Not gonna lie, Wicked Saints was one of my most anticipated reads this year, and receiving it from the publisher made me feel like I was on top of the world. I haven’t made it a secret that I’m still fuming over the ending of the Grisha trilogy, and this book comes in where the badass female character is promised to end up with morally grey sort-of-villain? I was sold. I knew it would blow my mind…. but once I started, I just wanted it to end.
Wicked Saints follows cleric (or missionary?) Nadya who could communicate with all the gods. There’s a crapload of other clerics who could talk to gods too, but they could only do one while she could talk to everyone because she is not like other girls. Her monastery is then attacked by Seferin—blood mage and crown prince of another country—so Nadya goes on the run to prevent her powers from being taken. She meets up with a group of rebels, led by
Kylo Ren cosplayer another blood mage, Malachaisz, and teams up with them to try to put a stop to the war.
This book initially caught my attention since I’m very much a morally grey character lover and villain/protagonist stan. The blood magic stuff was definitely intriguing as well, so I just knew I had to grab a copy. Once I opened the book though, I was surprised to see that the characters really fell flat to me. Not once did I care about any of the supposed high-stakes in the book. Apart from its very blatant Grishaverse-inspired premise, the writing felt too egregious at times and it was just…too much that I was really turned off.
My criticism definitely doesn’t end here though. For one, the only people of color are referred to as creatures of the desert (what the hell?). Knockoff Alina was incredibly xenophobic throughout the whole book, and her character is immediately reduced to being a love interest. Wicked Saints promises a badass female lead who’s determined to seek justice and kill her enemies—peep the tagline of the book: “let them fear her“, but she ends up relying on her male love interest for just about anything. Like seriously, everything. The author definitely glamorizes alcoholism too, and I don’t understand how this is branded as YA when one of the main characters deals with his problems with aggressively drinking himself almost to death. I also saw how she taunted people who were bothered by that by saying that they’ll be scandalized with the drug use in the second book….which is not great.
Also, with the blood mage stuff? Seemed intriguing at first, but when these mages have to slice themselves open to do any sort of magic, that isn’t really my kind of thing. Especially when they have RAZORS sewn into their sleeves to cut themselves.
Overall, I really did view this as sort of a Grisha Trilogy AU. It’s like the author wanted to bring Alina, the Darkling (or Kylo Ren, could be debatable) to another universe that was ten times edgier than Ravka. The prose wasn’t beautifully written and often times very distracting, but I still feel like this could’ve been a great book had all my other issues been addressed. Pretty much the whole cast of characters is white, though she includes two characters of color since someone probably reminded her that diversity exists. Maybe I would’ve given this a two or even a three had the characters stopped relying on banter and xenophobia to make themselves sound more interesting. I do think this would’ve done better on AO3.
I think this book would be a great fit for those who have a soft spot for Kylo Ren and the Darkling, but it just wasn’t for me! This seems more like a book for people aged 17 and above as opposed to teens in general, especially with all the drinking and body mutilation present in a lot of scenes. I don’t think I’d be picking up the sequel though.
Title: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Source: ARC via publisher
Publication Date: April 2, 2019
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