So, where has this book been all my life? Longtime listeners know that there’s nothing I love more in this world than a villain love interest and, let me tell you, Wicked Saints delivers in spades.
I don’t want to go too far into the story without giving spoilers but I will say that Wicked Saints flips tropes on their head a bit with that particular dynamic. Whereas in most stories, it’s the villain pursuing the heroine and attempting to seduce her into the dark, Wicked Saints casts Nadya, our raised-in-religious-isolation heroine, as the one with more agency in the romance. And Nadya’s response to rapidly escalating red flags from her love interest? She’s just more into it! Which, you know…relatable!
The author has mentioned online that she views this book as a bit of a response to the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, which is evident throughout the story. We can see it not just in morally dubious love interest category but also in a richly layered and obviously researched Eastern European setting and, most interestingly to me, nuanced exploration of religion and faith.
While I may have some persistent nitpicks with lack of clarity on character motivations and some odd pacing, I think those issues are balanced out by the complex and layered magic system and worldbuilding that feels one of a kind. I’m also a sucker for blood magic, which Wicked Saints takes to the point of serious health concern and clear hygienic safety issues. More disgusting blood magic in YA will be my platform for my upcoming 2020 campaign–thank you in advance for your donations and support!!
It’s an exciting debut from Emily A. Duncan and I’m already vibrating in anticipation for the sequel.
And a big thank you from Macmillan/Wednesday Books for the early copy to review!