommend others pick this one up and to decide for themselves how they perceive Wicked Saints, as I am eager to continue on with the author. *I received a review copy via the publisher.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I am teetering between 3.75 and 4 stars for this review, so this rating is a placeholder for now. I will be doing a full review and discussion on my channel which will be posted closer to release, and I will be talking about this briefly in this month's wrap up, but to hold you all over until then: This book wasn't quite what I expected, but it is hard to live up to the hype one builds in their head when you've been waiting for a book for literal years. Because of that, I feel I'll be sitting wi I am teetering between 3.75 and 4 stars for this review, so this rating is a placeholder for now. I will be doing a full review and discussion on my channel which will be posted closer to release, and I will be talking about this briefly in this month's wrap up, but to hold you all over until then: This book wasn't quite what I expected, but it is hard to live up to the hype one builds in their head when you've been waiting for a book for literal years. Because of that, I feel I'll be sitting with this book a few days before returning for a final rating. This book could get better or worse in my head with time, and I'm unsure which way it will go. We will see how exactly it ends up haunting me. The pacing in here felt off to me at times, specifically with the relationships developing. I always knew what was going to develop but I expected it to go more slowly than it did, and that left me a little disappointed. BUT, there were THINGS that have HAPPENED that may make up for it idk. There were also some things about the plot that I wasn't following and left me a bit confused. It was as if chunks were missing at times. Additionally, there are a few things you are beat over the head with as well so it's an interesting combination. So those things prevented me from giving it a higher rating. BUT, with the few disappointments out of the way, the AESTHETICS... so on point. So dark. So eldritch. So much blood and body horror. If you are at all triggered by blood, gore, or self-harm, please stay 5000 miles away from this book. There's blood magic in it so that should be obvious, but just in case. And I do adore the characters, and am looking forward to seeing them even more fleshed out as the series continues. Lastly, although I found aspects of the romance rushed, there were still scenes that spoke to me on a deep shipping level so thats important to note. The fanart and gifsets that are going to come out of this... I am pumped.

  16. 5 out of 5

    destiny ♡⚔♡ [howling libraries]

    It's been a couple of months since I finished Wicked Saints, and I have a lot of thoughts. If you'd like to read them, please click here to visit my updated (as of June 2019) review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    very excited for this

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elise (TheBookishActress)

