“We both long for freedom. For power. For a choice. We both want to see our kingdoms survive.”
– Emily A. Duncan
Thank you to St Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an eARC of this novel!
So for this review I decided to stray from my typical set-up, I just couldn’t sort this book into things that I loved versus what I didn’t. There where so many little story arcs and moving pieces to it that I can’t just dissect it. I loved Wicked Saints and while I started it wishing that it was a standalone novel I’m very excited to read the rest of this trilogy.
Wicked Saints had a rough start. I picked it up, read the first few pages and then proceeded to set it down and not come back to it for a few weeks. I wish it had more of an attention grabbing opening so I would have gotten into it sooner. Even with the rough start though it immediately picks up speed and does a great job of explaining the magic system and building this new world to explore without being a huge info-dump. We have three main characters who peaked my interest right away.
So the prince of Tranavia might be an alcoholic. I immediately loved his chapters more than Nadya’s though. He was snarky and powerful plus his trusted friends, Ostyia and Kacper, really cared for him and their country. I don’t want to say he had a lot of character development, more that we got to know him better instead. His father despised him, his mother was sickly and always away from court because she hates her husband, and the only family member Serefin truly cared for had disappeared without a trace early on in life. While he is front and center in leading this war, and loves showing off his immense power, his journey back to court for the official ceremony of choosing a queen shows him just how much his people and country as a whole are suffering from this war. He is a prince, a king someday, and he loves his country and is willing to do whatever it takes to see it prosper.
We were promised a strong lead female character and I’m not sure that we were quite delivered that. I’m not upset though, I think Nadya has a lot more growing and understanding to do to become the character we were promised. When we first meet her peeling potatoes she seems so ordinary but she is blessed by the gods. more specifically the goddess of war. For someone blessed with great magic and a war goddess she is very kind and nice, not seeming to possess the killing instinct or willing to hurt anyone unless she herself is in immediate danger. I needed her to be a little more bloodthirsty, but not unreasonably so. She is caught in a religious war though and finding out that everything is not as black and white as she was taught to believe in the monastery. Once in Tranavia it all gets a bit more complicated and lines between friends and enemies gets blurred quickly.
The boy we love….to hate? I hope in the rest of the series that we get some chapters from his perspective. I understand why we didn’t for this first book, but I found myself constantly trying to get into his head to figure out what his next move would be. Should Nadya trust him? Should she kill him? He was so damn charming though and he made every scene that he was in. At the end of the day, just like Serefin and Nadya, he loved his country and would do anything for them.
Just like for Nadya, the reader starts out with this clear picture of a religious war where one side is in the right and the other is in the wrong. Those who love and pray to the Gods, that might be blessed by them, versus the heretics and their blood magic. It all appears very black and white until it isn’t and the writing reflects that. Some scenes moved quickly, becoming suddenly confusing and hard to keep up with just like if you were there and were in Serefin or Nadya’s shoes. I love books with storylines that seem so straightforward but then take a sharp turn and make you question what you thought you knew. Duncan did a great job writing these scenes and it shows that she put a lot of care into creating this world and the magic within it.
So when Wicked Saints is fully published here is what I need: maps, a list of Gods/Goddesses, a pronunciation guide, and a list of Saints/Clerics. While reading I found myself wishing I could flip to certain pages and see what power this god or goddess wielded or knew how the heck to pronounce Malachiasz (in my head I just called him Mal since his name was used so much).
I have no idea how I’m supposed to wait a year for the next book to be published. I need answers now and the cliffhanger was not even fair. I will be recommending this book to everyone and am excited see what the future holds for Emily A. Duncan and the rest of this trilogy.