Monday, August 26, 2019

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)
by Emily A. Duncan

Synopsis (via Goodreads): 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.

Narrated by Natasha Soudek & Tristan Morris

"He was a liar and she wanted his truths."
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

I started with the audiobook but eventually switched to a physical copy. The narration felt slow, but a change in reading material didn't help. I never really looked forward to continuing Wicked Saints (which is super disappointing since I preemptively bought the special edition), and it was likely due to my inability to lose myself within the story. A lot of my fellow bloggers were raving about this dark and twisted tale about gods and monsters, but I never felt invested in the characters or what they were trying to achieve. 

I wish the romance had been left out, because it wasn't believable and detracted from the story. I didn't understand their attraction to each other, and oftentimes it felt one-sided. Nadya couldn't decide whether or not to trust Malachiasz, and her inner turmoil was an unnecessary focal point of the book. Was he really a monster, or was he just troubled and looking to fix the mistakes of his past? I have no idea why she decided to go along with his plan in the first place, since she knew nothing about him or his agenda. He also lied to her (often), was vague about details (almost always), and seemed content to let her think the worst of him. Nadya had plenty of other things to worry about, and whether or not she loved a monster shouldn't have been one of them.

There's an occurrence right at the beginning that doesn't make sense, and that I vehemently disagree with. Someone was fighting, bodies piling up at their feet, and they're interrupted by this other person so they could leave the battle and escort Nadya to safety. However, the person that was already with her doesn't get a chance to fight before they're struck down (horribly), and I want to know why they didn't just help Nadya escape themselves. Why was she passed on to someone else already in the midst of battle? Better question... why didn't both people help her escape? Someone staying behind didn't buy them time, or change anything about their situation, so it would have made more sense for them to escape together. It felt it's sole purpose was to be shocking, because it added nothing to the story. 

Additionally, Nadya ran headfirst into the battle because she wanted to help, but then simply watches as people start dying around her. Her great attack was freezing the stairs even though she knew it wouldn't really be effective in the end? Then she doesn't know what do with the power that's given to her, but doesn't really ask either. It just becomes an extension of herself and does its own thing. If she's been training for years, can commune with the gods themselves, and knows what their individual powers are... why wasn't she more of a fighting force during the battle? I feel like she could have done more to protect those around her, but she shows up and then leaves shortly after arriving (followed by a lot of unnecessary death and destruction). Her actions were hard to follow, because we don't really know anything about her character yet. She seemed impulsive initially, but then resigned to her fate after facing her enemies for a few minutes. 

I'm angry Nadya didn't do more at the start of the book, and that her bravado failed when she needed it the most. She has all of the gods and their powers at her disposal, but the most she could conjure was ice and a mysterious white light (that did manage to kill on impact). Speaking of killing, she froze when someone died by her hand, but it's something she should have anticipated. Her reactions may have briefly felt realistic, but people were giving their lives to keep her safe. She should have been more preoccupied with keeping them alive as well.

Everything that happened afterwards felt like carefully planned coincidences. I thought the premise was interesting, and even understood Nadya's struggle with blind faith. However, most of the story felt repetitive and dull. The bloody, darker aspects didn't feel like part of the story, but rather an attempt to repeatedly shock readers with its brutality. I'm not against stories like this, but the violence in this book didn't have a purpose, it just existed. I might be explaining this poorly, but hopefully you get the gist.

After awhile, I simply kept reading because it was almost over. I didn't care how it ended, who lived or died, or if anyone succeeded with their personal agendas. They were enemies for the majority of the book, committing atrocities against each other, but then there were careful smiles and tentative friendships at the end. I'm sorry, but if you murder everyone in the community I once called home, there's no chance in hell I'm going to forgive or forget. Nothing made sense -- not the story or the characters.

Things that didn't make sense (potential spoilers):

1) Nadya uses the god's magic to mask Malachiasz, and Malachiasz uses his blood magic to mask Nadya. Why didn't Nadya use her magic to conceal both of their identities? I think there was an explanation for why Malachiasz couldn't use his on himself, but I can't remember.

2) Nadya alternated between competent and clueless at the start of the book. She failed to assist in the initial battle, but she could temporarily remove the sun from the sky shortly afterwards? She was weak one moment, and crazy powerful the next.

