Thanks to NetGalleyand Macmillan for providing a digital advanced reader copy of Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan for 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. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.
Initially, I was drawn to this book because I saw a promo that mentioned Joan of Arc. Emily Duncan herself mentioned that this is not a strict Joan of Arc retelling, so if you are looking for that you may be disappointed. This book has a lot to offer in the vein of religious war, gods with questionable motives, and deep well-developed villains so I was overjoyed with my choice to read it asap.
Wicked Saints has 2 primary POVs. Nadya and Serefin provide their perspectives, and there is also an omniscient narrator. I never found myself struggling to keep up with who was where, or who knew specific information. I think the dual POV really helped push the pace of the story along.
The pacing in this book is very quick! The action starts almost immediately and doesn’t really let up till about 2/3 of the way through. There is a bit of a slow down at that point for character development (and relationship development, wink-wink-nudge-nudge) and then it’s a mad dash to the ending. Even with the fast pace of the plot, and the occasional curve balls that were not wholly character driven, I found it easy to get to know the characters more and to really start to care about their success or failure.
“Blood and blood and bone. Magic and monsters and tragic power”
Love interests are not always a big selling point for me. Romance is definitely not something I talk about a lot, but I am here for the romance in this book. It had a bit of darkness to it, but it was not entirely unhealthy (like some popular YA novels I can think of). I don’t want to say too much about it, but I think if I enjoyed it that anyone who gets into the romance in fantasy novels will dig it as well.
Something I could not get enough of in Wicked Saints was the attention to religion, specifically questioning one’s beliefs. At several points throughout the story, characters are drawn into thought-provoking conversations where they are asked to question and consider the beliefs they hold. I felt that this was done in a very artful way that respected the faithful while making it clear that having doubts is not a crime. The presence of this line of thinking in a YA novel is something that’s very important to me. It’s something I would have benefitted from a great deal as a teen, and I think it will speak to a lot of readers who may be questioning their own beliefs.
“Truly we are fortunate our enemies are heretics”
As I write, I keep thinking of more elements of the book I loved. There are travel sequences that barely registered as travel sequences because they were so meaningful to the development of interpersonal relationships. The magic was fascinating, the action sequences were brutal and beautiful, and one character really stole my heart. I’m calling him now, Vulture Boy is mine.
I really can’t say enough good things about this book. I am stunned it’s a debut novel, and I cannot wait to see what Emily Duncan writes next. I am definitely in for the long haul with this trilogy. Wicked Saints is on sale on April 2nd!
For more on Wicked Saints be sure to follow Emily Duncan on Twitter @glitzandshadows, or on Instagram @glitzandshadows.
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All quotes are taken from an advanced copy of the book and are subject to change.