    We are all monsters, Nadya. Some of us just hide it better than others. It’s really been a while since I’ve fallen head-over-heels for a fantasy series in this obsessive, letting-it-take-over-my-time-for-a-week way, and Wicked Saints did that for me. I had one or two problems, yes, but overall, I was so completely engrossed in this novel and in this world. → worldly worldbuilding ← Okay, so, this is Russian-inspired fantasy, with blood mages, and also clerics. The Kalyazi can contact gods, We are all monsters, Nadya. Some of us just hide it better than others. It’s really been a while since I’ve fallen head-over-heels for a fantasy series in this obsessive, letting-it-take-over-my-time-for-a-week way, and Wicked Saints did that for me. I had one or two problems, yes, but overall, I was so completely engrossed in this novel and in this world. → worldly worldbuilding ← Okay, so, this is Russian-inspired fantasy, with blood mages, and also clerics. The Kalyazi can contact gods, sometimes, and these people consider Tranavian blood magic to be unholy. This has caused a war. The characters in this book are on both sides of that war; indeed, our two POVs are essentially the strongest Tranavian character and the strongest Kalyazi character. Something I loved about this was the way in which divinity becomes both a question and a force within the book: characters are motivated by religion, but the story does not become one entirely about a fight for religion. I think what got to me about this world is just how expansive it feels. Wicked Saints does an excellent job juggling many moving parts in the wheel of both characters and world. It feels expansive in the way good urban fantasy like The Infernal Devices feels expansive: you’re juggling a great deal of side characters without points of view but you’re intrigued to see more about almost every one. → plot and structure and all that ← The plot doesn’t twist and turns too much in the first half, and is indeed a bit oddly structured; to use film language, the first act is a bit long, meaning the narrative as a whole feels as if it’s taking a while to actually get going. It was the rest of the novel that had me completely hooked. The final conflict had me absolutely screaming. → characterization blah blah blah ← in other words: sign me the FUCK up 👌👀👌👀👌👀👌👀👌👀 good shit go౦ԁ sHit👌 thats ✔ some good👌👌shit right👌👌th 👌 ere👌👌👌 right✔there ✔✔if i do ƽaү so my self 💯 i say so 💯 thats what im talking about right there right there (chorus: ʳᶦᵍʰᵗ ᵗʰᵉʳᵉ) mMMMMᎷМ💯 👌👌 👌НO0ОଠOOOOOОଠଠOoooᵒᵒᵒᵒᵒᵒᵒᵒᵒ👌 👌👌 👌 💯 👌 👀 👀 👀 👌👌Good shit This book is told via two points of view: →Nadya Lapteva, a mage who can speak to all of the gods. Currently coming into her power. →Serefin Meleski, a blood mage prince, bi icon and honestly my favorite character. This character grew on me a lot: I loved seeing him develop. There is also a ridiculously good cast of other primary characters, including: →Malachiasz, a blood mage looking for a home in the world. The villainy love interest. →Anna, Nadya’s helper and trainer →Parijahan, an Akolan who committed murder to avenge her sister. my other favorite. →Rashid, another Akolan who allies with the group. →Ostyia, Serefin’s partner-in-crime and professional murder lesbian. my OTHER other favorite. →Kacper, Serefin’s other partner-in-crime. possible love interest to one character… maybe? → let’s talk about that romance ← So. Honestly. One of the best parts of Wicked Saints is that this is one of the best uses of enemies to lovers I have seen in years and years. And I think I get why it wasn’t always quite as popular with others reviewers; the romance, at times, feels like the general villain love interest dynamic we have all seen so many times before, in that Malachiasz is Bad But Has Hidden Depths. Yes, I get it. I also genuinely don’t hate this trope as long as it’s not good girl x bad boy. (You can read this: as long as they both are kind of evil it’s fine.) It’s just that the overall arc of the burgeoning relationship here is just… it’s so tense, but also has so much genuine growing care, and I’m a slut for that. Their actual dynamic in the second half of the book is just… it’s tender, okay? → cliches, tropes, and derivativeness ← The major negative / positive / okay certainly a fact about this book is something that really didn’t affect my actual reading experience, but has been sort of bugging me in the weeks past, and that is the fact that this has a lot of similarities to the Grisha Trilogy. This was first pointed out by other readers, but the more it’s pointed out, the more I can’t help but notice the similarities: the Russian-inspired world, the evil love interest, and the structural similarities in the reveal of the love interest’s powers. I think at some point we should probably have a conversation about degrees of inspiration and how narratives, in their basic construct, will almost always take thematic inspiration from other sources. The question comes in where our personal lines are between thematic inspiration and essential fanfiction that cannot be divorced from its inspiration. For me, it was not a struggle to read these characters as individuals separate from their possible inspiration; in fact, I didn’t even notice until I’d already read the book. These characters all feel strongly characterized on their own; Nadya does not share a backstory with Alina or anything along those lines. (Had I seen this as fanfiction, I would have hated it; I absolutely hate the Alina/Darkling ship. Sorry.) I also just frankly… think this is a whole lot better than the Grisha trilogy? I mean, I found Grisha too poorly written to be enjoyable (Leigh Bardugo’s later Six of Crows is a huge improvement on this front), with character work that got shoddy in places. I think if you were to look at the two books comparatively, you can almost read Nadya’s character arc around magic as a direct interplay with magic in the Grisha series: for her, gaining more power is not a descent into darkness in the same way. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think this is a bigger conversation than just this book. → what i’d like from the sequel ← This was a 4 1/2 star read for me, which means I genuinely really enjoyed my experience and was absolutely addicted. But also that there are things I would like more and less of. For the sequel: more of that juicy side character development. I am ready for Parijahan and Ostyia to be on every single page. But generally, I want to get a little more of Nadya’s humanity. I liked her characterization here fine, but I definitely felt there were moments in which she lacked agency in her own story. I would like a villain love story where she can still kick the love interest’s ass, and the ending to this book certainly made me optimistic on this point. The point is, I’m optimistic, and excited as fuck to see where this story goes. TW: self harm imagery (blood magic.), torture, parental abuse. ✨Arc received from the publisher via Netgalley for an honest review. Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify | Youtube

