Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan – #BookReview

Goodreads: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Panda Rating:

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..

You know that feeling when you so badly want to love a book but there’s just something about it that ultimately lets you down? Friends, this is how I felt about Wicked Saints and I could not be more disappointed… I’m not saying it was a horrible read, I liked the parts I enjoyed (lol) but there was just something about it that stopped me from losing myself in the story and it left me feeling pretty ‘meh’ towards the end. It took me so much longer than expected to finish this book.

It started off really strong and I was hooked from the first paragraph. But as the story progressed the pace really slowed down and I found myself struggling to pick the book back up every time I had to leave it. Again, it wasn’t that it was wholly unenjoyable, there was just some missing element(s) that had me frustrated trying to work it out.

I think much of it had to do with the predictability of the plot and the inability for me to connect with any of the characters and the story itself. I have to admit that I read countless passages over and over again because I just couldn’t get a grip on the writing. I thought the world building was set up well and I thought the magic system was interesting, but I often found myself getting lost in the author’s explanations about how things worked that I feel like I didn’t know anything despite just having read about it. A lot of the time I felt that we were also told things instead of shown things. I noticed a lot of foreshadowing about characters and events that were so obviously told to us as readers, that it ruined the possibility of any surprise in the story.

I also have to mention the one gripe that many readers had and that was the character names. While I didn’t have an issue with most of them, I did find myself repeating Malachiasz’ name so many freaking times because I had no clue if I was pronouncing it correctly; and the same goes with many of the cleric’s names liberally sprinkled throughout. I think this book would’ve really benefited from having a glossary for the characters and I was disappointed to find there wasn’t one.

I also found the characters a little flat. I wanted to know more about Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz’ backstories, and while we learn more about the latter two than we do about Nadya, it still wasn’t much. I thought the side players showed more character in certain respects, especially Parajihan and Rashid, and I found myself disappointed that they all but ‘disappeared’ as the story went on. I really wish that the characters were better developed as it would’ve made me feel more invested in what would happen to them, and especially in the romance that blooms.

There were certain elements to the story that I did like though. I haven’t read many Russian inspired stories so I enjoyed reading one so heavily influenced by it. Like I said earlier, the magic systems in both countries were interesting. I liked how Nadya, the last cleric of Kalyazin communed with the Gods and how she was gifted their powers. I also thought the blood magic, dark though it was, was pretty cool. I definitely wanted to know more about the books they used to conjure spells and I wanted to better understand what makes one blood mage more powerful than another, but more importantly where blood magic came from.

The action really picks up in the last few chapters but I sadly found myself trying too hard to focus on understanding the author’s writing (I really read so many passages countless times), that it really took away from my reading experience. I’m not sure that I understood much of what happened, but what I did get had me racing towards the finish, especially when things took another turn that I was pleasantly surprised by because it was a little unexpected.

By the end though I just felt that there was so much potential for awesome in this story but I was let down by the execution of it. I originally thought I’d rate this about 2.5 stars but the final events did get me excited for the sequel, so I’m boosting it up to 3 stars. I got the e-ARC of Ruthless Gods recently so I’m looking forward to seeing if it will be an improvement and if it’ll change the way I feel about this series so far.

Have you read Wicked Saints? What’d you think of it?
Let’s chat in the comments!

19 thoughts on “Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan – #BookReview

  1. I have to admit, I thought this book would be a good one! The premise looked so promising. It’s a shame when the characters let a story down. They’re so fundamental and the main thing I fall in love with when reading a stellar book. Fab review Dini, you explained your view point so well! I hope the sequel has more to offer than this one 😀 Jen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought it would be good too! I had heard many mixed reviews but I thought I would definitely fall on the side of loving it. I’m gutted that I was so wrong 😑 I just feel like there was SO MUCH POTENTIAL for all the elements in this book and the execution really let it down. I’m hoping the sequel will have improved on these elements… But let’s see. Thanks so much for your support as always, Jen! 🥰💜

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ali! I’m sad it was disappointing but alas, we can’t like every book we read, right? 🙃 I’m reading a true crime book right now and it’s pretty intense and making me feel weird things. It’s great! Lol hope you’re also enjoying your current read(s)!

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    1. I WILL TAKE HUGS! Sigh… So disappointing when a book you’ve been so looking forward to lets you down. LOL I know you’re familiar with this! Thanks, Emer! 🥰 I’m hoping the sequel will … redeem this one!!

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  2. I tried reading this one earlier this year and ended up tabling it when I was around 75 pages because it just wasn’t hooking me. I want to try it again, because I know a lot of people really liked it, but…eh. It also feels a little bit like a Grishaverse knockoff lol

    (Also, Russian-inspired fantasy seems to be on the rise. Between the Grisha books, this series, Naomi Novik’s most recent books (Spinning Silver and Uprooted), and The Bear and the Nightingale, there is major Russian influence creeping into the bestseller arena.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s funny coz I found the beginning exciting and I was sucked in pretty quickly! But then I was also spit out really quickly and I was left wondering what the heck happened 😅 So disappointing… I can see what you mean by a knockoff of the Grishaverse though!

      After making that comment about not having read many Russian inspired books, I realized I was totally ‘lying’ because I have read a few–my memory is just so fail haha I read those Naomi Novik books (and really enjoyed them) and of course, TBATN was amazing — so much better than this even though they’re about different things. The world building and other elements were definitely better explained in TBATN! I still need to continue that series 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thanks Kitty! I really thought the panda one was a perfect representation of my underwhelmed reaction to this book 😅 I’m sad that this one didn’t turn out as great as I hoped, especially since I’ve been excited to read it for a while! I’m hoping the sequel will be better. 🤞 Hope you enjoy it if/when you pick it up!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. a glossary for names would be so helpful for sooo many books god especially this one it seems.
    ugh i’m so sorry this wasn’t what you were expecting at all. 😦 I hope your next book is better. fab review my doll.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Obviously you know I didn’t like this one, lol. I also don’t like the author. As a debut author she decided to take to twitter when she was getting bad reviews to say that people were wrong and that she isn’t there to hold their hand through the book and feed them information. The problem is she never gave much information in the first place! The whole thing rubbed me the wrong way and I just won’t pick up any of her other books.

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  5. I’m so sorry it was disappointing for you! I would love to read more Slavic inspired fantasy so I’m saddened it wasn’t that great too.

    Malachiasz is also a Polish name though, so I have some answers for you! It’s pronounced with every ‘a’ like ‘u’ in ‘cup’, ‘ia’ would be kind of ‘ya’?, ‘ch’ is just a variation of ‘h’ not the English ‘ch’ sound (that would be written ‘cz,’ btw) and ‘sz’ is just ‘sh’ 🙂

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