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.
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Tags: Fantasy, Gods, Beliefs, Joan of Arc, Magic, Violence, Gothic Fantasy, Slow-burn Romance, Rag-tag group, Royalty, Loyalty, Russian-influence
(I received a free copy of this book, thanks to St. Martin’s and Edelweiss, in exchange for my honest review. This does not affect my opinions on the book.)
First off, this is very much a 5-star book. I just need a little more time to gather my mind about a few points which I don’t understand yet and can’t bring myself to officially call it a 5-star read until I do.
If you’ve seen my tweet, I proclaimed that Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan FINALLY drew up my enjoyment for fantasy fiction to the surface. Some time within last year I seemed to have lost my liking for it and couldn’t bring myself to feel enraptured by the genre. Until now.
The beautiful magic of the Kalyazins and the darkly-tainted spells of the Tranavians amped up the sweeping beauty of the Russian-inspired backdrop. Reading about the actions scenes was actually entertaining and mesmerizing! Coupled with the slow-burn romance, I was just loving it! My love-interest radar was confused for a good part of the book but I still enjoyed it. I don’t know how she did it but Emily Duncan managed to infuse such intimacy and desire into a kissing scene. Only kissing! You could feel the charge emanating from the pages.
“Iron must be tested.”
Told from dual-POVs, one of Nadya’s and the other, Serefin’s, I enjoyed both and appreciate how it let you see two sides of the story. It illuminates different facets of the whole battle and that they might actually both be right and wrong! Dash in some gray areas, mistakes, betrayal, deception and revelations, my mind was tugged back and forth between the two warring sides.
Nadya was also a protagonist you could understand. Her beliefs were challenged, what she knew to be truths doubted, everything was a chaotic mess for her. It made you sympathize hard for her predicament and the great responsibility placed on her shoulders. It was realistic how inexperienced she was, an aspect which I loved about because I often wonder how on earth a young adult/teen knows JUST what to do in a dicey situation!
There’s also something else I liked about Wicked Saints but I can’t mention because it’s a spoiler. I’m hoping my hunch is true because I’ve been WANTING to find a story with this trope.
Click here for the spoiler
Could there be a second-time-lucky love interest? As in, the first, Malachiasz, will not be her love for life and she’ll fall for Serefin later?
Also, can I just say how thankful I am of Emily Duncan got the Russian naming right? That female names have an ‘a’ at the end and males do not. For e.g. ‘Nadezhda Lapteva‘ is correct, whereas in Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, it was ‘Alina Starkov’. This was what spoiled it for me in Shadow and Bone as it took me out of the story.
I’d say that Wicked Saints is a rich-fantasy, in that it’s not quite a high-fantasy but still has sufficient worldbuilding. It’s dark, majestic, luminous, strong but most of all, human. It is an honor to be a part of it’s blog tour and I do look forward to the sequel 😉
“Prepare for a snow-frosted, blood-drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love ends up being the nightmare.” – Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen
Parental Guidance: 15+
Trigger Warning: There are scenes where characters cut their wrists slightly, not to kill themselves, but it may still be a trigger for some of you.
Violence – Deadly fights with blades and magic. Blood, cutting, torture and killing and mild gore.
Sex – Almost a sex scene. Sexual tension, yes.
Religion – Believing and non-believing. Lots of talk about Gods. Blasphemy and prayer.
Profanity – Bi*** and d**n
Recommended for: Those of you who love:
- a yin-yang, dark and light fantasy
- Russian influence
- Villains you can understand and might feel for
- Protagonists who aren’t too snippy for their own good yet strong
Meet the Author
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.