Book Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Ducan (eARC)

Wicked Saints

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Publication Date: 02 Apr 2019

Genre: YA (Dark) Fantasy

Pages: 375

Publisher: Wednesday Books/St. Martin’s Press

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.

I’ll be honest, I have been struggling with what to actually say about this book ever since I finished it because it is UNLIKE anything that I’ve ever read. This book sucked me in from the very first chapter. There’s something so harrowing about blood magic, and I just couldn’t get enough!

Kaylazin and Travania have been feuding in a holy war for a century, which the heretic Travanians are winning due to their use of blood magic. Nadya is the last known cleric, which means that she is blessed with the ability to not only communicate with the gods in her mind, but she can also harness their powers as they see fit. She spent the majority of her life hidden away at a monastery in the holy mountains training to understand the fundamentals of divinity. She was to remain a secret from the Travanians for another year, but one day, the monastery was attacked by Prince Serefin, crown Prince of Travania, and his army.

Nadya manages to narrowly escape to an abandoned church with her priestess and confidant. Unfortunately, they both quickly realize that they were not the only ones to seek refuge in the abandoned church. They bump into two sibling refugees from the Akolans, Rashid and Parijahan, who are traveling with a mysterious boy named Malachiasz that both Nadya and Anna do not trust; especially because he is a blood mage from Travania. It’s not long before the church is under siege from Prince Serefin, which forces the unlikely group to band together in order to survive the brutal battle that ensues (purposefully keep this part vague because I don’t want to give away any spoilers).

Following the battle at the church, the group formulates a plan to work together to kill the Travanian king. In doing so, Nadya would put an end to blood magic and restore power to the gods…well that’s as long as everyone does their part in ensuring everything goes to plan. And let’s just say, we all know how group projects turn out.

When I first heard that this story was a dark fantasy, I don’t think I actually put a lot of stock into that. I was blown away at how dark this story was. From the very beginning, the story is covered in blood. The blood mages cut themselves and smear the blood on the pages of their spell books to activate whatever spells they are trying to cast. There were definitely some scenes that were intense and gruesome. I never thought anything in the plot felt misplaced considering how violent the story was.

I absolutely loved the characters in this book. Nadya is definitely naïve and only focuses the religion of the Kalyazin’s as true, but Malachaisz constantly questions everything she stands for and believes in. Watching the slow-burn romance unfold between these two was utterly addicting. I couldn’t get enough.

Prince Serefin. Looking back, I think I love his character the most. He is broken. And I mean coming from an abusive, tyrannical father and drinks himself into an absolute stupor every single night kind of broken. I really ended up sympathizing with him towards the end because everything that he thought he knew and stood for, is completely ripped out from underneath him.

Overall, if you like your fairytales drenched in blood, deception and betrayal then this book is for you. This dark fantasy lures you into a heart-racing adventure filled with magic, gods, monsters, and rich Russian and Polish folklore. The plot if full of twists and turns that leave you questioning who you should trust. By the end, my heart was ripped out and spat back in my face. I can’t wait for book 2!!!

Thank you to Wednesday Books/St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the eARC. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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