Title: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)
Author: Emily A. Duncan
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.
It takes a lot for me to want to pick up a book that plainly tells me it’s the start of a series. Normally the first hint of that is enough to have me walk away, but something about this one pulled me in and wouldn’t let go until I finally read it. Well, to my frustrated delight I finished reading it and it still won’t let me go. This book was a ride from start to finish, and definitely didn’t disappoint. I’ve picked up books before that start a series, finish the book, and then never go forward with the rest of them. I can comfortably say that, although this book tells a complete, satisfying story, I am chomping at the bit for book two.
Nadya is a very relatable protagonist – determined, strong, and willing to trust herself despite having the gods in her ear all the time. She’s the opposite of a reluctant hero, fully ready and willing to embrace her destiny and put her amazing abilities to good use. During the story, I much preferred her point of view to Serefin’s, and found myself rushing through his chapters to get to hers. However, as we delved deeper into the story, Serefin grew on me, too, and I found that by the end I was most excited to see where the next book will take him, more so than Nadya. For those who have seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, Serefin really reminded me of Zuko – an awkward prince with a complicated relationship with his father just doing his best at stumbling through life. He was endearing, and that wasn’t what I expected after the first time he’s introduced.
And then there’s Malachiasz (whose name I cannot come close to pronouncing). What can I say about the tragic monster boy? It’s his relationship with Nadya that really pulled me into the book at first, as I’m a sucker for a good girl/bad boy romance. Their relationship really ripped my heart out toward the end of the book and that’s not an easy thing to do. It’s a testament to the writer’s ability to flesh out these characters that the book left me reeling and feeling for each and every one of them.
And that’s just the characters. The lore and world explored in this book is intricate and completely different than anything I’ve ever read. I usually don’t pick up things I consider high fantasy – Tolkien, Martin, etc – because of how bogged down in world-building those can get. A lot of the time you find yourself lost in exposition, trying to keep track of complicated histories. But it never felt like that with this one. The writer trusted us as readers and weaved the world’s history and lore fairly seamlessly, without ever getting tied up in exposition. Sure, sometimes I was confused by what was going on, but that felt entirely intentional, as it was the same confusion felt by Nadya and Serefin, and not a byproduct of the writing.
All in all a really enjoyable read that left an ache as I thought about the characters. Everyone once in a while I catch myself thinking about it, even a week later. At the end of the year I’m going to make a list of the best books I read, and this one will most definitely hold a spot. An awesome debut, and I can’t wait until book two!