Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)
By: Emily A. Duncan
Format/Source: Hardback; my purchase
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.
I admit, it was the book cover that drew my attention first. I ended up picking up this book after it was featured in an Indigo Book Box which was pretty exciting (I never buy book boxes so this was a first).
What really stood out for me with this novel was the magic and the worldbuilding. It’s a dangerous world, filled with gothic horror, unruly magic, and lots and lots of blood. Like, an obscene amount of blood, I’m surprised no one went to hypovolemic shock because of the amount of blood loss. There are a few different ways in which magic is tapped, but I was especially fascinated by the discussion between the two warring nations and their perceptions of magic, the gods/religion, and human ability. Characters on both sides of the struggle are patriotic to their nation and to their cause, to their beliefs (for the most part), and are obviously tackling a myriad of issues that make things not as clear-cut as they seem. The Vultures were especially freaky without going into great detail as to how they became as twisted as they are and some of the reveals along the way as to whose side who is really on was fascinating to read.
Where the book lost points for me was the plot and some of the reveals. Some of the character motivations was a bit convoluted (well, namely the one); I’d read their explanations a few times and didn’t quite get it still, lol. Obviously moving on to the next novel there will have to be some further explanations as to what is happening to some of the characters but yeah, that one character’s motivation remains the ultimate question mark. Not that he’s to be trusted to begin with. I did feel for Nadya as she’s undergone quite the shake-up over the course of the novel; I’d be curious to see where her character goes in the next novel.
Overall I enjoyed reading this book. It was pretty quick-paced from start to finish, I grew to like the characters and root for them (well, except the one) and obviously there’s a lot riding into the next novel in terms of the stakes and where the course of events will head. I would recommend this book to fantasy and Gothic readers, it’s a fascinating read. (And of course the Russian/Eastern European influences get a solid plus for me)