I found some great comedy in this book, not just drama. I didn’t mention that below, but keep it in mind. Welcome to Wicked Saints. Who else was extremely hyped for this book?
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan
Synopsis From The Book
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.
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
Wow, here we are. Wicked Saints, which was my most anticipated read this month after Cruel Prince and Wicked King. I am still not entirely sure what I’m getting into with reading this novel, but I think that is okay! This whole month has been a lot of surprises, for books. In particular, this book has been an extremely hyped book for me, from publication. I’ve seen the most amount of hype for this outside of Wicked King. What should I feel about that?
Good news. It seems that I’ve been aligning with personal feelings of others lately. And in truth, I can only think of one book series, as of recently, that was hyped that I hated. That shouldn’t be so surprising though. Either way, I’m ready.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
Well that was something. I feel as if I need to ponder over this book for a long while. There was something very fascinating with it’s concept of gods and war that I want to sit on before I probably write any further. I do have to say that this book took me quite the time to read at a large 3hrs. Its not a particularly large book, but the clerics and gods history is pretty extensively thought out and so that takes time to digest. I shall be back after digesting.
After: not much has changed in my perspective over it.
Nadya lives in a monastery in a country, Kalyazin, that has been fighting a war for a hundred years. She is being raised to use her divine powers, and was supposed to become an asset to her country to turn the tides of war.
The world had different plans. Serefin, High Prince, powerful blood mage, and genius military general of her enemy, comes to destroy her monastery and she is forced to flee. In fleeing she meets up with two from a third country, Rashid and Parijahan and a boy from her enemy, Malachiasz. The three tell her about a plan they have to kill the king and she ultimately decides to help them.
Meanwhile Serefin let Nadya escape. He learns more about her through “interrogation.” Ultimately, right before he was about to go after her, he is summoned back home by his father (the king). He can not refuse so he returns home for the mandatory marriage competition. It is as he returns that we see his country Tranavia, war torn.
Nadya and her companions are attacked by Vultures, the ultimate heretic power and monster of Tranavia. They narrowly escape and Malachiasz reveals himself as a Vulture who had escaped. Nadya chooses to trust them and they travel to Tranavia. While traveling she speaks with Malachiasz who makes her question everything she ever knew. Something about him is charming, dark and she knows better than to trust him but she does. In Tranavia, Nadya poses as a noble of the country and is entered into the marriage competition for Serefin. Malachiasz layered his magic over her to make sure she is protected and can pretend to use blood magic, while she hides him from their enemies.
It is when Nadya accidentally gets challenged to a duel, that she learns of the fact that her magic is her magic. It is not the magic given to her by the gods as she was led to believe her entire life. She and Malachiasz speak more, and Nadya becomes closer to the prince and his companions.
After being attacked by a Vulture in the library, Nadya is introduced to a Witch who lives in the castle. This is where she learns that Malachiasz is not just any Vulture but the Black Vulture, and leader of the Vultures. She learns this while Serefin and his companions find them. Malachiasz is revealed as Serefin’s cousin, long thought dead. The three make a plan to kill the king.
Malachiasz tries to convince Nadya that he is on her side, and she chooses to trust him again. Serefin is lured out of his room by one of his closest allies and is killed by his father. His father was trying to become divine, out of fear of his son, and by killing his son he was to be able to be able to do so. The next morning, based on the plan, Nadya and Malacchiasz meet with the king who reveals he completed the plan. Serefin wakes up with powers unlike the ones he was used to, and he goes to take down his father. Nadya tries to fight back, and Serefin comes to help.
Nadya ends up destroying the blood magic that was keeping Tranavia from being touched by the gods (this would ultimately take away magic from just about almost everyone, and destroy the country). They are able to take down the king. Malachiasz takes the king’s blood and swears to finally end the real war (against the gods), and drinks the blood, becoming partly divine himself. He flees, leaving Serefin and Nadya to figure out how to deal with the aftermath. The war between the two countries can end, but is it an end to the fighting?
What I Liked:
Malachiasz; He was my favorite character, and I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that he is so complex. He’s a boy who was tortured and stripped of his entire identity, to the point where he became the leader of the monsters who made him. He is their perfection, and in that he wants to destroy everything that made him what he is. I think that this is interesting. He also knows that it wasn’t the organization but the gods, and the mortal’s goal to try to break from them that created him. So he wants to kill the gods and that resulted in him making sure it happened. His reveal wasn’t even particularly shocking because you knew he was a liar from the beginning. However, I highly empathize with Nadya. I wanted to trust him. I never should have.
