***Disclaimer: I received a free early access copy of Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan from NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for review purposes. Thank you so much!
Wicked Saints is one of the most anticipated reads of the year with good reason. It’s been compared to Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, but I feel like that’s where the surface similarities end. The world in Wicked Saints is very eastern European inspired and also very dark, which is extremely fitting.
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.
This book alternates between Nadya and Serefin, a cleric of Kalyazin and the High Prince of Tranavia, respectively. A religious war has been going on for centuries between Kalyazin and Tranavia for centuries and these two have a common goal to put an end to it.
Nadya has the now rare ability to be in contact with the gods of their polytheistic religion. While clerics were normally given communication with one god, she can communicate with all of them, asking for certain powers to help aid in particular ways.
In the beginning of the book, Serefin and his legion army attack the monastery where Nadya lives, making her flee and leave behind the only life she knows. During her escape she runs into some rebels, among them is Malachiasz. Malachiasz is a mysterious figure with questionable motives and a questionable past. Through their journey into Tranavia, Nadya is not only thrust into confronting Serefin, a heretic and her enemy, and ultimately with her own faith.
I enjoyed reading Nadya’s part of the book a lot. It was interesting to witness each god she sent a prayer to in order to be granted the power she requested. I loved that the gods had different temperaments: some more aloof, some never speaking, and others quite direct to the point. Nadya was raised to know that the Tranavians were heretics because of their refusal to acknowledge the gods and their use of blood magic. Seeing a character struggle with having to work with those who did not share their is always interesting because of their internal struggle. Nadya is pretty unwavering, but there are noticeably heavy times where she questions everything she knows.
Reading Serefin’s chapters was actually my favorite and I’m excited to see where the next book will take him. Overall his story was more engaging than Nadya’s, but I think Serefin is more relatable and 3D. His struggles hit closer to home than something supernatural, but Nadya is still flat in her discovery of good versus evil. I think once she’s able to explore that more and is given more of a reason to question the purpose of what and why, she’ll be amazing.
I love how Duncan’s secondary characters were given purpose. They weren’t just along for the ride or to give some sort of diversity, but they were thrust into the narrative as well, being just as affected as the main characters. It was enjoyable to see that even though their part was smaller, the emotions that went through them were conveyed to me in an equal impact as Nadya or Serefin’s. For me that makes it more realistic because it’s not just the “hero” or the “villain” who is directly affected in a story: it’s everyone.
I will say the last tenth of the book was really disappointing and slightly confusing for me with character motives, but I’m excited to see what the next book will bring and hopefully give answers and iron out the uncertainties.
Overall this got 4 stars from me!