ARC Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

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My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 400
Pacing: Normal to Fast Paced
Publisher:  Wednesday Books
Published: April 2nd, 2019


Trigger warnings: Self Harm (Blood mages must cut to draw their power), war themes, graphic violence and gore. 



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.. – Synopsis by Goodreads


“The girl, the monster, and the prince…”

Wicked Saints is EXACTLY what I needed in my life and I’m calling it now, Emily A. Duncan is the next Bardugo – we have a YA queen in the making *bows down*

I can’t believe that Wicked Saints wasn’t really on my radar before reading it. I was lucky enough that Wednesday Books offered to send me a copy and the rest is history. I’m honestly having trouble even expressing how much I loved this book, it is being compared to Grishaverse left and right and that is fair but I’m going out on a limb and saying that this series will be much better and it won’t have the bane of my existence in it – Mal *gag* I also think that Wicked Saints is unique enough that even if you weren’t a big fan of Grisha – you could still very much enjoy this book. We also get a lot of awesome rep in this book. One of the characters is bisexual, another is visually impaired (yay from disability rep!) and many of the characters are of color. This book is not lacking at all in the diversity department.

Our main protagonist, Nadya is a very sheltered Cleric who has lived in a monastery her entire life. Her people having been at war for a long time and Nadya is there one true hope to finally winning it. Unlike anyone before her, she is able to talk to more than one god – all of them actually. Nadya is to use this gift to channel various powers from the gods in order to win the war effort. Plans go awry when the prince, Serefin, from the other warring fraction launches a surprise attack and Nayda is told to flee because she has to live or the war will be lost. Everyone in the monastery give their lives to make sure she is safely out of harm’s way and the bloodshed is brutal. Nadya and one friend make it out alive and must travel to the next destination spot for protection. From there they meet some unlikely allies, including a blood mage, Malachiasz.

Nadya is so kickass in this, one of my favorite new heroins for sure. I love that she can’t just pick and choose what powers the gods have to offer. She must ask/pray to them. I love that the gods all have very different personalities and the banter between her and them is hilarious. There are gods that have little interest in her or are rather grumpy and it’s a great time all around. I don’t want to say too much about the other two lead characters due to spoilers but my little heart does belong to Serefin – I can’t help it! I do want to quickly address the romance in this story because it’s been getting so negative feedback. I never thought it took spotlight, there was so much else this story had to offer and the romance wasn’t the main thing focused on. I also think the insta-love made sense in this case. You have a young girl that just lost everything and everyone in her life in a matter of minutes. Before that, Nadya has had everything decided for her and suddenly she is supposed to know how to survive on her own – of course she is going to cling to someone. It’s literally the only thing she knows how to do. I’d think it was much more unrealistic if she had suddenly become completely independent. No, the romance wasn’t my favorite thing but I didn’t think it took away from the story at all and I understood Nadya’s choices.

Wicked Saints at it’s core is about the war between religions and how people will go to literally any length to protect what they believe is the true way. This book doesn’t hold back and it gets very dark and violent fast. I would caution everyone to be aware that there is a lot of cutting/self harm in this novel because of blood mages. Blood magic is very central in Wicked Saints and quite graphic in it’s descriptions of how it is used. This might be triggering to some, so make sure you are in the right head space for this. I personally loved the use of blood magic, I thought it was really cool and reminds me of a lot of the console RPG’s (role-playing games) I’ve played in past years. This makes complete sense since I know the author has said one of the inspirations for this is the game Dragon Age: Orgins, which happens to be one of my all-time favorites (team Alistar!). The darker elements, some of the magic system and the banter reminded me quite a bit of this game.

I completely recommend this gem of a book, I think it’s going to be huge and rightfully so. I haven’t been this excited for a new series in awhile and I’m even more excited that I get to be in on it from the get go (I’m usually years late). Yes, you will get Grisha vibes but this really does have it’s own thing going for it. The writing is impeccable, the magic system is cool as hell and the action starts right off the bat! Highly recommend you at least give this one a try, it’s very worth it.