3) When Nadya is kidnapped and left bleeding to death, I don't think it ever explains what happened or why she was down there. Was there a reason?


  1. This sounds like it has enough problems that I'll just skip it. I saw some reviews too and was curious at first, but... ah I don't know. Doesn't sound like my thing. :) I will say that I sometimes have problems too when a character does something, like kill, and then is upset about it, but CLEARLY should have known beforehand that would happen! Like if you have potentially lethal powers, maybe think about your ethical views beforehand? I don't know. Anyway good review. :)

    1. People were raving about this one, so I jumped without looking. Now I have a fancy version of the book that I'm disinterested in, and will be give away at some point in the future. Yay giveaways! ;) Right?? She's been training for this her entire life, but somehow missed what would actually happen when she was in the midst of battle. Killing is part of what happens. Her surprise and shock were understandable at first, but she should have been more prepared!

  2. Sorry this didn't work for you. I actually really liked it and already have book two to read and am hoping it is even better than the first. Maybe some of those questions will be answered or better explained?

    1. It wasn't really the unanswered questions that bothered me, but how certain aspects of the story didn't fit together. I'm sure the person that was left behind in the first book makes an appearance later on (especially now that she's friendly with the enemy), but I double they will be as forgiving. Serafin was brutal when he wanted information from someone, and he obliterated the monastery where she grew up. It was hard for me to get behind their tentative alliance, and her desire to keep him safe despite his previous actions.

      Speaking of Serafin... what the bloody hell happened to him? Singing, stars, and moths? I needed more information that that! I also wasn't sure how his friend got hurt at the end. I didn't think she was fighting... and then there's the missing friend... too many loose ends.

      I'm still not entirely sure why M did what he did. When Nadya stumbled across him in the woods, which was purely coincidental (unless there was unknown interference from the gods), he seemed to be running away from something. Her presence seemed to trigger something else in him that led to...everything. I just couldn't understand his motives, or why he was willing to let her die in order for his plans to work out. If he cared, he wouldn't have let her receive that serious beat down. He just sat there and watched, sometimes with a smile on his face, and that really bothered me. Nadya questioned her faith for him, gave up a part of herself for him, and why?

      I had too many issues with this book, so I doubt it'll be a series I continue. The characters were flawed, but not in a redeemable way. They're actions were repulsive, and it was hard to relate to any of them.

      I'm glad you really enjoyed this one! I think I remember seeing your review a few months ago. I hope the second book is everything you want it to be and more. :)

    2. Additionally, we learn very little about the characters. What was M's childhood like? Why isn't he able to remember more than his name? I know the Vultures have methods for erasing memories, but Serafin seemed to recognize him. Why didn't he say anything? I wanted to know more about the monastery as well, and the secondary characters were really interesting.

  3. Oh wow, this sounded like it had some great potential. But it sounds like there are to many unknown and explained things going on for me especially with Nadya. Thanks for sharing your though on it.

    1. I agree that this book had the potential to be more than it was, but I don't think the characters or the story were developed enough. Nadya's characteristics weren't solid and tended to change depending on what was happening. One minute she's strong and fighting, and the next she's second-guessing herself and unsure about what she's doing. It was hard to relate to her when she kept flip-flopping. I had similar feelings about the other characters and the story itself.

  4. I liked this one more than you but you brought up all good points! I'm really hoping that the romance doesn't stick.

    1. I'm happy you had a better experience with this one! I just kept getting hung up on the aspects that didn't quite fit, you know? It was hard for me to overlook them and simply enjoy the story. I felt like Nadya's personality kept changing, and there were too many holes. You'll have to let me know how you feel after reading the next book!

  5. This does not sound good at all and I really love your review - you make great points. It seems there are a lot of plot holes in this one. I always have a hard time with series so I am reticent to most of them. Great review!

    Cheeky Lines

    1. Thank you! I don't have a problem overlooking some plot holes within a story, because sometimes you need to suspend belief to really appreciate what's happening. However, the character's themselves kept making conflicting choices, and the story stopped making sense after awhile. "Why would you do that?" was a question I often asked aloud while reading this.


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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless