Wicked Saints (Somthing Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan

SYNOPSIS:

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.

***

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Page count: 385 (Hardcover version)

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4.5/5)

Hello, Darkness, hi. It’s me. Ya girl.

I don’t know what’s going on with this but I’M LOVING IT.

I didn’t know what exactly was I expecting from this book because I was more curious than expectant, but it made me so happy that I picked it up, read it and enjoyed it that all I can say is that from now on I’m a fan.

“Don’t be a martyr. We have no use for yet another saint.”

Wicked Saints is part of the Something Dark and Holy trilogy and truth be said, this book has the exact amount of darkness and holiness in it. It is just a permanent state throughout the book.

As a Christian Orthodox, I can say that this gave me the exact same vibe that I get when I enter an old Orthodox church and all the saints on the walls are staring down at me and the smell of burned incense overwhelms me. I know, not entirely comfortable, but an intense feeling nonetheless.

Now if I think better about it, I just pictured in my mind this ugly painting on the walls of my childhood church of some people who were tortured by some scary-looking, hideous devils. Hope I didn’t ruin it for you.

I found it so interesting that the both countries Kalyazin and Tranavia are Slavic-inspired, neighbours and foes. So alike but so different.

Kalyazin is the perfect picture of a pagan Russia, with its old beliefs, its rigid religious culture, its faith beyond compare. Tranavia is inspired by the Polish warrior spirit, the one that doesn’t fight for the likes of other beings but for its own power and good. It controls its own magic, the magic that exists in its blood.

As a Slavic culture lover, I can say that I loved all the interesting schemes the author has pulled for constructing her world.

“How does a human girl become something divine and feared by the gods that gave her the power she wields?”

This is the story of Nadezhda Lapteva, which my Romanian-speaking ass automatically translates it to “Hope Milkova” and I literally cannot think of her otherwise and I get the constant need to LOL when I see her name (because, you know, in Romanian we have a word that sounds like Nadezhda and that is “nădejde” which roughly translates to “hope” and “lapte” means “milk” and I just can’t).

Nadya is the latest cleric the country of Kalyazin has. That means she is the one who can talk to gods. And it also means she is the only one who can put a stop to the war that has been going on between Kalyazin and its neighbour, Tranavia.

“She would bring this country to its knees.”

On her way of doing exactly that, she encounters two exotic Akolans (form a neighbouring country, Akola), Rashid and Parijahan, who are ready to help her save Kalyazin and the rest of the world from Tranavia’s wrath, but also, two important Tranavian figures, the High Prince of Tranavia, Serefin Meleski, and “a monster”, Malachiasz Czechowicz, who are supposed to be her strongest allies but also her big-time enemies.

Is it okay to be in love with all those characters at once? Because if it feels right then it must be, no?

Nadya’s relationship with Malachiasz is one of the strangest things I’ve come across in my readings. I wouldn’t necessarily call that a toxic relationship, but the way it manifests is just strange. To me.

Nadya is the light in Malachiasz’s life, but Malachiasz is so darkened by his past that he sometimes fills Nadya up with his shadows. They love each other until the verge of hate, toeing that thin line between the two strong emotions, sometimes crossing it from one side to the other.

“He turned and grinned at her, monstrous but beatific, holding out his hand, darkness gone. (…) She took his hand.”

I see it as a little bit of a yin and yang theme (you know, the generic one), but the way the love and hate for each other is put into action is just purely interesting. What kind of inner desires must one have to love the person they hate the most is beyond my power of comprehension, but as I read on I hope I will find my answer.

One more cool aspect I’d like to discuss is the diversity of gods brought up into the story. There are so many of them and this makes the read so much more interesting. Let me exemplify it to you – we have:

  • Marzenya – the goddess of death, magic and winter. Her real-life Slavic equivalent being Marena (or Baba Yaga, for the ones like me who know about her *winks*);
  • Zbyhneuska – the goddess of health;
  • Zvonimira – the goddess of light;
  • Krsnik – the god of fire. His Slavic equivalent being Kresnik;
  • Bozetjeh – the god of wind. His Slavic equivalent might be Stribog;
  • Veceslav – the god of war and protection. His Slavic equivalent might be Veles (not sure though, he’s the Slavic god of underground) or the Baltic Slavs’ Triglav (still not sure);
  • Vaclav – the god of truth;

The list goes on and its point is to show you how far the whole Slavic culture is explored and presented in this book. There are even several words and phrases in it that are supposedly in Kalyazi and Tranavian, but they resemble so much the Slavic languages they took inspiration from.

For example, “zhalyusta” is like “pozhaluysta” (please) or “vashyen” is like “vashe” (your) in Russian. For the Polish side of the story, all I can surely say is that this Tranavian phrase right here – “Dasz polakienscki ja mawelczenko” – sounds like the best version of gibberish Polish I could ever pull off, seriously. (I wish I could be that skilled in Polish though!)

(Or let’s remember the cute term of endearment Malachiasz has for Nadya “towy dżimyka” which sounds so pretty and I wish someone would call me that because I am that needy ).

Okay now. With all that being said, my questions remain: would you try to read this book purely out of academic curiosity? Is it still not good enough for YA Fantasy world? Would Nadya’s heretical journey intrigue you in order to discover its inner power?

“Is she powerful enough to take the stars out of the sky?”

12 thoughts on “Wicked Saints (Somthing Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan

    1. Thank you so much! I really liked this book, it is more than decent and very interesting storyline! Oh yeah, it wasn’t that bad when they were calling her Nadya but every time I saw Lapteva I lost it 😂 Hope you’ll give it a try some day and who knows? Maybe you’ll end up enjoying it because it is not very likeable at first, that’s it

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had the same problem with Nadya’s name since I am from Romania, too:) and I believe that it is probably on purpose because she is supposed to be the hope of her country and she has white hair (like milk maybe). But I really don’t know.

        Liked by 1 person

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