I delayed reading Wicked Saints until this past weekend, and I should have read it sooner!!! Because Emily Duncan’s Wicked Saints is beyond beautiful. It’s one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read, and I say that with some trepidation because I’ve read A LOT of fantasy!
But Wicked Saints is 100% of an example of why I read fantasy. It’s simply phenomenal.
I was immediately drawn into the world of Wicked Saints. A peasant girl who can talk to gods? Countries who’ve been at war for hundreds of years? The very powerful prince who uses dark magic? A magic wielding contest??? YESSSS, this is my jam!!!
Nadya, has spent her life secluded in a monastery. Why? because she’s a simple girl who can communicate with all the gods. And when Nadya asks the gods, she can wield magic.
Terrifying right? Well, Nadya’s not the only one who can wield magic. Her country is fighting Blood Mages, people who use their blood to cast spells. Serefin, the High Prince of Tranavia is hunting the rumored magical cleric. Just when Serefin thinks he can catch the girl, he’s called home. Because he’s not just any prince, he’s an unmarried prince.
Nadya is still running, when she stumbles across Malachiasz, a powerful blood mage from Tranavia. The two of them need each other to escape Serefin, and even more dangerous blood mages, the Vultures. Together, Nadya and Malachiasz pledge to end the war – by killing the king of Tranavia. Nadya will do whatever it takes to kill the king, including joining the Blood Mage competition to become Serefin’s future Queen Consort.
You know how easy it was to write out that quick synopsis? VERY EASY. usually i hate writing a synopsis for a book review but this story was so AMAZING that writing the synopsis was actually not that hard?
Let’s chat about the characters:
Nadya, my Gryffindor Cleric – Nadya is fervent in her trust and belief in the gods. I LOVE HER. As someone who grew up in a religious household, I understand her implicit trust in the gods. She needs the pantheon’s approval and craves their guidance.
At the same time, she is nervous about ever doing anything outside the gods’ will. What a predicament! All her choices are an illusion, because without the gods’ approval, she’s void of her magic. Yet, she will constantly run into choices that make her question the gods, and doubt their hold on her life.
Serefin, the awkward mage prince – This precious boy! I love his character!!! He’s powerful, yet constrained about using his power. He’s been fighting on the frontlines of the war since he was 16 – and he knows the only reason he’s at the front is that his dead kind of might want him dead.
At first, you might think Serefin is just evil? I mean, he’s using blood magic, torturing people, and wants to kill the rumored magical cleric. But he’s a cinnamon roll, okay? i like Serefin.
Malachiasz, of the dark and twisted past – Malachiasz is the darkling we all don’t really deserve.Read this book for this tortured soul. Also, his feelings? KEPT ME DANGLING ON A TIGHTROPE. Seriously, he is something else.
I also really, really like all the other characters who help complete the setting, plot, and cast. Ostyia is blind in one eye, and flirts with every girl she meets. Goals. Zaneta is a powerful blood mage, who happens to be Serefin’s childhood friend, and she definitely aims to win that blood magic contest. Iconic Queen. Rashid and Parijahan are two plucky souls who stole my heart. I’m reading the NEXT book for ALL THESE FOLKS.
Wow, the plot kept me GUESSING SO MUCH. I thought I knew who was evil, who was going to maybe do some betrayal, who might try to kill everyone. But i was wrong. And that’s part of why I genuinely loved this book?
► Nadya was constantly second guessing herself and deciding who she should trust.
► Serefin had to decide if his dad was really trying to kill him.
► Malachiasz had so many layers, I’m still processing all of his motives and goals. Though, I still don’t know what he wants and i finished the book. So there’s that.
I also liked the romance – because it felt genuine and the characters falling for each other happed to hate the fact that they were falling in love. And there was definitely some enemies to lovers back to enemies vibe and I LIVE FOR ALL THAT, okay?
Roshani Choksi says this book is for anyone who shipped the Darkling and Alina, and yes, it is exactly that, except not so abusive or manipulative.
And have I mentioned all the religious conversations and internal conflict??? I briefly touched on this earlier but I really felt Nadya’s internal conflict. She was nervous to ask questions but she wanted to ask questions and I was here for her searching for answers. I feel like she’s going to get into even deep questions in the second book, and YES.
Also Malachiasz and Nadya had the best conversations about why they believed what they believed. I mean, sometimes, he could be mocking or kind of a jerk about her devotion to the pantheon of gods. But the way they talked about it! So great!
And the religious narrative fed directly into the war – and how war affects the average people. Serefin really cared for his country and it drove him into finding a way to end the war. My political icon Serefin.
I’ve heard this book referenced as a magical Joan of Arc story, and YES THAT’S EXACTLY RIGHT! the action scenes are intense and Nadya is a fighter. I actually reread several of the fight scenes because they were just so gripping and I wanted to experience them again.
It reminds me of the time I read the best fight scene I’d ever come across – Molly Weasley’s take down of Bellatrix Lestrange. I reread that final battle scene over and over again, because it just consumed me. And I’m absolutely comparing the fight scenes in Wicked Saints to The Battle of Hogwarts. Because they were THAT well-written.
And before I finish chatting about this book, let me just mention the humor. It was on point and helped keep the story from being overwhelmingly dark.
One quick example, Serefin had to climb 4,000 steps to attack the monastery, but when he comes back to court, he notes that he’s winded after climbing a winding staircase. HE’S SO ANNOYED THAT ONE WEEK HOME FROM WAR AND A FEW STAIRS ARE ALREADY TIRING HIM OUT. And it’s just so funny? and maybe that doesn’t sound funny, but trust me reading the story, it’s quite humorous.
Now, before everyone goes rushing to the stores to buy this amazing book, a quick trigger warning, this book is graphic. I mean, there’s blood magic, which involves cutting oneself and lots of blood. And there’s death, and dark magic. While Wicked Saints is sold as Young Adult,I really feel like this story is much more New Adult, or at least much older YA.
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.
Have you read Wicked Saints? (if so how are you coping???) What’s your favorite trope in a fantasy novel? Do you have a favorite fight scene from a fantasy book?
Quick Note: Wicked Saints was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review. This did not impact my review of this book.