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Wicked Saints: A Novel (Something Dark and Holy Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 398 pages||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled||Page Flip: Enabled|
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|Age Level: 13 - 18||Grade Level: 7 - 9|
- Book 1 of 3 in Something Dark and Holy
- Due to its large file size, this book may take longer to download
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From School Library Journal
- ASIN : B07HF39CZH
- Publisher : Wednesday Books (April 2, 2019)
- Publication date : April 2, 2019
- Language : English
- File size : 13168 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Not Enabled
- Print length : 398 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #37,952 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Plus, way too much social media hype for nothing worthwhile! 🙃
I really wanted to love this book but ended up being meh about it. It read so slow, I mean there's nothing wrong with slow books as long as the story has substance and things make sense. The plot? Oh you mean the one where Alina and Mal try to stop the darkling? oh wait, that's right, that's grishaverse. Welp this is the same thing *rolling my eyes*. This read like a grishaverse retelling. I am so confused!!! At least in the grishaverse we knew why the darkling wanted all the power, but here? why does the villain want the power?! (I'm sorry, I am very upset at the let down of this book. Please help me understand if I missed anything).
So the story started out interesting, girl (Nadya ) speaking to gods.. heck yea I'm all about it. But 100 pages in Nadya was still annoying, I couldn't stand her. She reminded me a lot of Alina from the grishaverse, "boohoo I have magic, boohoo I don't want it", which irked me. I'm all about a badass MC and this was not a strong character. I had such a hard time connecting with the characters, they were so boring. The dynamic between them was just plain and weird.
The romance was shoved down my throat and it was completely cringeworthy (eww). I typically don't give harsh reviews but I am extremely disappointed with the outcome of this story. I know a lot people loved this book and you know what that is great, but I am super disappointed. This was one of my most anticipated reads of the spring and it turns out it wasn't for me.
Sadly, this book put me in a slump back in April and I decided to give it another shot, boy do I regret that. Like I said, this wasn't for me but maybe it's good for you guys.
“We’re all monsters … some of us just hide it better than others.”
Starting out, the first couple of chapters hadn’t fully hooked me yet, you know? I was in, but I wasn’t obsessed (YET). Honestly, though, around the 15% mark, something “clicked” for me and I was all in. I could barely be wrenched away from my kindle to do anything because all I wanted was to devour this gorgeous, gothic little fantasy story with its lovable, magical characters and intricate world.
First, these characters are beyond incredible. It’s so clear that Emily grew up in fandoms, knowing how characters could best hit a reader’s buttons to make them melt, because these little cinnamon rolls are some of the best I’ve ever met in my life.
🙏 Nadya Lapteva is a fantastic protagonist, because she’s so easy to root for, even when I found myself disagreeing with her motives and beliefs. I couldn’t get behind how blindly she followed her faith, but I loved her all the more for it.
👑 Serefin Meleski, the sweet, wounded prince. He tries so hard to do what he thinks is best for the Tranavian people, and he just wants someone to do right by him for once (or to at least leave him alone to his booze), and he just broke my heart over and over.
🖤 Malachiasz Czechowicz, finally: I didn’t know how much I needed a gothy little smoosh like him in my life until now, and I just want to hug him and protect him at all costs, because let’s be honest, I don’t care how powerful of a blood mage he is, Malachiasz needs someone to love on him like he deserves. I honestly had to restrain myself from making this entire review about him because WOW, I LOVE HIM SO MUCH and he is easily going into my list of best book characters ever, with his sad little tattooed face and all his monstrous secrets. (I need a t-shirt that says “the best book boyfriends are monsters”, can we make this happen please)
Of course, there are also these brilliant side characters, like Parijahan (who wants nothing to do with your nonsense, thank you very much), Rashid (how precious, what a bean), Ostyia (we stan a queer girl charming the pants off all the other girls in town)—the list goes on. They’re all so ridiculously lovable (except the few who aren’t, in which case, they’re terrifying and awful and the best sorts of villains).
The last thing I have to point out is how fantastic the settings and descriptions are. Emily really is a Goth Queen™ and her writing is soaked in it, and frankly, my “no, it really wasn’t a phase, Mom” self is LIVING for it. I mean, the pictures the writing paints of the Vultures and their dwelling places? YO, give me all those creepy goth vibes forever, please and thank you.
