Title: Wicked Saints
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: April 2, 2019
*ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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.
I was lucky enough to get approved for an e-galley of one of my most anticipated book releases of 2019, and I can happily say that it didn’t disappoint. Wicked Saints is a dark, lush, magical book inspired by Eastern Europe. It has incredible word building and characterization, with swoon-worthy romance and action scenes that will make your heart pound. It has been compared to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse books, which I think is rightfully deserved.
The story takes place during a never-ending war between the two bordering countries of Kalyazin, a country that worships the gods, and Tranavia, a country that has abandoned the gods for their own free will and power. Nadya is the only cleric (one who can speak to the gods, who will grant her power when she prays to them) left in Kalyazin. She has spent her entire life secluded in a monastery, training for the part she is destined to play in the war. When the Tranavian crown prince brings an army to capture Nadya, she flees the monastery and meets a group of rebels who plan on assassinating the Tranavian king in order to end the war. Though Nadya is immediately skeptical of the powerful and mysterious Tranavian blood mage, Malachiasz, she eventually grows to trust him. Their journey brings them into the palace of Tranavia, where they encounter evil plots, dark magic, shocking discoveries, and unlikely allies.
I have to say that this book really tied religion, politics, and magic together in a way that was tasteful and believable. The overarching theme seemed to be questioning your beliefs and listening to the perspectives of others in order to make your own choices, regardless of what you are taught.
There are two main perspectives in Wicked Saints. Chapters alternate between Nadya and Serefin, the High Prince of Tranavia. The characterization of the characters was brilliant, from Nadya’s constant moral dilemma to Serefin’s sarcasm and binge-drinking tendencies. I ended up liking Serefin much more than I thought I would at the beginning. Even the secondary characters shined in their own ways.
This book is so dark and wintery and atmospheric, it sucked me right in. World building can make or break a story, but it was done flawlessly here. The Russian and Polish influences are threaded throughout this novel beautifully and the names and languages are so carefully constructed.
The plot wasn’t always fast-paced, but something about this book kept me turning the pages anyway. The action scenes, though infrequent, were powerful and made my heart race. Wicked Saints plays around with some familiar tropes, but everything unfolds in such a way that I was left feeling like I had never read anything like this before. Some aspects of this book (the major twists) were a little predictable, but there’s no denying that Emily Duncan is a fantastic writer. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in future books.
If you like fantasy, magic, dark worlds, strong characters, and questionable morals, this book is definitely for you.