Something Wicked This Way Comes: Wicked Saints Blog Tour
Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)
by Emily A. Duncan
Wednesday Books - April 2, 2019
A debut YA fantasy novel dripping in blood, brutality, and angst. Wicked Saints plays with religious fanaticism, blood magic, and Slavic folklore making for a highly readable novel that will appeal to fans of Leigh Bardugo’s Gishaverse
*An advanced reader ebook copy was provided by the publisher’s blog tour campaign via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Hello April! Here in Southern California sunny days are ahead and we’re out of the winter doldrums, or I am at least! This month we start off with a YA debut novel that has been on my radar for sometime and intrigued me after my first glance at the title and cover! We all know not to “judge a book by its cover” but it certainly helps! I reached out to Wednesday Books late last year and was graciously added to the blog tour! So let’s get into it:
trigger warnings: self-harm, alcoholism, abuse
Emily A. Duncan’s Wicked Saints combines Slavic folklore, religious zealotry, warring countries, a band of misfits, teen angst, and a good dose of Dungeons & Dragons and creates a bloody and brutal narrative.
Nadezhda “Nadya” Lapteva is a Kalyazi cleric who can channel a pantheon of gods via religious devotion. She is the first in a generation to be able to connect with the gods and is fated to help save her country in a ongoing war between Kalyazin and their heretical neighbor, Tranavia. Tranavia is a supposed “heretical” nation in this holy war because their mages use blood and spell books to cast magic rather than relying on divine blessings. Nayda grows up in a monastery away from the war front until the monastery is attacked by blood mages. Realizing the fight is lost, Nayda and a companion escape their enemies eventually linking up with a band of misfits set on ending the holy war, all for their own reasons. Meanwhile, the reader also see Serefin’s, the Tranavian high prince, perspective. Serefin is wary after years at the battle front before being recalled to Tranavia to marry. Serefin fears it’s a set up for his father to murder him and replace him with an heir that will act as a puppet. Nayda and Serefin’s stories alternate and converge as the plot plays out.
I liked this and I think a lot of YA fantasy fans will enjoy this new series.
I enjoyed the Slavic folklore and Russian-esque setting of the story layered with the cleric magic versus blood magic. I loved how these two systems were competing and religious or non-religious aspects of the magic. The excerpts of the fictitious Codex of the Divine at the beginning of chapters added a nice depth to this religious world building. Additionally, though we’re introduced to this holy war via Nadya who’s been raised to view Tranavians as heretical monsters, Duncan does an excellent job of creating morally grey areas because ultimately war is ugly on all sides while people have monstrous sides they can be more complicated than merely evil.
As someone who has played Dungeons & Dragons, at times the plot and magical system seem straight out of a D&D campaign or a fantasy video game. I went back and forth over whether I like this incorporation or not. Similarly, the Slavic inspired setting and world-building seemed reminiscent of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. I’m not a huge fan of that so again at times this worked for me and at other times it seemed forced. When done well I love a good background love story in a fantasy novel. However, the instalove was a bit much for me as I could see it mile off. The banter between the love interests didn’t always hold my attention.
Despite of few of my gripes about clearly seeing creative inspiration from other works and one of my least favorite tropes, instalove, I thought the novel was interesting, well paced, and highly readable (i.e. you’ll likely consume this in a few days). While it is not a perfect book, I think it’s a solid debut and I want to read the rest of the series! This has the whiff of a popular YA series in the making! If you’re a YA fantasy fan I think this will right up your alley!
This is not an affiliate link
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.