Rambling aside, there are just so many good things I have to say about Wicked Saints, whether it’s the writing, plot, or characters, but the biggest thing I have to say is that, regardless of whether you’re a long-time fantasy lover or someone who typically steers clear of the genre altogether, you gotta give Emily A. Duncan a chance, because this debut is so powerful and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel. 🖤
Content warnings for violence, murder, self-harm for blood magic
However, things like characters and world building seemed rather underdeveloped, particularly side-characters. I can even scarcely describe the main character's personalities.
I expected much more from this much over hyped book.
A quick synopsis: Nadya is a cleric that hears the voices of all the gods and is granted with the ability to call on their powers. This makes her a target for others who want to gain this power. Serefin, the prince, a somewhat evil but seriously witty blood mage, who is in danger from his own father, and Malachiasz, the leader of a group who wants to end the war...but has a deadly secret.
I don’t want to give any spoilers, but all this makes for a 5 star read with fast past action, violence, twists and turns, even romance, always making us question who can truly be trusted.
Top reviews from other countries
Having now read it, I can confirm that all of those elements are indeed present, and on the whole, done well. Overall, this was a dark and romantic read which I enjoyed, though it didn’t 100% live up to my (unfairly high?) expectations, or quite cross the line into a 5 star read for me.
The basic premise is that two countries (apparently based on Russia and Poland, though I didn’t quite get that subtlety, just a general Eastern European vibe) are in a long-standing war, in large part caused by their different approaches to magic and religion. Kalyazin is very religious. Little magic is done, and those “clerics” who can wield it do so by calling on the Gods’ favour. Tranavia used to worship the same gods, but cast them out generations ago. Most people do some degree of blood magic and certain blood mages are very powerful. There’s also a group called The Vultures, who wield quasi-religious power alongside the king’s secular power, and deliberately turn themselves into monsters (morally and physically) in order to maximise their magic. The world building and the magic/religious system was pretty solid though at times I could have done with more background and ground rules. I particularly enjoyed the little snippets of information about various gods and saints that opened each chapter.
The story is told in alternating chapters from the perspective of Nadya, an Kalyazinian cleric (who has the distinction both of being the only one still alive and the only one ever able to speak to all the gods) and Serefin, the son of the Tranavian king and a powerful blood mage. It’s hard to say too much more without getting into spoiler territory, but in short, the former is travelling to Tranavia to infiltrate the court, kill the king and return the gods to that country, and the latter is embroiled in court intrigue, increasingly convinced his own father is trying to have him killed. The other main character (albeit he doesn’t get POV chapters) is Malachiasz, another powerful blood mage whom Nadya meets en route and who seems to have defected from Tranavia, though his motives and alliances are unclear. The plot kept me turning the pages, though particularly towards the end, I found it a bit convoluted and hard to follow in places.
Malachiasz was undoubtedly my favourite character, though all three are pretty strong and there’s a good array of supporting characters too. I’d been expecting and hoping for characters somewhere on the morally grey hero to antihero to villain protagonist/love interest spectrum, and on the whole, I was pleased with how the author made the key characters suitably ruthless and had them take some very morally dubious courses of action, without ever losing sight of believable motivations.
I’ve got to admit that with a book like this, I come for the worldbuilding and the plot, but I stay for the romance. I had slightly mixed feelings here. The main romance is between Nadya and Malachiasz, and it certainly makes for lots of tension and some lovely romantic scenes with a bit of an edge. I enjoyed it, but I never got completely swept away in in. I think the problem is that despite their very different backgrounds and original allegiance, they have pretty much the same aim more or less from when they meet, so for most of the book, it never had quite the full-blown forbidden love vibe that I was craving. Though at times, it did come tantalisingly close.
Overall then, a really well done and enjoyable read and I will 100% be picking up the sequel as soon as it’s available, but sadly, Nadya and Malachiasz – and by extension, their world and their stories - didn’t quite set up a permanent home in my psyche in quite the same way as the obvious comparator of Alina and the Darkling, or other similar couplings from other favourite series.
