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Magic and Monsters and Tragic Power: Review of Wicked Saints

Book: Wicked Saints

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Year Published: 2019

Trigger Warnings: blood, self-harm, parental abuse

  • Plot: 3/5
  • Characters: 4/5
  • Writing: 4.5/5
  • Overall: 3.5/5

Wicked Saints was set in a gothic, icy, war torn world filled with magic where even gods were not what they seemed. I was swept away by the gorgeously dark aesthetic, intriguing mythology and almost lyrical writing although I felt the plot of the story was quite weak, lessening the overall effect for me.

The two countries, Kalyazin (inspired by Russia) and Tranavia (inspired by Poland) had been at war for centuries. The Kalyazi people believed in a pantheon of gods and there were clerics who could commune with them to receive magical power. However the people of Tranavia had forsaken the gods and relied on their own blood magic. This difference of beliefs is what triggered the war, no country willing stop until it brought the other to its knees. I loved how all the magic, monsters and gods were all intricately entwined and influenced by Slavic mythology!

Nadya was the last known Kalyazi cleric and could commune with the entire pantheon of gods. She was a shining beacon of hope for her people, the key to winning the war. When Tranavian forces attacked the monastery she lived in, she had to flee to keep that hope alive. Enter Malachiacz (said Mah-lah-kee-ash) a monstrous Tranavian blood mage, shrouded in mystery, who offered to help her.

To be blunt, I don’t like Nadya. All along Nadya thought she was scheming and doing everything it took to help her people when it seemed to me like she was just being led by the whims of others and not doing anything of worth at all. Apart from her admirably sarcastic nature there was nothing much to like about her. While it was predictable, I did find her relationship with Malachiacz intriguing because of the way their greatly opposing beliefs clashed. Although I don’t like him either, Malachiacz was much more interesting as a character. Mysterious, dangerous and very clever but also awkward and vulnerable in a way that you can never tell if he’s being sincere or if it’s an act but you want to believe its the former. Honestly though, if Nadya knew what’s good for her she’d stay away from him but these book characters never do.

The other point of view character was a Tranavian prince named Serefin and I liked him a lot more. He was called back home after years at war and was trying to make sense of all the odd things going on around him and the secrets his father held. He also had a visual impairment. Serefin’s friends- Ostyia and Kacper– were great and I loved the dynamic between the three of them. Ostyia especially was brilliant with her fierce, vivacious personality. I also loved the witch Pelageya and I think she was the only character who had any clue what on earth was going on. And I wished we got to learn more about Parijahan and Rashid.

As I said earlier, the plot was what broke this book for me. I just couldn’t see the point in any of it. Even as I sat down to write this review I realised that while I could remember all the characters’ names, the places and magic system but I had no idea what exactly happened to them in the book. And then I realised its because the plot was so underwhelming that I couldn’t bring myself to care about it enough to remember it.

Wicked Saints explored themes of religion, power and morality which are really interesting and probably would have been more so if the plot was more interesting too. I’d say it’s a novel for anyone who loves books with a dark, gothic and monstrous atmosphere.

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