  19. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Finally! Whew! That book was bloody - those that read the book will understand. This book took me a long time to read - much longer than normal. I picked this book up, I put it down, I read approx. six or seven other books while reading this book. My main issues with this book were: I liked it, I didn't like it, I lost interest, I became intrigued, etc. I felt as if I were on a teeter-totter(seesaw) while reading this book. Another review used the word "conflicted" to voice her thoughts on the bo Finally! Whew! That book was bloody - those that read the book will understand. This book took me a long time to read - much longer than normal. I picked this book up, I put it down, I read approx. six or seven other books while reading this book. My main issues with this book were: I liked it, I didn't like it, I lost interest, I became intrigued, etc. I felt as if I were on a teeter-totter(seesaw) while reading this book. Another review used the word "conflicted" to voice her thoughts on the book and I 100% agree. The parts I liked, I really liked, but then there were other parts that left me feeling ho-hum. There were many times I thought about not finishing this book, then I would turn the page and *BAM* the book got interesting again. So, I was torn. The premise of this book sounded so promising: a girl who can speak to Gods, a prince not knowing who to trust, a boy with secrets. I thought I would love this book. In all honesty, I really think it was me and not the book. Again, I loved the fact that the main character could talk to Gods, all the characters had issues with who to trust, who not to trust, what allegiance to make, each had flaws, each made errors, each had an agenda. I also liked the thought of a centuries long war and that thought of what would happen if either side won. So, what was my problem? I didn't feel any connection to the characters, although I loved the synopsis the plot didn't always keep my attention and I was never invested in the story. This is a case of we all can't love the same book. There is a strong audience out there for this book and I encourage readers to read other reviews. This one was just not the right book for me. Thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lola

    I have to say, I was ready to hate this book. The cover attracted me, and so did the fact that it’s YA Fantasy, and as much as I love to hate the genre if it becomes too cliché, part of me will always come back for more. I was ready to hate this book because I trust my friends’ opinions and people seem to react very differently to this story. I, for one, could not put it down. I found it action-driven, intense, fun, even funny at times, and although the characters gotta do what they gotta do, the I have to say, I was ready to hate this book. The cover attracted me, and so did the fact that it’s YA Fantasy, and as much as I love to hate the genre if it becomes too cliché, part of me will always come back for more. I was ready to hate this book because I trust my friends’ opinions and people seem to react very differently to this story. I, for one, could not put it down. I found it action-driven, intense, fun, even funny at times, and although the characters gotta do what they gotta do, they often stop for a minute to appreciate one another. To thank someone for saving their lives. To offer support. To show that they care. It’s not just about having this one goal and doing everything to achieve it and until that happens nothing else exists. It’s like university… it’s time consuming and you could decide to only focus on your studies, but you also feel this need inside you for social interaction and connecting to people, even if briefly, because it makes your day better. I very much enjoyed the fast pacing. I read it in the midst of midterms so I’m not going to lie and say I read it in one sitting but I did get to the 100th page in what felt like a snap of fingers and those 100 pages were filled with precarious, dramatic, unexpected situations. Not simply with description. Thank you. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been taking multiple religion courses this semester and the last, but I’ve become relatively open to religion or anything of the sort in my reads. For instance, the main character can communicate with different gods and goddesses who lend her powers and I LOVED THAT. Whereas a year ago I might have said, ‘‘that’s… too much for me.’’ I found the heroine’s interactions with the higher beings actually… funny. They have a personality, and so do the rest of the cast. Cannot wait for more! Blog | Youtube | Twitter | Instagram | Google+ | Bloglovin’

  21. 4 out of 5

    April (Aprilius Maximus)

    I would die for Serefin and that's the tea.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alana • thebookishchick

    "And who are you that you can do what countless others have failed at over a century?" No one. Just a girl. Some small scrap of divinity. She shrugged. "I'm the first person who refuses to fail." There's a new group of monsters in town and they're here for a bloody good time. It's been a hot minute since I've been so invested in a fantasy book within the first chapter, but NOT ANYMORE. When I finished chapter one I knew this was going to be good and different than a lot of the other fantasy books "And who are you that you can do what countless others have failed at over a century?" No one. Just a girl. Some small scrap of divinity. She shrugged. "I'm the first person who refuses to fail." There's a new group of monsters in town and they're here for a bloody good time. It's been a hot minute since I've been so invested in a fantasy book within the first chapter, but NOT ANYMORE. When I finished chapter one I knew this was going to be good and different than a lot of the other fantasy books I've read in the past. Mostly because this is much darker than my prior fantasy reads, but if I'm being honest, the darker the better. Which is exactly why this was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019! Now, I can't say much without spoilers so I'll do my best to convey my love for these characters and this world as quickly as I can. We're not going to discuss who the "monsters" of the story are, but just know...I love the real monster A WHOLE LOT. Are you even surprised? Nadya, our MC is a cleric who can speak to gods and devotes her entire life to them. I initially struggled with how she so blindly followed her religion, however, by the end I was rooting so hard for her. Was it because she was beginning to question her gods or just because she grew on me? I don't really know, but either way I have to admit I think she's one of the better written female protagonists I've read in a long time. As for Malachiasz Czechowicz and Serefin Meleski, I am so here for both of them. No, I won't tell you which one I love more in an effort to avoid spoilers. Just know, I love both tormented souls a lot and need to know my babies are okay come the next book. I loved how this book took the whole creepy, goth vibe and turned it up about 100 notches. My inner goth girl was squealing. I'm not one to really care for descriptions but you guys, I was living for the setting in this one. Like, actually drooling over this. It was just so pretty and dark, and ugh, be still my beating black heart. I kept rereading the descriptions of the world over and over again because they were just so perfect. It was everything I could have hoped for and more. Plus, this was just a super bloody good time, literally. The one thing that I struggled a bit with was the pacing. It was done so perfectly for about 85% of the book, however, at the end during the most important part of the book it just felt so rushed. I really loved how this book flowed so well in the beginning, it went from heart-pounding action and tapered down to a clear and concise plot that was easy to follow. I never felt like I was overwhelmed with too much information at one time until I get to the end which then left me re-reading parts to make sure I wasn't missing anything. It definitely threw me off. Favorite Quotes "We're all monsters, Nadya. Some of us just hide it better than others." "Don't be a martyr. We have no use for another saint." "Dazzle the monsters, Nadya. You've already charmed the worst of the lot; the rest should be easy." All in all, I gotta give it the author. This was an awesome debut that really lived up to my expectations. You all better believe next year I'll be the first person in line waiting for this book on release day to make sure all my new favorite monsters are still wreaking havoc on the world. Thank you Wednesday books for sending me an e-ARC of this and inviting me to be a part of the blog tour! Blog | Twitter | Instagram

