«Wicked Saints», the first book in Something Dark and Holy trilogy, was published in April last year. I remember it being one of my most anticipated releases at the time when I first saw it on NetGalley and the fact that it was inspired by Eastern European culture immediately drew my attention. As someone from Eastern Europe, I often find these books very nostalgic to read, as they tend to reference a lot of Slavic folklore or events that I used to study in my history classes.
Emily A. Duncan said in one of her interviews that Leigh Bardugo was her favorite YA author, and you can easily see by the way the book is written where she drew her inspiration from. «Wicked Saints» reminded me of the Darkling, Mal and Alina – not the plot of events but the characters and their interactions.
Maybe every single YA fantasy inspired by Eastern European culture will always remind me of The Grisha trilogy now?
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..
This year, as I was preparing myself to dive into this new fantasy world, and after seeing a lot of mixed reviews, I went into this book knowing that it might not be as great as I was hoping it to be, and decided to let myself enjoy this debut for what it was. I’m glad that I didn’t read this book immediately as it came out because my expectations would have been even higher and the let down even bigger.
WHAT I LIKED:
1 – The Eastern European culture will always be the thing I love the most in Fantasy books. Emily A. Duncan did say in her interview at frolic media that this book is inspired by Skyrim (the video game I haven’t played yet!) and also Eastern European culture, mostly Russia. But honestly, I don’t see much of Russian inspiration there. The foreign words she used, usually highlighted in italic, are not Russian and sound more Polish, but I’m not an expert in the Polish language.
The names of the characters are also less Russian and more Polish (I think?!). Nadya, the main character, her name is definitely Russian – the short name for Nadezda.
I still really liked the setting, whether she used Polish or another language there it was easy to understand and very interesting to learn more about the culture of both countries.
2 – In the «Wicked Saints» Emily A. Duncan took religion to a very interesting place. I’ve never read any book where magic was so directly related to religion and I really enjoyed it! Nadya is a cleric and she can communicate with gods, who in turn might grant her powers that she prays for. This dependence from a bigger force and also her relationship with the gods was a nice twist to otherwise rather cliché story. And I enjoyed watching her inner struggle as more of the world and knowledge opened before her.
I would actually love to see the events before «Wicked Saints», of how Nadya grew up, how she discovered her powers, what she had to go through to learn how to use them. It would almost be like Hogwarts but in a convent!
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
1 – This was one of those books I’ll forget after a while. I’m sure if I try to think about it later in the year, I won’t remember anything other than the assault on the monastery, which happens right in the beginning! The story was lacking something for me, and the fact that I didn’t care about the fate of any of the characters made it very difficult to pick the book back up.
The beginning of the book was actually quite well polished. It introduced different countries and the battle between them, it also showed glimpses of magic and things we could expect in the future. But, overall, the story felt rushed. The characters were pushed from one point to another without major plot development.
2 – Throughout the entire book I had this feeling that the author wanted to incorporate all of her favorite YA elements in one story. We went through the chosen one trope, the Selection moment and forbidden love, and it felt like I was reading a compilation of different YA fantasy books mixed all in one.
While I’m all for writing and reading about favorite tropes, I wanted them to be done well. Maybe the chosen one trope will always remind me of Harry Potter, but if the book I’m reading is good, I won’t be thinking about Harry Potter for more than a second.
Emily A. Duncan had all these amazing ideas, inspired by other stories, but they weren’t blended well together.
Sadly, it’s only a three-star book. Maybe even less, because I’m still unsure how I feel about Emily A. Duncan writing style. Hopefully, the 2nd book is better and provides more information on magic, world, and history, and also gives up better character development.
Have you read «The Wicked Saints»? Did you love it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!