Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
(Website, Twitter)Published by St. Martin's Press on April 2nd 2019
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Epic, Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
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.
Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan was one of the books on my most anticipated list for this year and I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed it! I do see where people are able to compare the story to the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo but only slightly.
At the center of this story is a war that’s been going on for a while between Kalyazi and Tranavia. The division between these two countries has made it so that neither is willing to give up their cause and they have very different beliefs around what is and is not acceptable magic. The challenge for the Kalyazi is that their practice of magic has been wiped out by the Tranavians and they are losing the war.
Hidden away in a monastery is Nadya. One of our main characters and she just happens to be the only cleric in Kalyazi. Being a cleric means she is connected to the gods and the gods grant her the magic she uses which is rare. When the Tranavian prince hunts her down and attempts to take her, she is forced to run but Nadya knows she won’t be able to outrun him for long so when she runs into some questionable strangers, she takes a chance and decides to join them because as they’ve stated, they are looking for a way to end the war and the only way they can think to do that is to kill the Tranavian King.
I’ll come back to the characters here in a moment, but I have to say, I found the world that Duncan built in this book to be an interesting one. Countries in turmoil or fighting against each other’s beliefs is not new but the magic and the way it is done was definitely interesting. There is a lot of blood used by the Tranavians to access their magic and it must be tied to a spell book to complete the spell but to Nadya this is heretical and to use blood to cast a spell goes against everything they believe. I found this belief added a layer to the story for Nadya in that she had to figure out what she was really going to stand for and just how in the grey she was willing to go if she was going to work with those who used the blood magic.
Another key character in this story is the Tranavian Prince, Serefin. He has been at the front of the war for a while now and having found Nadya, wants to chase her down but he has other things to worry about. When he is directed by his father to return to Tranavia to participate in the ceremony to find him a wife, Serefin begins to think there is something more going on. He has never had a great relationship with his father but to force him to come back now, Serefin knows that the King is up to something and he is motivated to find out. Unfortunately for Serefin, he doesn’t really know who he can trust and that puts him in a very precarious situation.
As I mentioned earlier, when Nadya escapes the prince, she runs into some people in the woods. Two of them happen to be from Akolan (Parijahan and Rashid) but the third, a Kalyazi, has Nadya nervous because his magic feels even stronger than the prince and she doesn’t really know if she can trust him. He isn’t really forthcoming, and he keeps asking Nadya about her magic which puts her on edge but eventually he tells her some of his story…at least what he remembers and that includes his name, Malachiasz. When the Vultures, a cult that has formed within Tranavia that has a lot of power and autonomy from the King, is sent to retrieve Nadya, the group quickly works together to escape the attack and come to an agreement on how they are going to accomplish their goal of getting rid of the king.
As Nadya finds herself right in the middle of the people she needs to avoid, she begins to learn more about herself, her magic, the Vultures, and the magic of Tranavia. By getting both Nadya’s and Serefin’s points of view within this book, I was able to see both sides of what was going on and I was glad for that. I do love that as the story proceeds, there is a clear point at which the character’s stories come together and I loved it.
I can’t say much more about this book without ruining the story so that’s all you get from me on this one. Trust me when I say, if you enjoy fantasy stories with lots of magic, a lot of danger for the main characters, blood, and (of course) some kissing, definitely check this book out. I will absolutely be waiting anxiously to get my hands on the next book as the ending left me wanting more!
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the early copy in exchange for an honest review.