  23. 4 out of 5

    ELLIAS (elliasreads)

    We're all monsters, Nadya, some of us just hide it better than others. Some Avatar the Last Airbender vibes with The Grisha Trilogy's The Darkling mixed in. Honestly sounds great. And honestly? Not really here for it with this book. I don't think I've read a book where I could barely pronounce half of the characters, places, and titles....mix of Polish/Russian(?) but really, the hype for this book is unreal . Again, I'm trying to distance myself from that hype but you know what.....it just m We're all monsters, Nadya, some of us just hide it better than others. Some Avatar the Last Airbender vibes with The Grisha Trilogy's The Darkling mixed in. Honestly sounds great. And honestly? Not really here for it with this book. I don't think I've read a book where I could barely pronounce half of the characters, places, and titles....mix of Polish/Russian(?) but really, the hype for this book is unreal . Again, I'm trying to distance myself from that hype but you know what.....it just made me dislike this book even more. I felt like this book was two different books. The writing threw me off so many times. Especially in the first half. I'm not an experienced writer by any means but lmao, it was so weird to see how vastly different and improved the second half of the book was compared it the former. Yikes. The first half of the book was honestly draining and a little slow for my taste. There were some good strong points sprinkled here and there throughout the book, and enough (barely) to keep my interest in the story. But really that 'interest', even kept on waning and wavering in and out. I just wish some of the interesting aspects that stood out in the book were more fleshed out and expanded upon. The second half of the book picked up the pace, but it wasn't until the last 20 something pages where we actually get some of that goodness I wish was more prominent throughout the book. At this point though, I'm not actually sure if I want to even read the sequel but I guess time will tell. Wavering between a '2.5' and a '3' star read (read and finished in one sitting) but there was something there.....really great and strong premise but ultimately, not fleshed out enough. This was like a Lucky Charms cereal. Looks great and tasty. Pour that shit into a bowl and you see all those puffy glamorous delicious marshmallows. Eat those fuckers first and then all you're left with are the bland and boring aftertaste of what you thought was a great cereal (don't get me wrong, it still is). 2.75 STARS. Not a bad rating whatsoever. Just really disappointed overall with the hype, story, and characters. Could have been better. Hopefully the sequel will be. Twitter | Bookstagram | Youtube |

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    Good girl meets bad boy. What could possibly happen? Wicked Saints doesn't feel Gothic and hardly qualifies to be pitched as a "Gothic Joan of Arc." It is, however, a fairly well-rendered world with characters that fit nicely into some familiar fantasy tropes who (surprise, surprise!) fall in love with one another. He was a nightmare - the echoes she still felt of his power were troubling - but he was gentle. Anxious and strange, a boy caught up in a world that had broken him, all while trying t Good girl meets bad boy. What could possibly happen? Wicked Saints doesn't feel Gothic and hardly qualifies to be pitched as a "Gothic Joan of Arc." It is, however, a fairly well-rendered world with characters that fit nicely into some familiar fantasy tropes who (surprise, surprise!) fall in love with one another. He was a nightmare - the echoes she still felt of his power were troubling - but he was gentle. Anxious and strange, a boy caught up in a world that had broken him, all while trying to do something good for once. She wondered if her anger that was so quick to spark was just her fighting against the pull she felt. Was her fascination merely because she had been sheltered her whole life and never known someone so drastically different from herself? Or was it more? Was it because he was dangerous and exciting, all while being completely infuriating yet thoughtful?* - *Note: Quote taken from an Advanced Readers Edition.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Bilgram

