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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YVO’S SHORTIES #83 – The Bitter Kingdom & Friend Request

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres, but two books I ended up enjoying. The series conclusion The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson and the psychological thriller Friend Request by Laura Marshall.


Title: The Bitter Kingdom
(Fire And Thorns #3)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: April 14th 2013
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: February 6th 2019
Pages: 490

“It’s the highest art form, deceiving without lying. A word is the only thing in the world made more powerful by absence than existence.”


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WARNING: possible spoilers if you haven’t read the first two books yet. You’ve been warned…

I first started this series back in 2015, and it took me a long time before I finally continued it… Not because I didn’t enjoy the first book, but simply because other books got in the way. I finally read the novellas last year, and after reading the second book last month I was determined to read the third and final book ASAP so I could finish the series while memories were still fresh. I’m without doubt glad I picked up the final book, because The Bitter Kingdom definitely made this series end on a high note! I’m not sure if it is my new favorite, but I’m happy to say that all three Fire And Thorns books stay consistently strong and the final book doesn’t disappoint at all. Why was The Bitter Kingdom such a success for me? First of all, I could really appreciate the chapters from Hector’s POV. They were both refreshing and definitely a welcome addition to the story! I also liked how we finally get to learn more about Inverno and see more of that part of the world… The high fantasy worldbuilding is one of the best features of this series and it’s always great to see it expand. The writing is engaging and it makes it really easy to just keep turning the pages. The plot itself isn’t all that complicated, but offers enough action and a romance that will warm your heart instead of annoy you. The end did feel a bit too easy, but overall it does provide closure for this series and its character. I really enjoyed my time with this trilogy and can highly recommend it to fans of the genre.


Title: Friend Request
Author: Laura Marshall

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: August 9th 2017
Publisher: Sphere
Finished reading: February 9th 2019
Pages: 384

“I’m in a hall of mirrors, full of distorted reflections and false endings. I’ve lost track of which way I came in and I have no idea how to get out.”


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I recently bought a copy of Friend Request on a whim after remembering it being mentioned various times back when it was first published, and I couldn’t resist picking it up when I was in the mood for the genre. There is no doubt that Friend Request was a very entertaining psychological thriller with a few twists and turns I definitely didn’t see coming. The story starts slow and it takes a while for the pace to pick up. Basically, the first half has more of a character driven slower psychological thriller, while the second half is more of a suspenseful crime thriller with a fast pace and quite a lot of action. This made the story feel a bit unbalanced, but the second half made the story that much more thrilling. I mentioned twists I didn’t see coming, and this was definitely true, but I cannot help but wonder if some weren’t a bit too farfetched and dark compared to how the story first started? I do love my surprises though, so I’m a bit on the fence about how to feel about all this. I personally preferred the chapters set in 2016 over those in 1989, mostly because I’m not a real fan of high school drama and bullying. That said, both timelines seem well developed and help creating the suspense and intrigue around Maria and what is happening to Louise in the present. As for Louise: she can be quite annoying and I don’t understand some of her decisions, but her character with all its flaws does feel convincingly realistic. The mystery around what happened to Maria in 1989 and who is behind the messages in 2016 will definitely keep you intrigued until you find out the truth… And it will be hard to see that final twist coming. All in all Friend Request was still a very entertaining read despite the flaws I mentioned.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #73 – The Kiss Quotient & The Crown Of Embers

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! Time for my first 2019 reads and first two Beat The Backlist titles! The Kiss Quotient has been recommended to me various times and I should have investigated better before starting it, because there was an overload of sexy scenes involved and that made this story into something that is definitely not for me. The Crown Of Embers turned out to be an interesting sequel even though I wish there would have been less romance…


Title: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: May 30th 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: January 2nd 2019
Pages: 336

“At her core, she would always be autistic. People called it a disorder, but it didn’t feel like one. To her, it was simply the way she was.”


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Dear The Kiss Quotient, it’s not you, it’s me. I should have known better than to pick you up even though contemporary romance isn’t really my thing. I should have investigated better and discovered you were filled to the brim with sexy scenes, because it would have avoided both of us a lot of pain. Oh yes, for someone allergic to adult content and sexy scenes, The Kiss Quotient is 200% the wrong book to go for. Kind of late for that now, isn’t it? Oh well… I guess I have only myself to blame for this. Even though this story was definitely not for me, I can definitely understand why there is so much love for it. Contemporary romance fans are probably in heaven with this book, because there is one thing I can’t deny: Helen Hoang knows how to write. And not only the writing style is very engaging, but the character development is simply spot on. As much as I hated all those steamy scenes, it was due to main characters Stella and Michael I made it to the very end of this story. Stella is unique, quirky and simply brilliant as a main character. I love how realistic her Asperger’s is described and incorporated in the story (it shows that the author used personal experiences) and how it shines a light on autism as a whole. Michael has his own personality, history and problems and I really liked those family dynamics combined with Stella and their story. Were there a lot of cliches and typical romance tropes involved? Yes. Will your glasses (if you use them) get all steamed up while you read The Kiss Quotient? You bet. But if you love the genre, you will fall in love with this story as well.


Title: The Crown Of Embers
(Fire And Thorns #2)
Author: Rae Carson

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
First published: September 18th 2012
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Finished reading: January 4th 2019
Pages: 416

“I lie awake for a long time, wondering which would be more foolish, to prepare for something that may never happen, or not to prepare for something that might.”


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I read the first Fire And Thorns book back in 2015 and even though I enjoyed it, I somehow never picked up the sequel. I read the novellas last year, and thought it was about time to finally finish the last two books this year as well. First up is book number two The Crown Of Embers. I admit I had forgotten about a lot of details of the first book and it took a little time to adjust, but I was able to pick up the thread easily enough after a few chapters. The first thing that stands out in this series is the detailed and wonderful worldbuilding. I loved the inclusion of many references to Spanish names and words and the way the world is constructed. It’s a very interesting high fantasy world and we get to see a lot of it in the sequel. This series has a religious angle, but handled in just the right way that it doesn’t become too present for those who are like me agnostic. The writing style is engaging and makes it easy to keep reading those pages until you reach the last page. I wasn’t sure about every character; some can get annoying, and I could have done without the romance cliches and love triangle, but overall the story does deliver. The quest the main characters go on in The Crown Of Embers is an intriguing one, and it definitely ends with a mayor cliffhanger. I’m looking forward how things will continue in the final book!


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