The world building was interesting, although a little complex at times. It was hard to always try and keep track of the places and the gods and I feel it probably could have done with a glossary at the front or back just giving us an overview. I did think it was a really interesting premise though and given the ending, I’m definitely intrigued to see what happens next.
I loved the characters, don’t ask me to spell their names cos I can’t 😂 but I felt they were all individual and well developed. I constantly felt on edge and didn’t know just who I could actually trust; I’m not convinced that I still know who I should trust and I’m waiting for the next book to shake me again.
Part of the reason if she this four stars is because I didn’t quite buy the romance at times; I can definitely see it but felt it needed to be developed a bit more for me to fully immerse myself into it. I could definitely get invested in it though depending on how the next book ends up... can’t wait to dive in!
Main Character: Nadya. The dry biscuit of the ‘chosen ones’ world. Literally, what was she about? I couldn’t tell you one distinguishing thing about her that was interesting other than she spoke to Gods.
Side Characters: And the bland parade continues! Serefin, Malachiasz, that nun woman that got her out of the monastery. It’s as if this book was only allowed to have one interesting character but instead of doing that they split the interest between thirty different people so they were all boring as dirt. The only characters I thought had any kind of interest were Rashid and Parijahan who weren’t focused on nearly enough to make me enjoy this book.
Plot: I’d love to tell you that I remembered it. I don’t. I literally DNF’d this book yesterday (from the day of writing this review, not necessarily the day of the reviews release) and still nada. The king wanted to make sure no one could overthrow him or be more powerful? The Gods wanted to be more powerful?
I just couldn’t tell you. Maybe I missed it. Maybe I blacked it out for my own sanity. Maybe it was so boring I didn’t even care to store the information.
Strength: I loved the Pantheon of Gods. I also loved the idea of blood magic and having to use paper spells. It was a very interesting and different magic system. It was dark and almost cultish. I only held on as long as I did because I found the magic so intriguing.
Weakness: I felt nothing for any characters. I didn’t care if they lived or died, and when the stakes are ‘high’ you’d hope I care enough about anyone to have even the tiniest strand of fear. I didn’t. Might have been more interested if she’d completely subverted all tropes and killed off ‘the chosen one’ in the first chapter. Unfortunately, she didn’t.
I also didn’t like our (the reader’s) entry into the book. It was so sudden and jarring. It was a prime example of not setting the scene and thinking that action and stakes will make me care for a character. It doesn’t. I prayed to every voice in my head that they all killed each other just so it would end.
My Opinion: Wowzers. That was a disappointment and a half. I was so hyped for Wicked Saints. It sounded like it had everything I love: enemies to lover, gothic tones, play on saints and religion, a pantheon of Gods, morally grey characters. And it was just flat.
So many people compared this to The Grisha Trilogy, and I actually can see some of the comparisons. And that was yet another reason why I was excited. I liked the Grisha Trilogy, I was happy to have something that was even remotely similar.
This was not.
I didn’t care about any of the characters. It simply felt like something happened, then nothing, then something. Simply moments of activity instead of a story stringing me along.
The only redeeming quality to me was the magic and how it was used. It was an interesting take I hadn’t seen before.
To put it simply I think this book simply didn’t do a good job at explaining itself. I got random quotes from saints and can tell you that Nadya was the only one ever who all the Gods spoke to, but I couldn’t tell you what on earth was going on!
(Also, are we not done with the chosen one trope now? Did she need to be the only one EVER all the Gods spoke to? I get she’s rare now but it just felt like such a forced amazingness just because of this ‘gift’)
Star Rating: 2🌟 (Based purely on the magic system)
Content and Trigger Warnings for self-harm, both in regards to the magic system, and talk of self-harm, torture, parental abuse, abandonment, abduction, gore, and war themes.
I did struggle with some of the names and that got annoying real quick. The romance vibe between Nadya and the love interest was kinda meh for me. It was an okay read but it did feel like I was reading Grishaverse fan fic rather than a brand new story. The characters and conflicts were just so similar but not done as well. It was alright but didn’t live up to the hype for me.
Rating more like 3.5 stars.