Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan
ARC received from the publisher for a fair review.
Publish date: April 2, 2019
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 really enjoyed following Nadya on her adventure to save her faith and country. Between the alternating POVs we were given such a dynamic look to the story that gave an outlook to support both sides. While we rooted for our divine, god appointed cleric we also sympathized with the heretic blood mage. Through multiple dangerous encounters the plot moved along swiftly and stayed entertaining, even as the characters battled with their religion, personal feelings and morality. While we are used to single villains we were given so many that it was easy to follow Nadya as she lost or gained trust in her companions.
Trigger warnings: victims of war/violence/torture, self mutilation for use of magic.
The World Building
What I love about this book is that the good and the bad becomes more and more ambiguous as the story progresses. While we are affronted with negativity towards certain characters, it is the adaptation of Nadya’s plan that really unfolds the background of both countries and what they believe in. Though the magic itself wasn’t quite explained, we are given bits and pieces as the story progressed. I was really hoping for a better understanding and limitations of the blood magic. As Nadya’s magic was used through her prayers there wasn’t much limitation to what she could do, however I wasn’t sure how far that magic could go, how it was controlled – and same for the blood mages. What was actually in the spell book, what were the limitations to the spells themselves, as their durations and conduits changed.
Lovers of morally grey character look no further. Not only do we get a POV from one of the bad guys, but we get a “divine” character that slowly loses her grip on her reality as she slips into the blood magic that the heretics she is against uses. What I love about Nadya is that she is confronted with her belief system that she was raised on, and is forced to decided what she believes, and decide on how her actions reflect her beliefs – not for herself but how it actually affects her relationship with the gods that she worships. On the flip side we get these monstrous characters that show bits of humanity. I remember reading somewhere about how fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Darkling would appreciate this book, and I whole heartedly agree. While the magic and overall plot is completely different, I can see some similarity where people might draw from the desire for more, and more power. Or the idea that this naive good character is manipulated by the bad character.
Cat Power – The Moon
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.
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Author website: eaduncan.com
Author Twitter: @glitzandshadows
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