Alternate Title: A Comprehensive List of the Questions I had while reading Wicked Saints.
Very first impression: my mind is having a HARD time reading the names in this series. I felt like I was going cross-eyed and my brain was getting tongue tied trying to keep track of all of the names. Big oof. I had to look up pronunciations after a while because I just KNEW I was butchering the names in my head and it was driving me insane. And then, even after I looked up pronunciations, I finally just gave up and went on with reading the book. However, upon reading Emily A. Duncan’s bio and finding out she studied obscure Slavic folklore and probably used it for inspiration for this series, I can appreciate the names a little bit more… my dad’s family is Slovenian and from the very few words I do know, it is not an easy language to pronounce.
Ok, odd names aside, I enjoyed the dark, gothic vibe I got from this series… I started reading it not knowing entirely what to expect, and it did take a minute for me to fully get into it. Not only was I distracted by the names, languages, pronunciations, etc, but I also was a little confused about the differences between the two countries at war (ok, very confused). It took a bit of effort on my part to follow along in the beginning, and to fully submerse myself within this complicated world.
Speaking of which, the world in which this story takes place was SO creative (maybe a smidge too creative, as I don’t quite understand it all), with two sides to the same coin seemingly at war with each other (for centuries, too). Tranavia has broken away from the gods and their mages practice blood magic, which is super dark and goth. Cutting your arms then bleeding on a page of spells to perform magic? Dark indeed. Also a bit complicated. On the other side of the coin, you’ve got Kalyazin, who is devoted to the gods, and yet they do not practice magic. Not going to lie, I am still confused about how the gods and the blood magic work, and what the main differences between them are. Some of my questions include: why do the gods only contact Nadya? Why is she the only cleric with powers, and what exactly are those powers? Why don’t the gods like blood magic, and why aren’t they present in Tranavia? Plus, when Nadya found out her magic was hers and hers alone, and that she didn’t need the gods to grant her that power, I became even more confused. Were they just using her as a vessel and they kept the extent of her powers a secret because they wanted to keep her as a weapon for themselves? Hmmmmmmm. And how the hell do the vultures fit into all of this? It seems to me like the vultures were the result of experiments on strong blood mages… to be quite honest, I was having a harder time visualizing them and what they looked like in the story. Big creepy vibes there. Obviously, no one is just born a vulture… Malachiasz was taken away as a child and turned into one. He’s in fact one of the strongest blood mages, as we learn that he is cousins with Serefin (who also happens to be an incredibly strong mage). I’m so curious to see how the story unfolds in the second book… while I spent the majority of this book rereading and flipping back between pages to try to connect the dots, it did not mean I enjoyed it any less.
Let’s talk characters. I loved seeing just how woven together the narratives were. Of course I enjoyed the enemies to lovers tension between Nadya and Malachiasz (a.k.a our favorite troubled, dark-haired boy with a traumatic background). Like I mentioned above, I have a lot of questions about Nadya and her powers… so I’m hoping to learn more about them in the second book. We find out that Malachiasz is the Black Vulture (honestly did not see that one coming), and I don’t think he enjoys his position. He mentions that he became the Black Vulture to see if he could, not because he genuinely liked the vultures and what they stood for. I felt like he had some good in him throughout the novel, but then he went and pulled that stunt at the end, turning himself into a god(??? – see questions above). Why did he do that? I had a hard time understanding his reasoning behind it all. Is he really just that bad of a guy to betray Nadya and Serefin in the end? He must know something we don’t know about the “gods”… Emily Duncan hinted at that, so I’m excited to see what the next book brings. Serefin was also an interesting main character, but (please, Cori, grab the second book and quit asking all these questions that will probably be answered) I have about a million more questions about him… first and foremost what’s up with the moths? I understood his role as his father’s sacrifice. Obviously he survives… but for what reason, we don’t know. What brought him back to life? I liked Kacper and Ostyia, and even Parj and Rashid; they were essentially glorified filler characters (with more complicated names), but I do hope we learn more about their backgrounds as the story continues. Ultimately, there wasn’t a character I disliked; I just have one thousand questions about each of them.
Once I got going, the book was very fast-paced, with narratives running parallel to each other and a build-up that leaves us at a cliff hanger. The creativity was unique, and I’m running to grab the next book (if for no other reason then to clear up some of my confusion about how the magic in this dark world works). Overall, this book did have some good stuff in it and I enjoyed the complex world that Emily A. Duncan has created. Stay tuned for part two…
(P.S. I read somewhere that this story boils down to Reylo fan fiction… and if it is, I can see it. I’m not into that side of Star Wars, and that wasn’t my initial impression, but I can see it. In fact, I almost can’t unsee it.)