ARC REVIEW: Ruthless Gods – by Emily A. Duncan

Title: Ruthless Gods
(Something Dark And Holy #2)
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: YA, Fantasy
First published: April 7th 2020
Publisher: Macmillan
Finished reading: April 7th 2020
Pages: 432

“It was the time when knives were unsheathed, when plans were created and seen into fruition. It was a time for monsters.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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As soon as I first heard about this series last year I found myself to be in love with both cover and blurb. I was lucky to be able to join the blog tour for Wicked Saints and had a fantastic time reading what was a dark, gothic and simply glorious read. YA fantasy sadly tends to be on the sappy side, but Wicked Saints most definitely had none of that! I’ve been looking forward to the sequel ever since, and I was stoked to discover my Netgalley wish was actually granted a few months ago. I was fully expecting to fall in love with the sequel too, but somehow that didn’t happen… It might have been my own fault as I didn’t reread the first book to refresh memories or it might have been the fact that my mind simply wasn’t able to cope with high fantasy right now… But the sad fact is that I was seriously underwhelmed by this sequel. I’ll try explain briefly why. First of all I have to state that the beautiful writing is still there, and Ruthless Gods still has that dark and gothic feel. BUT. I felt the spark of the first book was missing, and I struggled to stay focused and interested in the story. There were a few elements that probably contributed…

We have the plot, or rather lack of a proper plot. I felt that there was no solid plot to follow in the sequel and the story felt more like a filler between book one and what is still to come. This made it harder to stay focused… The multiple POV structure and setting changes had the same effect, and distracted instead of enriching the plot and structure of the story. Not only do we have to juggle multiple POVs, but all those strange foreign names and chapter introductions with more foreign names and saints can become confusing and it’s a real chore trying to keep up with them all… On top of that, I wasn’t able to connect to the characters in the same way as I did in Wicked Saints. I struggled considerably with this sequel and even started skimreading at some point as the constant bickering, overdose of strange names and lack of plot really got to me. And no, even the beautiful writing couldn’t rescue that. This might have been the wrong story for me in these strange times, but the fact is that this series has lost its enchantment for me… Don’t give up on this series yet if you enjoyed the first book though, because I’m having a feeling that my reaction to this story resulted into one of those unpopular opinion reviews all over again.


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WWW Wednesdays #263 – April 8th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m still going strong with my Magical Readathon reads! I’m currently reading The Sign Of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle for my Potions exam… I’m also reading my physical copy of The Outsider by Stephen King during the evenings for my Astronomy exam. I’m craving a contemporary though so I will probably read one in between.

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (4/5 stars) REVIEW 13/04
I’m trying to read more Agatha Christie books and I’ve been slowly working my way through the Hercule Poirot books… I really like his character and each meeting so far has without doubt been successful. The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd is no exception, and another very satisfying detective read.

2. Where She Went by Gayle Forman (4/5 stars) REVIEW 17/04
After taking years to finally pick up my copy of If I Stay, I decided to read the second book as soon as possible so I won’t forget about the details in the first. And as I was craving a contemporary, Where She Went seemed like the perfect fit for me… I’ve heard people saying that they enjoyed the sequel better than the first book, and I’m definitely joining that group now. While I liked the first book and was especially intrigued by the whole POV from an unconscious character, there was just something about Where She Went that made me enjoy Adam and Mia’s story even more.

3. Living Dead In Dallas by Charlaine Harris (2/5 stars) REVIEW 17/04
Wait, a vampire book on It’s All About Books?!?! Don’t worry, I’m still very much allergic to vampires, and I won’t be reading another one any time soon… I’ve learned from my mistakes. It’s just that somehow I actually really enjoyed the episodes I’ve seen of True Blood years ago and I remembered enjoying the first book back when I read it, so I had high hopes for the sequel as well. I guess I should have known… Sadly, the TV series is in this case so much better than the book!

4. Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl (4/5 stars) BLOG TOUR REVIEW 11/04
Look out for my review during my stop of the blog tour!

5. Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan (3/5 stars) REVIEW 10/04
I’m still not sure what to think to be honest… The first book was gothic, dark and glorious and I fully expected to love the sequel as well. I might have been better off with a reread of book one first, but the fact remains the foreign names can become rather confusing and I felt the plot was rather lacking here. Ruthless Gods definitely didn’t have that same spark as the first book sadly…

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

As I said before, I’m craving a contemporary so I’ll probably take a break from my Magical Readathon reads and pick up The Curious Charms Of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick as soon as I finish the Sherlock Holmes sequel. I’m also planning on reading Vox by Christina Dalcher soon as it’s the final book I need to complete exams needed for my career in the Magical Readathon... And I want to read my giveaway win The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith soon as well as it sounds like the perfect read for these strange times. I also need to read The Apartment by K.L. Slater as the NG deadline is coming up.


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WWW Wednesdays #262 – April 1st

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

It’s Magical Readathon month again! I’m currently reading The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie for my Herbology exam… I’ve been looking forward to meet up with Hercule Poirot again. I’m also starting Where She Went by Gayle Forman for my Arithmancy exam.

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. Find Her Alive by Lisa Regan (4,5/5 stars)  REVIEW 07/04
I know that I’m repeating myself, but that doesn’t mean it is less true: the Detective Josie Quinn series is one of my favorite detective series and every time I find out that a new installment is coming out it kind of feels like an early birthday present. It’s been a long and intense ride for Josie Quinn so far, and it seems like trouble keeps finding her in the small town where she works. I’m not complaining of course, as new trouble means a new Josie Quinn book and another rollercoaster thriller ride to look forward to. Find Her Alive is no exception, and is yet another excellent addition to the series. Book number eight is another firecracker!

2. Kilo by Toby Muse (4,5/5 stars) BLOG TOUR REVIEW 
Anyone who is interested in the Colombian drugs world should add this newly published non fiction account to their wishlist, as it turned out to be an absolutely fascinating read. Definitely one of the best drugs-related non fiction reads I’ve had the pleasure to read so far! Read more about my experience in my blog tour review posted earlier today.

3. And So It Begins by Rachel Abbott (4/5 stars) REVIEW 13/04
I’ve been meaning to try one of her books for ages now, and the blog tour of the Stephanie King sequel this month was a perfect excuse to finally do so. I definitely enjoyed my first experience with Rachel Abbott‘s writing, and And So It Begins was a more than satisfying read. More dark psychological thriller than detective thriller (something I didn’t expect), but well written and I’ll definitely be looking forward to read the sequel now.

4. The Lost Orphan (The Foundling) by Stacey Halls (4/5 stars) REVIEW 05/04
I confess I wasn’t that big of a fan of The Familiars last year, but I definitely had a lot more positive experience with her second book The Lost Orphan (also called The Foundling). I’m a fan of historical fiction and the both 18th century setting in London and the plot it self were excellently developed.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

Next up are four more titles for the Magical Readathon… First up is Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan as the publish date is coming close and I’ve been in the mood for fantasy. Next is Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl as the blog tour stop is coming closer… Afterwards, it’s guilty pleasure read with Living Dead In Dallas by Charlaine Harris. I’m not a fan of vampire reads at all, but somehow I love the True Blood TV series anyway and I had a great time with the first book of the series too. I also want to read the second Sherlock Holmes book The Sign Of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Wicked Saints – by Emily A. Duncan @WednesdayBooks

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the Wicked Saints blog tour! A huge thanks to Meghan Harrington for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I fell in love with the cover and blurb as soon as I first heard about this book, so of course I had no other choice but to accept joining the tour. And I can say it was a good decision… Want to know why? Join me while I share my thoughts on Wicked Saints!

Title: Wicked Saints 
(Something Dark And Holy #1)
Author: Emily A. Duncan
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Magic
First published: April 2nd 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Finished reading: March 17th 2019
Pages: 400

“We are all monsters, Nadya. Some of us just hide it better than others.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Every once in a while you come across a book with a cover and blurb that will blow you away completely. A book that will have you looking at your calendar longingly until the day arrives when it’s finally published. You might also luck out, and be invited to read it early and join the blog tour to help spread the love… This is exactly what happened when I was approached to read Wicked Saints. A dark, bloody and gothic fantasy story with superpowers, mysterious saints and an assassination plot to kill a king… What more to wish for in a story? This debut without doubt met my expectations and I already can’t wait to find out what the sequel will have in store for us.

