When Nadya prays to the gods, they listen, and magic flows through her veins. For nearly a century the Kalyazi have been locked in a deadly holy war with Tranavian heretics, and her power is the only thing that is a match for the enemy’s blood magic. But when the Travanian High Prince, and his army invade the monastery she is hiding in, instead of saving her people, Nadya is forced to flee the only home she’s ever known, leaving it in flames behind her, and vengeance in her heart. As night falls, she chooses to defy her gods and forge a dangerous alliance with a pair of refugees and their Tranavian blood mage leader, a beautiful, broken boy who deserted his homeland after witnessing his blood cult commit unthinkable monstrosities. The plan? Assassinate the king and stop the war. But when they discover a nefarious conspiracy that goes beyond their two countries, everything Nadya believes is thrown into question, including her budding feelings for her new partner. Someone has been harvesting blood mages for a dark purpose, experimenting with combining Tranavian blood magic with the Kalyazi’s divine one. In order to save her people, Nadya must now decide whether to trust the High Prince – her country’s enemy – or the beautiful boy with powers that may ignite something far worse than the war they’re trying to end.
Wicked Saints follows the story of a God fearing girl, a blood mage prince and an iron boy monster who all possess a power – there’s blood magic, divine magic and something rather monstrous. The trio’s fates are intertwined to either save or destroy the Kingdoms of Tranavia and Kalyazin.
This is like a mash up of Suicide Squad and Star Wars’ Reylo, that offers a fun first instalment for readers who like all things villainous and complex.
This has been one of the most readable books I’ve picked up this year. Although there were issues with the prose here and there, where I felt what the author was meaning to say wasn’t clearly conveyed, on the whole the prose was very inviting. I really enjoyed reading this, and discovering a new world.
I think prospective readers should know that these characters come across like antiheroes (even if they aren’t exactly that by definition). Morally grey, in other words, I guess. If you don’t like an ensemble of morally grey characters as your main storytellers, this isn’t for you. If this sounds like your fetish, then it’s likely you’ll find they’re the type of characters you either ruefully like, or you ruefully root for their endgame even if you dislike them.
My early enthusiasm for this was due to Malachiasz. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had that bad boy rebellion phase irl, so I’m living it through him. But boy was I attracted to him because I just knew he promised danger.
I also appreciated the conflicted nature that comes with faith and secularisation, which was captured through Nadya. I read in the Owlcrate interview with Duncan that, that was one of her aims for Nadya, and I definitely feel that was successfully portrayed.
I’ll be honest and say Serefin’s perspective had issues, at times. I didn’t feel his perspective was occurring for his character’s development, but so the reader could see the Tranavian perspective instead… which is fine, it just sucks when you want to get more from a character.
So I hope this isn’t the case in the sequel – I also hope we don’t lose Nadya‘s in order to make way for Serefin.
I’d say my only gripe with this book was… just ever so slightly… was the romance. Why the heck is the girl attracted to the guy? Why? She does refer to his looks, but surely it’s more than that, beyond sympathy too? Whereas, on the other hand, I think it’s very clear why he is interested in her. I swear the girl’s attraction to the guy could have been explored more or made clearer without softening the plot – his interest was clear, so hers could have been clearer to, imho.
Admittedly, in the grand scheme of things, it’s fair to say the way this story unfolds is the equivalent of a slow burn romance. I wouldn’t agree that there’s little to no story here, but I’ll concede that it can feel like that, due to the alternating perspectives of Nadya and Serefin, thereby changing the angle of the story’s narration and subsequently slowing it down. As well, both of their perspectives contain a great deal of self reflection.
This book left me broody with a feeling of unease. Brooding over Nadya, Malachiasz, Serefin, the gods and where the sequel will take us. Is a happy ending possible? Or do I need to get myself some life insurance?
Overall, I read this within three days, and I would recommend it to those who love YA stories that have some edge. It offers an interesting beginning to a series that has potential – time will tell if the sequel delivers on this… I’m ready for Ruthless Gods to tear my heart out.
Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
Published May 2019
Genre: young adult, fantasy