by Emily A. Duncan
Series: Something Dark and Holy #1
Published on April 2, 2019 by Wednesday Books
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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..
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I spent nearly 2 months attempting to read Wicked Saints before I finally just powered through the last few hours of the audiobook and called it a day. This book had all the potential to be a beautifully dark and gritty YA fantasy but instead read as bland as vanilla pudding. Hard pass.
Let’s start off with Nadya. She’s introduced as a point-of-view character so obviously I’m expecting that she’ll play a major role in the story. I was wrong, but I’ll get to that. Her whole shtick is being able to call upon the gods who grant her the use of different kinds of magic based on which one she prays to. Alright, cool, I’m digging it. And this power makes her pretty important to her people and the current war they’re in, so a bit of Chosen One vibes but I don’t mind that so much.
If it hadn’t been written out that Nadya was important, I wouldn’t have known based on her character. She spends the better part of the book on the run or with a band of characters who are The Enemy, and once she’s with them, quickly becomes reduced to a love interest and secondary character. She’s not really doing anything the entire book. She casts some spells but in the grand scheme of the plot, she’s not a major player. Everything about her character ultimately comes back to her love interest, Malachiasz.
At that point, I wished he’s just have his own chapters. I didn’t understand why Nadya had her own. Their romance was lackluster at best, and while enemies-to-lovers is my favorite romance trope, it wasn’t even happening here. There was no tension, nothing to ground their interactions. Malachiasz did what he wanted and Nadya followed. And now their romance is a good chunk of my review because it took up a huge portion of the book. This was less a dark fantasy and more a struggling fantasy romance.
The other point-of-view character, Serefin, is prince of the country invading Nadya’s. I liked that we get both sides of the story and some of the impacts of war from each group. Also, I’m thankful Serefin had some drive but he was ultimately as bland as the rest of the cast. His interactions with his friends were more genuine than Nadya’s but I struggled to make the connections that Serefin seemingly did throughout the story. There weren’t any breadcrumbs for the reader to really follow for it all to work together.
Wicked Saints felt like a big set-up for something to come. The problem with that is the first book in any series really does need to stand on its own to some degree. As a reader, if I’m not hooked by the first book, I’m not going to pick up the sequel. It took until nearly the 70% mark before the story picked up but by that point, I didn’t care about any of the characters so I ended up reading more just to get it over with than anything.
I regret not DNF-ing this one.
This book left me unsatisfied with the ending and lacking any interest in picking up the sequel. The plot jumps around too much, the characters are flat at best, and the entire story didn’t feel like a story so much as background info for something to come. Wicked Saints was only redeemed for me by the audiobook narration. The two narrators who performed Nadya’s and Serefin’s chapters did a fantastic job and I wouldn’t have made it through this book if not for that. If you’re struggling with the text but like the overall premise, give the audiobook a try. If you’re still considering whether or not to read this book, I can’t personally recommend it.