ARC Review: Wicked Saints {Emily Duncan} - blood and blood and nightmare boys


title: Wicked Saints
author: Emily Duncan
pages: 496
format: Paperback ARC
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5
Genre: Fantasy
Topics: Religion, War, Magic
CW: Death, Violence, Abuse, Self-harm 



5 lemons - I loved it so much! 

Hello darkness    


Dark, f*cked up fantasy has come to YA, and it's here to stay. Emily rides at the vanguard with her death metal Polish Russian dark religion murder epic. And yes, it's just as devastatingly beautiful as it sounds. I shredded through this book in a couple days. With its sharp prose, morally ambiguous characters, and ruthless plot, it's the kind of book that opens wounds, leaves scars, and keeps you clamoring for more.

Happy nightmare children   


I've been following Emily for a long time, and I only needed to know that she loved European black metal and Kylo Ren to know that I was going to adore her book. Her prose is super tight. Sharp but not flowery, evocative without getting in its own way. Her dialogue is naturalistic and full of bone-dry wit. She throws in enough descriptions to ground you in her world, without overloading. Sprinklings of Polish and Russian terms. Snippets of culture. The effect is a dark, bitter, gray atmosphere with an undercurrent of something painfully magical.

In this gloomy world, she lets her characters play. Nadia is a force of nature, ruthless, sharp, and unapolgetically brutal. Just try to call her unlikable. There's also some whimsy there, since she regularly has silent conversations with the gods, who give her her powers and are also kind of annoying know-it-alls. Our other POV is Serefin, gin-soaked blood prince, who has a reputation for torturing people from the inside out but is actually just kind of an awkward-as-hell mess of a human. I love them both dearly.

Then there's Malachiasz. Dear god, I can't wait for his POV in book two. He's a violent snarky mystery who flirts as hard as he kills, and doesn't give a shit what you think about him. Even the side characters have a strong presence. I can't wait for more of Ostyia, flirty murdery lesbian, especially. The interactions between all our heroes are fraught with duplicity, rage, and sarcasm. Who needs plot? I could read an entire book that's just the three mains talking. 

Let there be blood     


There's a plot though, don't worry. Ho boy, you're in for it. With characters who each have life-or-death goals and are willing to break any rules to get it, you know there's going to be chaos. The overarching scaffold is a holy war between fake-Poland, full of godless blood mages, and fake-Russia, divine land of sanctimonious saints and clerics. On a personal level, Nadia wants to destroy the blood mages for her gods. Serefin wants to win the war and avoid getting assassinated by his father. Malachiasz wants to save his country if he has to betray everyone to do it.

Cue chaos as the three of them weave in and out of each others lives, wreaking havoc and discovering that the lines between good and evil aren't so simple, their enemies aren't so obvious, and the relationship between the gods and blood magic is darker and more complicated than anyone understood. It's a breakneck plot resting on constantly shifting sands of betrayal, hidden motives, attempted murders, and lots and lots of blood. But there are also some interludes of truly hysterical banter, scathing flirtation, and reluctant romancing.

Dark and holy     


I can't recommend this book highly enough. I could nitpick some aspects of pacing or whatnot, but that wouldn't do it justice. It's like Leigh Bardugo's Grisha with the murder dial turned up to 11. I found myself gasping and squirming the whole way through, and had such a book hangover after the last page that I couldn't read anything for days. I can't wait for everyone to meet the messy, compelling humans that Emily has spawned.


My thoughts overall


A devastating morally gray mindtrip that hurts so beautifully

Will I read this author again? I love her
Will I continue this series? I'm dying for it   




Note: I received this copy from the publisher for an honest review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.  

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