ARC Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Title: Wicked Saints
(Something Dark and Holy #1)
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Wednesday Books via NetGalley
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: April 2nd 2019 
Hardcover, 400 pages

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..
*Emily posted about all the trigger warnings in Wicked Saints here!*

This book is unlike everything I have ever read before and left me speechless from page one. Absolutely stunning and marvelous Wicked Saints is going to get under your skin and stay there long after you finish it. Emily A. Duncan masterfully blended Russian and Polish aspects to create a culturally rich world, with characters that you can't help but love. 

Kalyazin and Tranavia have been at war for over a century. Where Kalyazin has its divine magic from their Gods, Tranavia has blood magic and blood mages. Neither country can see eye to eye, but it is clear on how to end this war: Kill the Tranavian King. Nadya, the last known cleric in Kalyazin, is living a peaceful life at a monastery when it is attacked by blood mages who are on the hunt for the cleric. Serefin, the prince of Tranavia and a general of the Tranavian army leads this attack, but Nadya manages to escape his grasp. But quickly Serefin is called home to Tranavia with his best guards Ostyia and Kacper, to follow the tradition of finding a wife. Nadya teams up with Parijahan and Rashid two Akolan refugees and Malachiasz who Nadya's sworn enemy. Deciding on who to trust the two groups must find a way to save their kingdoms before it is too late. 

My love for these characters just continues to grow. I have a lot to talk about with each character, so I am going to break it down by character rather then making one huge paragraph. 

"I'm heartless, but not cruel."

Nadya - I liked Nadya from page one. She is fierce and determined and all she wanted to do was end this war even if it meant sacrificing her life in the process. Duncan did an amazing job of portraying Nadya's growth through out the novel. Nadya goes from being the naive cleric that lived in the monastery to a girl who no long understands the extent of her powers and struggling to embrace them to a complete bad ass. She also has to learn to trust her new partner Malachiasz, a Tranvanian rebel of sorts. But is trusting Malachiasz a smart idea?

Serefin - I think by default I wanted to hate Serefin because he is from Tranavia and he is hunting Nadya. But under his rocky exterior Serefin is really just a Prince who is horribly misunderstood and looking to belong. His dedication to his friends and his country and admirable and he wants to end this holy war just as bad. He copes with the help of alcohol and it isn't immediately addressed in the novel but it is clear to see that Serefin is the alcoholic prince that is referred to in the summary. 

Malachiasz - I am head over heels in love with Malachiasz. The beautiful boy from Tranavia said he wants to war to end. But are his intentions as pure as he makes them seem? His characterization is so complex that if I try to explain it I will end up spoiling a huge chunk of the story. But trust me, you are going to quickly fall in love with him. 

All the minor characters in Wicked Saints are as amazingly done as the main characters. Duncan didn't spare of description and I felt as if I knew all of her characters pretty well. 

The romance between Nadya and Malachiasz was a slow burn and tentative to begin with. There was several parts of Wicked Saints where I kept thinking: "When are they going to kiss?!" It is worth the wait my friends. So worth it. Considering the alliances made and certain events of the novel and a couple of scenes involving Serefin and Kacper I am curious to see how the romance aspect for Serefin is going to play out. Emily did mention on twitter that Serefin is a bi so I am super excited to see where everything is going to go. 

"Monsters are real, and I am their king."

The last 100 pages or so of this book was nonstop action and things that changed the plot in irreparable ways. Once you thought you knew something, suddenly it was changed. Even the most beautiful faces have different sides. The ending of Wicked Saints left me speechless and rethinking everything I read. The betrayal and the heart break and the pain. The epilogue shattered my heart into a million pieces, and I will admit: I cried. 

Wicked Saints is 100% unique and thrilling and had me memorized from page one. Emily Duncan's writing is both beautiful and haunting and it is going to leave you wanting more. She crafted a beautiful story that is both timeless and going to be loved by so so so many. I hope my review does this book at least an ounce of justice, because it deserves the highest of praises. 

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