Title/Author: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
Page Count: 400 Pages
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Obtained: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
GR Summary: 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.
cw: self-harm, child abuse, heavy drinking, psychological manipulation
Wicked Saints was one of my most anticipated Spring 2019 reads and I honestly can’t say that it lived up to my expectations. I feel so conflicted about this book In some ways, it was witty and written in this amazing brutal but beautiful style. But then there were so many things that annoyed me about it and I spent more time being confused as to what was happening rather than being immersed into the story. It feels like the story was trying to do so much that in the end, it didn’t do nearly enough for me if that makes any sense. Keep reading to see how I break it down and see if you would like to pick up the book and decide for yourself.
Character | Atmosphere | Writing Style
There are three main characters that the fate of this world relies on. Nadya, a gifted human girl who has been touched by the gods and gifted the use of their power. Malachiasz (I’m gonna call him Mal because I can’t with his name), a battered blood mage traitor who is on a quest to save his kingdom. Serefin, the drunk High Prince of Tranvia who isn’t as bloodthirsty as his father. I really like all of these characters. I felt that they were easy to relate to and I LOVED how snarky they all were in all sorts of situations. Drunk Serefin is still my favorite thing. There were some people who complained that Nadya didn’t have nearly enough character development and in some ways I am inclined to agree. She’s lived sheltered in a monastery her entire life and has always been a tool to be used by the monks and the gods who give her power. She has been taught to hate the Tranvanians and until now, has never had to challenge that thought process. Enter Mal. Mal is an elite blood mage and he’s just ruined everything for Nadya. And not just because he’s hot. That plays in later. He challenges her beliefs about blood mages and religion, and really makes her think about how to end the war between their countries. But, like many people who start to widen their mental model, Nadya sildes back into just being a tool for others to use rather than having her own agency A LOT. Which is to be expected, she’s just starting out.
The atmosphere of the book is really dark, which I expected from the cover. I tried not to go into this knowing too much about it. But I knew with that cover and a title like Wicked Saints, that things were going to be dark. The novel takes place in the middle of a war, and it is VERY plot driven. There are words/phrases from each respective character’s languages scattered naturally throughout the book. And while in the later half of the book, the transitions between the English of the book and the world languages were smooth and understandable, the beginning of the book lacked necessary context clues to understand what words meant. This led to a lot of frustration and an inability to fully immerse myself in the novel.
I will say that I LOVE Emily A Duncan’s writing style. Her sentence structures were well thought out and she easily blended descriptive language in with necessity. There were almost no areas where I thought her use of language was too over the top or too dull and I really appreciated the effort that went into that.
Plot | Intrigue | Logic | Enjoyment
The plot to this novel sounds simple: three enemies team up to stage a coup and save their world. There’s a hate to love romance and everything will be fine. Except it’s not that simple. There is also an epic journey, magical beings who may or may not deign to answer prayers, a cult of sorts, the fight between religion and heresy, and don’t forget to throw in a crazy witch spouting prophecies! I ADORE the main premise of Wicked Saints. However, I am not crazy about all that it tried to do. It was just too much packed into one little world. There were too many gods in Nadya’s pantheon, too many magic types, too many plot threads that didn’t really make sense together. Now, if this had been twice as long as it was, I could see all of these pieces weaving together well, but it was just too much for a 400-page novel. I’m sorry.
I was very intrigued by this novel, and I am still intrigued as to what could possibly happen next. The way it ends feels rather self-contained to me, so I’m not sure how it will be a 3 book series. It dragged a lot though in the late beginning and through the middle though since it was just a lot of back and forth of all three characters traveling. I really
Over all, this book really felt like an overly ambitious debut novel. It felt like it was trying so hard to be good that it ended up falling short to me. Now, you could read it and love it. There are plenty of amazing things about this novel to love and enjoy. The character’s snarky and dramatic turns of phrase, the fact that Nadya has to learn her own beliefs when she’s confronted with the enemy, the sexual tension between two of the main characters, and drunk Serefin. Always drunk Serefin.
Total Score: 4.75 out of 10
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 cups of chai