Nadya; We got a lot of her perspective in the books, which made sense. (The tag line is “let them fear her.”) I did like her, and her entire mindset. It is through her that we get to see the issues with the gods, as well as what it is like to love something and to believe in something outside of the self. I can’t blame her for her choices, but I can’t wait to see what she’ll do to defend her mindset even after the end of this book.
Serefin; He is extremely complex (much like how the other two are), but would be my second favorite. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that he is a brilliant military commander, and fails at being a prince — or in many ways he does rather. The way he kills without any remorse, the way he wants peace at the same time. He is multilayered, and has a drinking problem. There is something charming to him, that must simply run in the family. I want to see how him becoming King goes from this point on. He is also the king of sass and I was not aware I needed it as much it seems I did.
Magic system + Gods; There are two different magic systems, as said at the beginning, that turn out to be one by the end. They are all one, just with one being guided by a different power that the other rejects. The first is the divine magic, the other is “heretic” blood magic. Blood magic requires a blood sacrifice, and the use of a spell book, often times. These spells are powerful, and almost everyone uses this sort of magic. The Vultures take this a step too far forward by stripping the identity of a person and making them magic centered. This makes them extremely strong, but not fully human anymore. Blood magic is the magic of the self and the power from within. Divine magic is the magic from the gods, given as blessings. The gods let the mortal use their abilities, and these people who can use this magic (and hear the voices of the gods) are called clerics. Their power is typically immense and they are the god’s chosen champion. However, over the course of the story it is clear that this power is the power of the cleric not the gods. They have this power that is within them, not freely taken or given by the gods. The gods simply talk to them, and in a way help them use it. This is what sets up the gods as being questioned.
The Gods are not Gods at all but beings with such immense power that they call themselves gods. They are called demons in some texts. They are hated and rejected by entire peoples. How they came to be is questionable, but it is clear that their existence is what is destroying the world (in many ways). They are blamed but if that blame is well put is questionable. It is through Nadya that we learn their names, their personalities and learn to trust them. When Nadya chooses to still want to believe in them at the end, I can’t blame her. I can’t wait for the next books to learn more about if these beings are truly divine or not. I want to understand more about them, their origins, and if killing them will truly “save” everyone. Thus far nothing points to that being true for me. Perhaps free will and the ability to use magic for the self, I can get behind. But that doesn’t mean the gods have to die.
War and waring ideologies; This was so interesting to me. At the beginning I was all for one country over the other (mostly in part, due to Nadya’s perspective starting us off). I knew that with the dual perspectives we were going to learn to understand both, but that did not really happen until we moved past half way (at least for me). The fact that both characters are so nationalistic, and their cultural differences so strong, surprised me. Their concepts on the gods and what magic means was such a pivotal part of the books, as was how Nadya understands that the magic is not from the divine but still wanted to believe in them. The war was being fought, originally, to destroy the gods after the gods had sanctioned the death of the heretics. It was all about defense that changed to a forever long war that had no sign of stopping and everyone had simply grown used to it, and it’s fluctuating origins. I think that this book depicts this concept of that war has no true goal, nor any true start or meaning after time. I think that out of everything, the complexity of mindsets, goals, and ideologies is the highlight of this book. Each of the three main characters has very distinct goals, all set on stopping the war, but none of them align perfectly, and if that doesn’t describe human nature, I don’t know what does.
The Twist/not twist; The reveal that Malachiasz was who he was, as well as Serefin being betrayed by one of his closest friends. In some ways I saw them coming. In others, I didn’t want it to be true, because I trusted them. I trusted them because our two perspective characters trusted them. Even if the clues were there, I wanted to ignore them, and this was well done.
What I Would Have Liked or Changed:
Nadya and Malachiasz romance; I liked the complexity of their relationship, but the closeness they had was def lust and not love. Even though at the end Nadya says may have loved him. I wish that I got a bit more of their interactions that weren’t in fighting situations, but I suppose I can only ask for so much in a war story.
Time Taken To Read
“Ostyia, I’m heartless, but I’m not cruel.” – Serefin, pg 29
“You are going to ask where our missing sisters went. I will tell you I have no idea. You will kill me, end of the story.”
“That wasn’t a particularly good story… The rising action did nothing for the climax, it all fell short at the resolution.” — Kostya and Serefin, pg 52 (Kostya speaks first)
“Well Konstantin, you are correct, I would like you to tell me where your little acolyte ran off.”
… “And I would like to tell you to shove that spell book up your ass.”
… “This one?”
“That’s the one.”
“Hm… Not really the proper use for it.” — Serefin and Kostya, pg 52