    “Blood and blood and bone. Magic and monsters and tragic power.” Listen, no one is as shocked or disappointed by this rating as I am. But, with female characters like Jude Duarte, Vasya Petrovna, and Inej Ghafa, I couldn’t give this book a higher rating. Before we get into why I didn’t love Wicked Saints the way I’d hoped, let’s start with what it’s about. Nadya is a cleric, but unlike other clerics *refrains from making a bad not-like-other-girls joke* can communicate with not one, but all the “Blood and blood and bone. Magic and monsters and tragic power.” Listen, no one is as shocked or disappointed by this rating as I am. But, with female characters like Jude Duarte, Vasya Petrovna, and Inej Ghafa, I couldn’t give this book a higher rating. Before we get into why I didn’t love Wicked Saints the way I’d hoped, let’s start with what it’s about. Nadya is a cleric, but unlike other clerics *refrains from making a bad not-like-other-girls joke* can communicate with not one, but all the gods and use her prayer beads to call upon their powers. Within the first few pages of the book, the monastery Nadya was raised in is under attack by Serefin—blood mage and the crown prince of an enemy country—and so Nadya must flee the only life she’s known with the hopes of her country’s future resting on her shoulders. While on the run, Nadya teams up with a group of rebels, led by Malachiasz, another powerful blood mage to end the war. “You must make a choice, little bird. Do you continue on with your wings clipped or do you fly?” Promising, right? I’d thought so too. I was so excited for this book, like, who-needs-to-study-for-midterms-when-I-can-devour-this-book excited. In all honesty, I’m a little afraid to post this review because there’s been an unbelievable amount of hype surrounding this book, and that’s why I’ve put off writing this, but it’s 2019 and YA readers deserve better. We deserve female characters who are allowed to have both agency and a romantic relationship, not one or the other. My biggest issue with Wicked Saints is Nadya. This isn’t Nadya’s book, it’s Malachiasz’s. The book promises a strong and powerful female character who is determined to vanquish her enemies, the tagline is even “let them fear her,” but Nadya doesn’t do anything. While she does have arguments with Malachiasz and is steadfast in her beliefs for a bit—I’ll get more into this when I discuss the handling of religious discourse, which I did think was very well done—there comes a point when she doesn’t make any decisions of her own, simply going along with Malachiasz’s plans and listening to whatever he says. I’m so tired of being promised strong female characters only to have them forsake agency as soon as a romantic subplot is introduced. Nadya has such an amazing power, one she learns has much more potential than even she had known, and yet, she’s reduced to the love interest in her own story as soon as she has a romance. Friends, when I say she doesn’t do anything, I mean anything. She can’t even kill someone in a fight to the death, Malachiasz has to do it for her. And she constantly forgives him for everything, only standing up for herself to a point before literally going weak at the knees. It truly feels as though Nadya is a side character in Malachiasz’s story, and it makes me so sad because I thought we'd finally reached a point where female characters are allowed to have agency and romantic relationships, not one or the other. With iconic lines such as Inej Ghafa’s, “She would fight for him, but she could not heal him. She would not waste her life trying,” and female characters such as Jude Duarte who can kiss a boy, plot with him to steal a kingdom, and then betray him in order to do so, I can’t support stories that make female characters choose between the two, and worse, be reduced to one dimensionality as soon as they enter a romantic relationship. I've seen discussion online about Wicked Saints dismantling tropes, but for me it relied heavily on tropes without questioning or subverting them. "Don’t be a martyr. We have no use for yet another saint." With everything I didn’t like about the book, I will say the braiding of religion, magic, and politics was extremely well done and handled carefully and respectfully. Wicked Saints starts a really great and important dialogue about questioning our beliefs, opening our minds to others, and thinking/deciding for ourselves instead of simply following the things we’re taught. It’s the kind of YA book that is truly written for teenagers because it has the conversations they should be reading about—without passing judgement or shying away from the various arguments. While reading, I kept going back and forth between who I agreed with, who I wanted Nadya to agree with, and how I wanted the characters to find a middle ground. However, while thematically the magic system worked well because of how it related to religion and politics, I will say, on a practical level, it did fall apart at the end. I’m a stickler when it comes to magic systems, and in particular, well-built magic systems with rules and consequences for broken rules. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons between Wicked Saints and Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy, and while I do see similarities, those books have a highly structured magic system where we know the rules, limitations, and what happens when the boundaries of magic are pushed too far. Wicked Saints, on the other hand, does a good job of building the magic system and its rules throughout the book, but everything we learned about it collapses in the end in order for certain plot points to occur. I’ve reread the ending multiple times and am still confused, and in all honesty, it almost feels lazy? As though the rules that had been previously established suddenly didn’t matter because certain plot points needed to happen. This is definitely something I’m finicky about and other readers won’t mind, but I’m a very logic driven reader and love well-structured magic systems, so I was disappointed with how the ending events transpired. The other thing Duncan really nails is atmosphere. It’s clear she not only has a love and appreciation for Russian and Polish culture, but also did her research. The setting descriptions were hauntingly beautiful with snow and iron spires and architectural descriptions that left me drooling. The world is so vivid and rich with lore, geography, history, and religious canons that created an immersive reading experience. The world building was easily one of my favorite things about the book and was done with such care and precision, even the languages being artfully constructed, and this is a world I didn’t want to leave. “He was a liar and she wanted his truths.” Overall, I did have a lot of issues with the book, but I also flew through it. I like to think of it as candy—easy to gobble down quickly, but not necessarily the best thing for you, and your teeth and stomach may hurt a little after. A big reason why I was so disappointed by Wicked Saints was because of how it was marketed. I’d expected an epic story on par with the works of Holly Black and Leigh Bardugo, and it simply didn't deliver. I will say though, the sexual tension is peak and there’s enough angst in here to rival your emo years, so if you love all those things and Slavic lore and aren’t expecting a masterpiece, life-altering book, go forth and conquer—I hope you love it more than I did! "This act—the pressure of his lips against hers, and the heat that flooded her veins—this was heresy." Preorder Wicked Saints https://us.macmillan.com/books/978125... *All quotes are taken from a bound manuscript and are subject to change upon publication* Trigger warning: self-harm and parental abuse

