Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan – ARC Review


Quick Stats:
Release Date: 04/02/2019
 5/5 Stars
Characters: 5/5
Setting: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Plot and Themes: 5/5
Awesomeness Factor: 5/5

Review in a Nutshell: This book is my new obsession. Wicked Saints is dark, gritty, sometimes horrific, and thoroughly compelling. 

“You have plunged yourself into the dark where the monsters dwell, now you must fight them off before you’re consumed.”

// Content Warning: Violence, Death, Assault, Abuse, Torture, Self Harm, Blood & Gore, Alcoholism, War Themes, Murder //

– Premise –

Wicked Saints is told in two, third person point of views, following Nadya, a cleric, and Serefin, a powerful blood mage and High Prince of Tranavia. Tranavia has been in a violent holy war with Nadya’s country, Kalyazin, and they’re winning. But Nadya may be able to change this. She is the last known cleric, and when she prays, the gods answer and grant her magic. She believes she can turn the tides of the war and save her people, and in order to do so, she joins forces with three strangers, one of which a powerful blood mage, Malachiasz, to kill the King of Tranavia and end the war for good. Meanwhile, Serefin has been on the war front for years, but when his father tells him to return home, paranoia takes root, and he begins to wonder if the palace is more dangerous than battle.

“Blood and blood and bone. Magic and monsters and tragic power.”

– Writing & Setting –

This may be Emily A. Duncan’s debut novel, but you cannot tell. Her writing style is vivid, atmospheric, and beautiful. Her style and voice is similar to Leigh Bardugo but has a unique aspect that makes it clearly hers. She balances the darkness, bloodiness, and the grim reality of her world, with the occasional bit of humor and fun quips. Speaking of her world– oh my god this setting. Kalyazin and Tranavia are basically fantasy medieval Russia and Poland, and while that influence is clear, they both are extremely well developed and manage to feel completely separate from their real-life counterparts. I really loved this setting. You can tell that Emily A. Duncan did her homework because the world is so tangible and just amazing. There isso much history included in this book and I absolutely adored it.

“Running to save herself for some greater purpose was a bitter survival when it meant losing everything and everyone with each step she took.”

– Plot –

So, before jumping into this I heard mixed reviews about the beginning. Some people said it was slow, and some people said it was quick, and I’m sorry to say that I agree with them both. While the beginning jumps into action immediately, it definitely takes about 80 pages to get used to the characters and setting enough to become fully immersed. But seriously, it’s worth it. This book has so many twists and turns, and you never know who to believe and what to trust. My heart was broken so many times, then healed, then broken again. 

“He was a liar and she wanted his truths.”

– Characters – 

I just need to say it right up front- I love Malachiasz so much. This monstrous, anxious boy is amazing and by far my favorite part of this book. He has some great quips, and such a fascinating (and somewhat tragic) backstory and I. Am. So. Invested. Seriously, this character is my life now. I would die for him, and he would let me. But I can’t rant about him forever, because there are two other disastrous characters I now love. Nadya is fantastic. She has some great development and feels grounded, with natural doubts and insecurities while remaining a strong character. And then there’s Serefin. Awkward, charming, and probably alcoholic Serefin. Nadya at one point describes him as favoring self-deprecation and complaints and honestly? Same. After reading this book, I really can’t blame Serefin for drinking so much and I probably would too. We also have some great side characters (Parijahan, Rashid, Ostyia, and Kacper), and I really look forward to seeing more of them in the rest of the series.

“You must make a choice, little bird. Do you continue with your wings clipped or do you fly?”

– Conclusion –

Pros- Amazing characters, immersive setting, beautiful writing, honestly everything about this book is a pro
Cons- That ending hurt me and Emily’s tweets about book 2 are just scaring me now. 
Overall- 5/5 stars. 
Wicked Saints is perfection. Its enthralling, magical, epic, and unforgettable. Just be prepared to be willing to die for the sequel. 

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*All quotes are taken from the bound manuscript and are subject to change*

Bonus! More Quotes That I Can’t Stop Thinking About:

“War didn’t care for carefully laid plans.”

“Iron must be tested.”

“‘Go pray,’ he said to Nadya, putting the full weight of his loathing in the word pray. ‘Ask your gods to accomplish the impossible.’”

“She would bring this country to its knees.”

“‘We’re all monsters, Nadya,’ Malachiasz said, his voice gaining a few tangled chords of chaos. ‘Some of us just hide it better than others.’”

“Dazzle the monsters, Nadya. You’ve already charmed the worst of the lot; the rest should be easy.”

“I was born with the potential for monstrosity, as all people are.”

“Don’t be a martyr. We have no use for yet another saint.”

“You could be exactly what these countries need to stop their fighting. Or you could rip them apart at the seams.”

17 responses to “Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan – ARC Review”

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