So what made this story work for me? The first thing that stands out is just how delightfully dark and gothic Wicked Saints is. This story isn’t for those with a weak stomach and blood, violence and monsters are a constant presence in the plot. This dark and disturbing atmosphere sets the right tone for this wicked beginning of a new fantasy series… The setting itself adds to the overall atmosphere. The two main countries at play, Kalyazin and Tranavia, are clearly inspired by Poland and Russia and I liked the little references to names and culture. Would I have liked to see the worldbuilding more developed with more descriptions to make it truly come alive? Most definitely. It would have given Wicked Saints that little something extra that would have made it in an instant favorite… But I was still more than happy with what I got.

I also really liked how Emily A. Duncan incorporated religion into the story, with a clear difference between the Kalyazi culture and their magic by praying to different gods on one side and the Tranavians using blood magic and being called heretics on the other. It was interesting to see this theme evolve during the story, especially in Nadya’s perception of the world as she no longer find herself in the sheltered monastery and learns to put things in perspective. I liked the idea of ‘light and dark’ magic and how it was developed. The blood magic and the vultures are basically the perfect villains of the story, but like in the real world, definitions are messy and there is not just one villain and side to the story.

Wicked Saints has a dual POV, where the story alternates between Nadya and Serefin. They initially represent the cliche good and evil in the world, but as we get to know the characters better we learn that conclusions are not that easy to draw and things are not black and white but rather grey. I’m personally a big fan of the characters and their development. Not only Nadya and Serefin, but especially Malachiasz as well all turned out to be a fascinating characters. I admit there were some cliches involved and I can’t do anything else but agree there are certain similarities between Wicked Saints and the popular Grishaverse, but personally I wasn’t all that bothered by that. The dynamics between the different characters are great and the secondary characters are mostly well fleshed out as well.

As for the romance… Do I wish the story didn’t go down that road? Probably. Wicked Saints is pretty mild on the romance though and we are spared a love triangle (or at least for now), so that is most definitely a bonus. This is by no means a sappy fantasy story and most of the plot is black and gothic to the core. It’s my kind of fantasy, where the wicked and powerful get a leading role and are ready to kick ass. I loved the duality of this story; between the different countries, cultures and light and dark magic. It is a story with a fascinating premise and a lot of promise for what is yet to come, and without doubt recommended to those who enjoy darker YA fantasy stories with strong main characters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

BUY LINK:

https://static.macmillan.com/static/smp/wicked-saints/


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WWW Wednesdays #214 – March 20th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m finally reading The Dry by Jane Harper, an author I’ve been meaning to try for ages now and it’s definitely living up to expectations so far. I’m also starting my latest TBR jar pick Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt… I’m going to finish my Spanish reread of the fourth Harry Potter book Harry Potter Y El Cáliz De Fuego first though as I’m having too much fun revisiting their world.

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith (2/5 stars) REVIEW 
I really wanted to enjoy The Fourth Courier and it initially had all the signs I would. But between the chaotic plot, too many characters, sexist comments and negative stereotypes and cliches I ended up really disappointed by this story. I confess I probably would have DNFed if it wouldn’t have been an ARC… And I can’t say that reaching the final page was all that satisfying, with the forementioned negative comments and plot getting on my nerves every single page. Like I said before, I might have been the wrong target group here, so I suggest deciding for yourself if you want to give this story a try or not.

2. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell (3,5/5 stars) REVIEW 24/03
While I did find it an entertaining read in general I can’t say the story managed to blow me away completely. It was fast-paced and the writing is engaging and really flows, but I found the plot to be quite predictable and I saw most plot twists coming from a mile away. This lack of surprise was a bit disappointing, but because I was warned before starting Then She Was Gone I already saw this coming.

3. Verity by Colleen Hoover (4/5 stars) REVIEW 24/03
While not my all time favorite CoHo, I still had an excellent time reading this story. Some parts were a bit predictable and I did see some twists coming, but I think the shock of that ending made me completely forget about that. What a way to mess with our minds and leave us hanging like that! It’s an open ending that will most definitely leave you wanting for more and second-guess what you just read and thought was true. And aren’t those just the best feelings when reading this genre?

4. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne (2/5 stars) REVIEW 28/03
There is one thing for sure: this story was most definitely not for me. Why? Let’s just say that the sheer amount of adult content and sexy scenes made me want to throw my kindle against the wall and run away screaming. I know this has everything to do with me and nothing with the book, but it did mean 99 Percent Mine and me started off the wrong foot… While I can normally tolerate a certain amount of steam if the rest of the story makes up for it (her debut proves that for example), I didn’t feel the plot or characters made up for those scenes in this case.

5. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan (4/5 stars) BLOG TOUR REVIEW 27/03
Look out for my thoughts during my stop of the blog tour on March 27th!! Spoiler: I really enjoyed it.

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m picking up I Know You by Erik Therme next as I’m trying to make a dent in my NG shelves… And I’m not sure how much longer I can resist Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine as it’s one of my most anticipated releases, so I’m going to read that one soon as well even though I shouldn’t. I’m also thinking about picking up Fruit Of The Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras as I’ve been meaning to read it for a while now. And I have a new TBR jar pick! Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain… I’ve been saying I was going to continue the series for years now, so I’m glad my TBR jar thought it was about time I really made that happen.


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WWW Wednesdays #213 – March 13th

WWW WEDNESDAYS is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World Of Words and is all about answering the three questions below.

  • WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?

I’m currently reading another upcoming ARC: The Fourth Courier by Timothy Jay Smith. This story has a fascinating setting, but sadly isn’t really living up to expectations so far… I’m also starting Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell, a story I’ve been looking forward to. And guess who’s finally continuing her Spanish reread of the Harry Potter series! I’m at book number four, and will be reading chapters in between other books so it will probably take me a while to finish it. Harry Potter Y El Cáliz De Fuego it is!

WHAT DID YOU RECENTLY FINISH READING?

1. The Bones She Buried by Lisa Regan (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 21/03
Detective Josie Quinn has quickly grown into one of my favorite detective thriller series. I like my thrillers fast, entertaining, suspenseful and action-packed, and every single book has delivered exactly that so far. The main character is easy to like and meeting up with Josie Quinn is like visiting an old friend. Things can be said about the credibility of certain aspects of the plot and the fact that a LOT seems to be happening in such a small town and within such a small group of people. But I have to be honest here and say I was far too busy enjoying the ride to really think about it. This is one of those series you will find yourself flying through and it will be hard to let go before you reach the final page. The Bones She Buried is another scorcher!

2. The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld (4,5/5 stars) REVIEW 14/03
The Enchanted isn’t for everyone and if you are not a fan of magical realism I won’t suggest reading it. If you are open to the genre though, this story will prove to be a little gem. You will get swept up in the whirlwind that is this magical story and savour each and every single magical realism element that will help soothen the sometimes difficult and disturbing subjects as (child) abuse, violence and mental health. Rene Denfeld did a fantastic job combining the different elements, waving them together in such a way that will leave you speechless by the time you reach the final page.

3. Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga (3/5 stars) REVIEW 15/03
It might have been that I had set my expectations too high, but unfortunately I can’t say I was all that impressed by this story as a whole. It’s not a bad read and fans of character driven YA contemporaries will probably have a great time with this one. It’s not the writing either, which felt natural and I just loved the many musical references. But there was just something about the plot and characters that didn’t manage to convince me.

4. Smoke And Key by Kelsey Sutton (3/5 stars) REVIEW 
There were a lot of things I loved about Smoke And Key and this is by no means a bad read. There were just certain elements that really irked me and failed to live up to the fascinating blurb and fantastic beginning for me. The slow pace, the romantic elements, the love triangle, the predictability of the plot… All things that made me enjoy the story less than I thought I would. I still love the premise of this story as well as the historical setting, Under and its Corpse Bride feel characters and the magic among other things. It’s a very interesting story and I have no doubt this world will stay with me for a while.

5. The Courier by Kjell Ola Dahl (4/5 stars) BLOG TOUR REVIEW 22/03
Look out for my thoughts during my stop of the blog tour on March 22nd!! Spoiler: I really enjoyed it.

6. The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa (5/5 stars) REVIEW 15/03
The Travelling Cat Chronicles is the perfect book for anyone who enjoys being around cats. It’s so easy to relate to this wonderful story! The descriptions are wonderful as is the writing style in general… The characters will win over your heart in record time and will stay with you for a long time. Warning: make sure you have your tissues ready! Because the end will most definitely make you cry (I know I did, and I almost never cry).

  • WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’LL READ NEXT?

I’m going to pick up Verity by Colleen Hoover next no matter what… It’s been a while since I last read a CoHo book and I’ve been dying to read this one. I’m also going to pick up The Dry by Jane Harper after the weekend as a birthday present to myself… And I really need to read Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan as my blog tour stop is coming closer. My TBR jar pick is still Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.


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