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    I should probably start this out by saying that I’m not a fan of bland white dude villains, or “morally grey” ones because I find that often they are underdeveloped and based entirely on society being ingrained to give them more of a chance to be likable than anyone else. Any hint of an anxious lip bite and people want to wrap them up in a blanket and protect them. I have a lot of other Thoughts about how bad this type of thinking is for society (teaching us to always find ways to justify and ex I should probably start this out by saying that I’m not a fan of bland white dude villains, or “morally grey” ones because I find that often they are underdeveloped and based entirely on society being ingrained to give them more of a chance to be likable than anyone else. Any hint of an anxious lip bite and people want to wrap them up in a blanket and protect them. I have a lot of other Thoughts about how bad this type of thinking is for society (teaching us to always find ways to justify and excuse bad behavior from white dudes and prioritizing their ability to be redeemed over the people they've hurt) and how books like this are extremely harmful but that will have to wait for another day. Any other groups as complex villains? Sign me the fuck up, most of those stories are more understanding and compelling. The villain/love interest in this book? No thanks. But I should have known considering I have absolutely no sympathy for Kylo Ren, and the author seems to be a big fan of that type/that character particularly. Take Kylo Ren and create even less of a backstory/reasoning for him, and you get this mess. I’m also not necessarily adverse to enemy to lover ships but they have to be done well, which was absolutely not the case here, it was very insta-lovey. This book seemed to be all about Malachiasz, and in a poor way because it kept referring to him as anxious and lovable while also constantly talking about how evil he is, without really devoting itself to either, and it felt like that was essentially his whole personality. You have to establish certain things before being able to change them, and you can’t use “villain” as a personality trait. Simultaneously, the relationship removed any agency from the main female character. Nadya is essentially just a love interest and becomes a minor figure in her own story. I should have known that too, considering that social media seems to be focused on the guy and not the actual main character. This is so frustrating because you can have a female main character who is well developed and with a compelling narrative that is about her while also still developing a love story. The characters were all bland, anyway. I’d say just write a book from his perspective but then that means no self insert love story or purple prose descriptions of how dark and evil he is instead of any actual relationship development! On top of that, there was no real spark between them, enemies to lovers requires a nice tension but I didn’t feel it at all, partially because of the lack of development for Nadya but also because even though they’re supposed to be enemies all they do is have some quips here and there and then flip flopping between opinions, such as when he scares her and then she laughs at a joke minutes later. There is a way to do this that adds to the conflict, but since everything was so poorly established this was not done here. And Nadya is like, supposedly so devoted to her lifestyle but drops it as soon as she meets Malachiasz. It’s as if the book didn’t want to develop that plot and let it get in the way of her vague ass other plot so she just used it as a prop and then dropped it immediately. But this also means that it is hard to say why they are enemies to begin with, when it’s just vague circumstances and a lifestyle that she is supposedly devoted to. I also got some racist vibes from this book. The non white characters basically only ever got called by their descriptors and nationalities (including “creatures of the desert” which yikes), even after their names were known, and could basically be removed from the story with no impact. The whole thing made me very uncomfortable. The world building felt very incomplete, the whole story felt incredibly rushed while also boring.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zainab

