When this book arrived in April’s OwlCrate box I was more excited by the awesome exclusive cover than by the actual book it was on. I had heard very little about the book itself, and so it merely put it on the TBR shelf and I knew I would read it eventually. However, I started seeing more and more hype around it and knew I needed to pick it up! And boy am I glad that I did! Before I get into the details, as always, let’s get a quick synopsis first!
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.
Summary courtesy of Goodreads!
This book was everything I wanted Shadow & Bone to be! It took the bits I loved about that book, left out the parts I didn’t, and created an awesome world with a super unique magic system. In fact, let’s talk about that magic system first!
In Wicked Saints magic is performed in one of two ways; blood mages (the “heretics”) from Tranavia, and clerics (those gifted with magic via the gods) from Kalyazin. Blood Mages carry around spell books and to activate their spells they first cut their hands to draw blood, rip the chosen spell from the book, and crumple it up in their bloody hand. You’d think this method would be cumbersome, but the author writes it in a very fluid way that makes total sense. It’s clearly something these Blood Mages have down to a science. Also, the imagery is actually pretty badass.
The clerics access their power via prayer to their patron god. Nadya is actually the only cleric left – that we know of – and has the unique ability to call upon all of the gods for favor and power, not just a single one. But divine power is not meant for mortal minds, so she often suffers under the weight. At the same time, blood magic feels inherently wrong to her, despite not having to be beholden to the gods for it.
So much of the book focuses on the contrast between the two kinds of magic, the religion behind it, and which is “right” and which is “wrong”. It’s literally the cause of the centuries long war between Kalyazin and Tranavia. Kalyazin worships their gods and pull their magic from them. But the magic must be gifted and is therefore limited and rare. Not only that, but each time the wielder wants to use it, they must ask, and the god(s) could choose to deny the request.
Tranavia has renounced all gods and pursues only power gained through blood magic. But their magic comes only from themselves and not at the behest of a “higher power”. While they are tied to use of a spell book (they why of which I can surmise but won’t speculate about here) it is still much more of a free-will situation than what the clerics have access too. Nadya goes through moral dilemma constantly and as the reader I was just as conflicted. By the end I was still unsure which path is the better one, or if it’s more the question of the lesser of two “evils”.
I loved all three of the main characters in Wicked Saints. Nadya was our primary MC and held “the chosen one” role for sure. It was her that I sympathized with the most and her feelings that drove my thoughts the most. She feels like it is her responsibility to save her country and use her divine gift to do so. The weight of twenty gods is not an easy one and she certainly suffers for it. As expected, seeing life outside of her cloistered one opens her eyes to the possibility that her way might not be the only way. We see her question things more and more as the story unfolds.
Malachiasz (mah-LAH-kee-ash) was the dark and broody villain type that I always love and that everyone claims The Darkling is (I never saw it). Nadya is totally convinced he can’t be trusted, but finds herself drawn to him again and again. To be fair, he very clearly feels for her and we don’t have any of that “villain treats the heroine like garbage only for them to fall in love anyway” tropey crap that we usually see. I ship them hardcore. We also get some pretty big reveals in regards to Malachiasz, once at about the halfway point and again as we near the end. If you love rooting for the anti-hero villains as much as I do, he will be your guy!
Serefin is the High Prince of Tranavia and is a powerful Blood Mage. He’s also a total drunk and spends large chunks of the book fearing for his life at the hands of his power hungry father, the king. Serefin goes through some epic transformations of his own and despite how he looks on paper is actually a total cinnamon roll. I dare say that he has the potential to be my favorite character and so I look forward to more of him in the next book.
All in all, this was a fabulous read. I did find myself a little confused over various plot points at times, but I suspect this was more due to my trying to rush through than anything. It was just SO GOOD and I needed to know what happened next!!!! The ending was totally unexpected and left me so ready for more! The only real downside is we won’t see book 2 until April 2020, but I need it NOW!!
To purchase your own copy of Wicked Saints, you can follow this link.
There is some amazing fanart out there for this book, and author Emily Duncan has created a great collection of it, which you can see here!