Something Dark and Holy, Book One
by Emily A. Duncan
APRIL 2nd, 2019!!!
A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.
In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy...
Two countries are at war. One worships the gods. The other has set themselves against them. Nadya lives in the first of these and is a cleric, the only one to whom all gods speak with and funnel their powers through. Her magic is strong, and she knows it will one day be her duty alone to stop the war. But when the enemy forces unexpectedly attack the abbey she's been training in and her best friend dies, her goal changes. She wants revenge. Running for her life, she runs across one of the enemies, a boy who not only wields the sacrilege blood magic but claims he's turned against his own king and wants to destroy him. Nadya agrees to help and sneaks into the enemy castle with one intent—kill the king.
From the very first page, this read grabs and holds. Nadya immediately finds herself in danger and grabs empathy as she tries to escape from the sudden attack. The tension shoots off right away, and the author even manages to make the entire scene open up with logic and no holes. Nadya is determined and strong, and yet, unsure as she has to embark on her destiny much earlier than she expected. She doesn't feel ready, and it's exactly this which makes her easy to relate to.
This is not a read for the more sensitive adventurers but embraces morbid aggression, brutality and rivers of blood. The blood magic is not a light endeavor, and the dark side of it is not masked. Nadya is on a dangerous mission and for very good reasons, and the author does not play this down.
The other characters in the story embody gray areas as well as outright evil. Nobody seems to be completely pure, which makes Nadya shine all the more...and teeter on her own morals. It's a game of walk the fence, where it is always clear where the correct path really lies. It's exactly this fight along what is right and what is really wrong which digs in deep.
With all of the wondrous world building, intrigue and tension, there is also a romance. While this played along a very intriguing line and worked to pull some interesting strings at the end, it wasn't laid quite right, and the chemistry didn't convince to the extent it had to. Even the ending didn't hit the required note as the characters progressed too much in a certain direction and too quickly...even a little confusingly. The state they reach, unfortunately, shot past what I was able to relate to and care about, making me question how anything can advance in the next book on a scale which makes the characters easy to relate to.
Still, it's a tense read and one darker fantasy fans are sure to enjoy.
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.