update — May 2020:
You know what? I’ve had a lot of feelings about this book over the last year. I initially gave it a pretty high rating, but then the author sketched me out on social media and I decided I didn’t want to support her work while she was being unkind to other reviewers. A quick way to convince me not to support an author is to show me them attacking reviewers, because 1) I think of the reviewing community as one big, dysfunctional family that needs to stick up for one another, and 2) it makes me hesitant to read that author’s work and review it, because what if they attack me, too?
All of that said… it’s been a year since I took down my initial review, and I’ve had a bit of a shift in thoughts. First of all, while yes, I do think it’s super NOT okay for authors to subtweet reviewers, in hindsight, I don’t believe I ever saw Emily A. Duncan do anything that I thought felt like a legitimate “attack”. I think it was less malice and more a young, debut author not considering what ought to go on main and what ought to be kept to group chats. Second of all, you know what, I liked this book. It wasn’t my favorite of the year and I do think it suffers from some definite Darkling Fanfiction Syndrome™, but I want to continue the series at some point.
And, more than anything, I’ve reached the point in my life where I’ve realized I can choose my battles. I don’t need to weigh in on every “hot take” that comes across the YA book twitter stratosphere.
So… I’m re-adding my review. And if you’ve read this far, feel free to keep on reading, but either way, thanks for listening. ♥ If you do keep reading, it’s a bit more gushy than my current memories of the book are, but frankly, I don’t want to edit it. I did lower my star rating from 5 to 4, but the text remains the same.
ORIGINAL REVIEW — APRIL 2019:
Three entirely different paths converge in a singular attempt to overthrow a corrupt kingdom and stop an ages-old war: Serefin, a broken prince whose life is in danger; Malachiasz, a monster gone rogue against his own comrades; and Nadya, the gods-blessed girl with the power to end it all.
Wicked Saints was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, which is such a stressful way to feel about a book when you read it, really — it can either go brilliantly and live up to all of your hopes and dreams, or crash and burn in your hands. Coupling the nerves of the ridiculous level of hype I created for myself with this release with the fact that I’d been in a fantasy slump for months, I had no idea what to expect.
“We’re all monsters … some of us just hide it better than others.”
Starting out, the first couple of chapters hadn’t fully hooked me yet, you know? I was in, but I wasn’t obsessed (YET). Honestly, though, around the 15% mark, something “clicked” for me and I was all in. I could barely be wrenched away from my kindle to do anything because all I wanted was to devour this gorgeous, gothic little fantasy story with its lovable, magical characters and intricate world.
“My name is Malachiasz Czechowicz,” he said, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she had just been given something.
First, these characters are beyond incredible. It’s so clear that Emily grew up in fandoms, knowing how characters could best hit a reader’s buttons to make them melt, because these little cinnamon rolls are some of the best I’ve ever met in my life.
? Nadya Lapteva is a fantastic protagonist, because she’s so easy to root for, even when I found myself disagreeing with her motives and beliefs. I couldn’t get behind how blindly she followed her faith, but I loved her all the more for it.
? Serefin Meleski, the sweet, wounded prince. He tries so hard to do what he thinks is best for the Tranavian people, and he just wants someone to do right by him for once (or to at least leave him alone to his booze), and he just broke my heart over and over.
? Malachiasz Czechowicz, finally: I didn’t know how much I needed a gothy little smoosh like him in my life until now, and I just want to hug him and protect him at all costs, because let’s be honest, I don’t care how powerful of a blood mage he is, Malachiasz needs someone to love on him like he deserves. I honestly had to restrain myself from making this entire review about him because WOW, I LOVE HIM SO MUCH and he is easily going into my list of best book characters ever, with his sad little tattooed face and all his monstrous secrets. (I need a t-shirt that says “the best book boyfriends are monsters”, can we make this happen please)
He was tired, beginning to fray at the edges, as if the barest touch would shatter him.
Of course, there are also these brilliant side characters, like Parijahan (who wants nothing to do with your nonsense, thank you very much), Rashid (how precious, what a bean), Ostyia (we stan a queer girl charming the pants off all the other girls in town)—the list goes on. They’re all so ridiculously lovable (except the few who aren’t, in which case, they’re terrifying and awful and the best sorts of villains).
“Blood and blood and bone. Magic and monsters and tragic power.”
The last thing I have to point out is how fantastic the settings and descriptions are. Emily really is a Goth Queen™ and her writing is soaked in it, and frankly, my “no, it really wasn’t a phase, Mom” self is LIVING for it. I mean, the pictures the writing paints of the Vultures and their dwelling places? YO, give me all those creepy goth vibes forever, please and thank you.
“I am so very young by comparison, and there are evils in this world far greater than I.”
Rambling aside, there are just so many good things I have to say about Wicked Saints, whether it’s the writing, plot, or characters, but the biggest thing I have to say is that, regardless of whether you’re a long-time fantasy lover or someone who typically steers clear of the genre altogether, you gotta give Emily A. Duncan a chance, because this debut is so damn powerful and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel. ?
Content warnings for violence, murder, self-harm for blood magic
All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
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