Blog Tour and Review and Excerpt: WICKED SAINTS - by Emily A. Duncan

This book. People, this book. I could not be happier to share this post with you today, because this novel is about to rock the YA fantasy genre. I simply adored it. It's electrifying, it's frightening, and it's beautifully written. Hope you like the post!

Goodreads | Book Depository
Something Dark and Holy #1
Published: April 2019 - Wednesday Books.
Genres: Young adult / fantasy / romance.
Pages: 400.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Strong violence and gore / frequent incidents of self-harm. 
Format: ARC eBook.
Source: Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read & reviewed this copy. All thoughts are my own.

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. 

Game of Thrones meets And I Darken in this upcoming YA novel. I was entranced by the cover, hooked by the premise, and couldn't wait to start reading.

Duncan writes beautifully. The prose is so skilful, and as for this world, it's sublime. The world-building simply takes your breath away. It's reminiscent of the Grishaverse but a lot darker, also Russian-inspired, and with snow-swept mountains and icy monasteries and dark castles. In fact, the world-building is easily my favourite aspect of the book. It's gloriously alive and monstrous. I also love the magic system and how unique it is. It's unlike anything I've ever read and so well put together.

The plot starts with a bang and the action keeps coming: bloody, dark, and destructive. There is a lot of violence - most of it gory - but it is a brutal world and the characters inevitably reflect this. Speaking of action, I was entertained non-stop. My interest never waned, and an explosive, heart-pounding ending made me yell for book 2. The story sucked me into a trance.

Another thing I love about this story is how seamlessly information is revealed. The author never dumps anything on you, she gives you space to think for yourself, and you piece things together just as the characters do. The politics are also gorgeously twisty and compelling, and for someone who usually hates fantasy world political systems, I was actually riveted by this one. It's just so engaging.

How had she expected to do this - be anything - with the gods so far out of reach? What was she without them? Just a peasant girl who grew up in a monastery. A girl who would die for believing she was anything more than that.

The characters are a compelling group of morally conflicted teenagers struggling to survive. Nadya's passion, ferocity, and impulsiveness is refreshing (she's small and stabby and I'm here for it) and throughout the book I was gripped by her inner turmoil as her beliefs and identity are thrown into question. I loved watching her grapple with herself and with those around her. The internal conflict is so powerful, and it's equally so for each main character.

Aside from Nadya, there are also two other protagonists: Malachiasz and Serefin. There's no love triangle between these guys and Nadya (THANK GOODNESS) and their relationships are three-dimensional and beguiling. Malachiasz is this broken, erratic boy who's been tortured into becoming a monster, and he also suffers from anxiety; I like how the author represents this. In contrast, Serefin is an awkward, insecure, drunken prince with daddy issues who quickly became my favourite character. He is so well written, so deep and human, and I can't wait to see more of him in Book 2. 

As for secondary characters, everyone has a personality and agenda. Rashid and Parijahan are friends of Malachiasz's, and Rashid reminds me of a younger, more naive version of Jesper from Six of Crows, while Parijahan is a mix of Inej and Nina; her character is also delightfully complicated and surprising. Although these two characters don't feature much in the story, their development is still evident and you get to see different aspects of their personalities whenever they show up. I also like that through Parijahan, Nadya has a female friend to talk to.

The romance is engrossing. I can't say I ship Malachiasz and Nadya - a proper relationship still seems a bit far off for them - but I like what they bring out in each other and how Malachiasz makes Nadya question things. In addition, I adore how the ending climax stays true to their characters and doesn't get distracted by their romance. It could've gone a different way, but the author sticks closely to what makes sense for them as individuals. It's realistic and emotional. I can't say much without giving spoilers, so I'll stop there ;)

The Wicked Saints is a eerie, intense dark fantasy from an incredibly talented author. With lush, Gothic settings, grotesque action, tortured characters and an enthralling plot, it promises a storm in the genre.    

EMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio. 

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  Prepare for a snow frosted, blood drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love ends up being the nightmare. Utterly absorbing.” 

- Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen 

❝ Dark, bloody, and monstrously romantic. This is the villain love interest that we've all been waiting for.” 

- Margaret Rogerson, New York Times bestselling author of An Enchantment of Ravens 

Full of blood and monsters and magic—this book destroyed me and I adored it. Emily is a wicked storyteller, she’s not afraid to hurt her characters or her readers. If you’ve ever fallen in love with a villain you will fall hard for this book."

 - Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval 

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