    There's either a 1 or 2 star rating or a full on 5 star so I'm really not sure what to expect.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine from How Useful It Is

    I started reading Wicked Saints on 4/4/2019 and finished it on 4/17/2019 at 1:05am. This book is a great read! It started out slow with difficult character names to remember with additional unrecognizable Gods. However, the story picked up when the alternating view starts. I like it more when Malachiasz, 18, is introduced. It seems all three characters are clever because they were noticed by each other and by someone else. Either way, I do like smart characters who can think for themselves and h I started reading Wicked Saints on 4/4/2019 and finished it on 4/17/2019 at 1:05am. This book is a great read! It started out slow with difficult character names to remember with additional unrecognizable Gods. However, the story picked up when the alternating view starts. I like it more when Malachiasz, 18, is introduced. It seems all three characters are clever because they were noticed by each other and by someone else. Either way, I do like smart characters who can think for themselves and have their own suspicions. The supporting characters are well liked as well. I like Rashid, Pari, Kacper, and Ostyia. This book is told in the third person point of view following Nadezhda (Nadya) Lapteva, 17, as she and her friend Konstantin (Kostya) are being punished to peeling potatoes in the cellar for their prank on Father Alexie’s washing bowl. The Tranavia just fired their cannon, blood magic at Kalyazin, a secluded monastery in the mountains, a home and all that Nadya knew of. During this attack, Nadya loses her friend and her home, but able to escape. Nadya has a necklace full of beads that brings different Gods to her rescue. They give her light and magic to defeat the enemy or at least save herself. The alternative point of view is Serefin Meleski, the High Prince of the enemy, Tranavia. Serefin uses spell books and his blood to create magic. Serefin has been sent to the war front at a young age, not just to keep the enemy at bay but keep the distance with the King. The war has gone on for a century and it needs to be stopped. Nadya is forced into something that she stands against her whole life but it’s the only way she can be strong to fight back. Wicked Saints is well written and an interesting read. I like both views, more of Serefin than Nadya. She has issues with decision making. She’s never sure of the boy she likes. One moment she wants him and the next she thinks she made a mistake falling for him. I like the unexpected twists at the witch’s tower when they all ended up in the same place. I like the outcome of Zaneta’s fate, another twist I didn’t see coming, as well as Malachiasz’ true identity. This book is full of blood and razor cuts, yikes, but the story line is interesting and I do recommend everyone to read this book! Pro: fast paced, magic, forbidden love, some twists Con: slow start at first, difficult names and Gods, I rate it 4 stars! ***Disclaimer: Many thanks to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for inviting me to host a blog tour. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest. xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details

  29. 5 out of 5

    Melanie (TBR and Beyond)

