Series: Something Dark and Holy(Amazon / Goodreads)
Written by: Emily A. Duncan
Published: April 1, 2019 by Wednesday Books (Macmillan)
Synopsis: “Prepare for a snow-frosted, blood-drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love ends up being the nightmare.” - Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen
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.
“This book destroyed me and I adored it.”- Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval
I was really excited to read this book. Since I learned about it way before it was even published, it seemed like a book totally up my alley. I love dark YA fantasy especially those inspired by Eastern European culture. And while there were some things I enjoyed about this book, it just didn’t quite live up to the hype.
One thing I did really enjoy was the world. There were so many great layers to this world. It’s a fantasy world rooted in religion and magic with two warring nations who believe very different things. It had so many elements that I love. I always enjoy a world with this much depth to it and this one was brilliantly inventive and complex. I thought the way the magic and religion interweaved was one of best parts. I am always looking for a creative magical system and I found that here. The blood magic in particular was really fascinating. I wish we got to learn more about how that worked and the make up of the spellbooks the blood mages used but maybe that’s coming in book 2. I will say, I did find there was a bit too much info dumping at the beginning of the book but it did lead to a really fascinating the world.
The part of the book that didn’t enthrall me however was the plot development. Now, don’t get me wrong, the plot was interesting. The last quarter of the book was really fascinating with high stakes and a lot of action, but that was really only the last bit. This book definitely suffered from first book syndrome for me. The first half really just felt like all that the characters were doing was getting from point A to point B and dumping information on one another along the way. It took me much longer to connect with the plot than I would have hoped. However that could just be a personal problem because I am such a plot driven reader. But I was honestly confused through a lot of it. I found myself having to reread chapters because something would happen and it was almost as if it had gone down off the page because I couldn’t remember it being told to me. I hope some of this is corrected in the final copy because I did read an ARC and that can happen.
But a lot of my confusion could have come from the changing perspectives. The book alternated between Nadya and Serefin who come from the two rival kingdoms. Multiple perspectives is challenging sometimes especially of the characters are in different places and having different storylines. This was one of those books where it is frustrating because when you leave one character and return to the other you completely forgot what the other had been up to. The chapters were short and I think I may have liked it better if they were a little bit longer so I could connect with the plot points a little bit more before switching back.
I did however like the characters. This is a book full of grey and odious characters. None of them are perfect and genuinely good. They all have secrets and are scheming and plotting both independently and together. Those are the kind of characters I love in my books. Some of them make for the kind of people you love to hate and others just make for really interesting choices along the way. Nadya and Serefin were good characters to be in the head of but I honestly think I like Serefin a little bit more. He I think had better character development throughout the book. It seems like Nadya is going to be the “chosen one” and she has some moments of heroism that I enjoyed but her personal growth just wasn’t as pronounced for me. Plus I found Nadya a little frustrating at times. She made some really bad choices especially when it came to the the romance.
Ugh, this romance. We have to talk about the romance in this books because it was not my favorite. I’ve never been someone who likes the good girl falls for the bad boy trope and that is totally what this was. I didn’t trust Malachaisz at all and the fact that Nadya fell so hard for him so quickly and would just forgive his transgressions just didn’t work for me. I love a complex, dark, and odious character but not as a romantic lead. I know a lot of people do however so if that is your thing then you will probably love that about this book.
I was really looking forward to reading this book and over the moon when the publisher sent me a copy as part of the blog tour. And while I liked some elements, it just fell a little short for me. It had a great world and interesting characters but the plot was confusing and the pacing slow plus the romance did not work for me at all.
I give Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan 8 out of 10 stars
Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I think this is going to be one of those books where people either love it or they don’t. For me, it was kind of a miss but I know a ton of people really loved it. If you like fantasy on the darker side with a heavy romance and a good girl/bad boy trope then check this out.
EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.
Have you read Wicked Saints? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!