Author: Emily A. Duncan
Published: Wednesday Books
First Published: 02 April 2019
Rating: 5 stars
“She was chosen by the goddess of death. She never had a chance at innocence.”
I will start by saying that I was given an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review. These opinions are my own. Thank you so much Meghan Harrington and team at Wednesday Books for sending a copy my way. I am very thankful for be part of this Blog Tour.
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 was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019. It was described as a Joan of Arc-esque heroine in a Russian inspired world. Which is really just all my buzz words — Eastern European setting, retellings, gods! And oh my lord! Can I pre-order the rest of the series now please?
Wicked Saints is a debut fantasy which is about a centuries-long religious war between Kalyazin and Tranavia. The Kalyazin’s are losing and their hopes rest on, Nadezhda Lepteva. Nadezhda is a peasant girl who’s spent her life living under the protection of the monastery walls and can speak to the gods.
Nadezhda, or Nadya, is an amazing protagonist. She is quite a strong character but also very relatable. She, like every other character in this novel, is morally grey. I might not always agree with her actions but I can understand her motives. Nadya’s beliefs and unwavering faith is a huge part of her character. She has spent her whole like dedicating her life to the gods and obeying their orders. I’m excited to see what happens next and how her character develops.
The way Duncan has written these Saints is incredible. Generally, a cleric can communicate with one god, their patron, where Nadya can commune with them all. When the Saints talk to Nadya the passage is italicised. I’m amazed that Duncan is able to create a unique voice for each of the Saints, especially since there is no action or description to go with their words. The Saints do have the feel of the Greek Gods, but that might just be because they are known as the pantheon of Saints.
The story is told in dual perspectives and we get to see both sides of the war. One perspective continues Nadezhda and the second is from Tranavia’s High Prince and one of the strongest blood mage general’s, Serefin Meleski.
I love, love, love Serefin so much! He is a snarky, alcoholic who’s a touch bitter about the constant warfare and doesn’t cope well with hangovers. Serefin, under his grouchy exterior, really just wants what’s best for his country.
I will say the diversity in this world is amazing! All ranges of sexuality, race and disability are represented here, which is really refreshing in fantasy novels.
The Tranavian blood mages have one of the most interesting magic systems I’ve read. I will preface this with this is a grim, dark book. For them to be able to use their magic the mages need blood—generally use their own by cutting themselves—which then is fused with the pages of their spellbook. Also, they can only use the spell once. I’ve never seen a magic system like this and I’m interested to see more for it and if there is any variation between mages.
Duncan’s writing style is lush and lyrical. There’s a real gothic vibe, which I adore. I was totally engrossed in this world from the opening pages.
Overall, I could talk about this book for hours! I cannot wait for the next books in the series and already want to re-read it. If you’re a fan of the Grishaverse and fantasy with morally grey characters, this one is for you.