    “The girl, the monster, and the prince…” Trigger warnings: Self Harm (Blood mages must cut to draw their power), war themes, graphic violence and gore. Wicked Saints is EXACTLY what I needed in my life and I'm calling it now, Emily A. Duncan is the next Bardugo - we have a YA queen in the making *bows down* I can't believe that Wicked Saints wasn't really on my radar before reading it. I was lucky enough that Wednesday Books offered to send me a copy and the rest is history. I'm honestly havin “The girl, the monster, and the prince…” Trigger warnings: Self Harm (Blood mages must cut to draw their power), war themes, graphic violence and gore. Wicked Saints is EXACTLY what I needed in my life and I'm calling it now, Emily A. Duncan is the next Bardugo - we have a YA queen in the making *bows down* I can't believe that Wicked Saints wasn't really on my radar before reading it. I was lucky enough that Wednesday Books offered to send me a copy and the rest is history. I'm honestly having trouble even expressing how much I loved this book, it is being compared to Grishaverse left and right and that is fair but I'm going out on a limb and saying that this series will be much better and it won't have the bane of my existence in it - Mal *gag* I also think that Wicked Saints is unique enough that even if you weren't a big fan of Grisha - you could still very much enjoy this book. We also get a lot of awesome rep in this book. One of the characters is bisexual, another is visually impaired (yay from disability rep!) and many of the characters are of color. This book is not lacking at all in the diversity department. Our main protagonist, Nadya is a very sheltered Cleric who has lived in a monastery her entire life. Her people having been at war for a long time and Nadya is there one true hope to finally winning it. Unlike anyone before her, she is able to talk to more than one god - all of them actually. Nadya is to use this gift to channel various powers from the gods in order to win the war effort. Plans go awry when the prince, Serefin, from the other warring fraction launches a surprise attack and Nayda is told to flee because she has to live or the war will be lost. Everyone in the monastery give their lives to make sure she is safely out of harm's way and the bloodshed is brutal. Nadya and one friend make it out alive and must travel to the next destination spot for protection. From there they meet some unlikely allies, including a blood mage, Malachiasz. Nadya is so kickass in this, one of my favorite new heroins for sure. I love that she can't just pick and choose what powers the gods have to offer. She must ask/pray to them. I love that the gods all have very different personalities and the banter between her and them is hilarious. There are gods that have little interest in her or are rather grumpy and it's a great time all around. I don't want to say too much about the other two lead characters due to spoilers but my little heart does belong to Serefin - I can't help it! I do want to quickly address the romance in this story because it's been getting so negative feedback. I never thought it took spotlight, there was so much else this story had to offer and the romance wasn't the main thing focused on. I also think the insta-love made sense in this case. You have a young girl that just lost everything and everyone in her life in a matter of minutes. Before that, Nadya has had everything decided for her and suddenly she is supposed to know how to survive on her own - of course she is going to cling to someone. It's literally the only thing she knows how to do. I'd think it was much more unrealistic if she had suddenly become completely independent. No, the romance wasn't my favorite thing but I didn't think it took away from the story at all and I understood Nadya's choices. Wicked Saints at it's core is about the war between religions and how people will go to literally any length to protect what they believe is the true way. This book doesn't hold back and it gets very dark and violent fast. I would caution everyone to be aware that there is a lot of cutting/self harm in this novel because of blood mages. Blood magic is very central in Wicked Saints and quite graphic in it's descriptions of how it is used. This might be triggering to some, so make sure you are in the right head space for this. I personally loved the use of blood magic, I thought it was really cool and reminds me of a lot of the console RPG's (role-playing games) I've played in past years. This makes complete sense since I know the author has said one of the inspirations for this is the game Dragon Age: Orgins, which happens to be one of my all-time favorites (team Alistar!). The darker elements, some of the magic system and the banter reminded me quite a bit of this game. I completely recommend this gem of a book, I think it's going to be huge and rightfully so. I haven't been this excited for a new series in awhile and I'm even more excited that I get to be in on it from the get go (I'm usually years late). Yes, you will get Grisha vibes but this really does have it's own thing going for it. The writing is impeccable, the magic system is cool as hell and the action starts right off the bat! Highly recommend you at least give this one a try, it's very worth it. Thank you to Wednesday Books for the physical arc in exchange for my honest opinion.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ashlee » Library In The Country

    BLOG TOUR (Q&A + Review) HOT DAMN THIS WAS INSANE. Launching myself into the sun would be less stressful than reading the final chapters of this book. Emily A. Duncan is the maestro of dark boys and probably evil gods. Emily is a bloodmage and this is her spellbook, I am entranced. Wicked Saints is a bold and creative novel that takes some of our best loved themes and flips them on their head. This remarkable dark fantasy debut is rooted in a Slavic inspired world that will hold you hostage. O BLOG TOUR (Q&A + Review) HOT DAMN THIS WAS INSANE. Launching myself into the sun would be less stressful than reading the final chapters of this book. Emily A. Duncan is the maestro of dark boys and probably evil gods. Emily is a bloodmage and this is her spellbook, I am entranced. Wicked Saints is a bold and creative novel that takes some of our best loved themes and flips them on their head. This remarkable dark fantasy debut is rooted in a Slavic inspired world that will hold you hostage. Once you get started, you won’t be able to look away. This is the type of story that will seek deep into your bones and consume you. I’ve seen it compared to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse and while there are similarities and certainly appeal to fans of the aforementioned, Wicked Saints is wholly and uniquely its own story. There is nothing quite like it that I’ve read. The story follows three characters - a young cleric and conduit of the Gods, a runaway heretic magic and a sassy alcoholic prince. These are the characters I didn’t know I needed. These are the characters you didn’t know you needed. Full of witty banter and a chilling atmosphere, Wicked Saints soars to the top of my favorite debuts list. The hype is well deserved, you need this stunning book (inside and out!) on your shelf.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.