Wicked Saints ARC Review|Wicked Saints Blog Tour

Hello! Today I’m bringing you a review as a part of the blog tour for Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan. I was so excited I nearly burst into tears when I got an email from the publisher asking if I would be interested in being a part of the blog tour, so without further ado, let’s get on with the post.

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Buy it here!

In case you haven’t heard of Wicked Saints before now, here’s a little bit more about the book:

“Prepare for a snow-frosted, blood-drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love
ends up being the nightmare.” – Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-
Touched Queen
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.
“This book destroyed me and I adored it.”- Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author
of Caraval

Praise for Wicked Saints:
“Prepare for a snow frosted, blood drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love ends up being the nightmare. Utterly absorbing.” – Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author
of The Star-Touched Queen

“Full of blood and monsters and magic—this book destroyed me and I adored it. Emily is a wicked storyteller, she’s not afraid to hurt her characters or her readers. If you’ve ever fallen in love with a villain you will fall hard for this book”- Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval

“This is the novel of dark theology and eldritch blood-magic that I’ve been waiting for all my life. It’s got
a world at once brutal and beautiful, filled with characters who are wounded, lovable, and ferocious enough to break your heart. A shattering, utterly satisfying read.” – Rosamund Hodge, author of Cruel Beauty and Bright Smoke, Cold Fire

“Wicked Saints is a lush, brutal, compelling fantasy that is dark, deep, and bloody—absolutely riveting! With a boy who is both man and monster, mysterious saints with uncertain motives, and a girl filled with holy magic who is just beginning to understand the full reaches of her power, this gothic jewel of a story will sink its visceral iron claws into you, never letting go until you’ve turned the last page. And truthfully, not even then -the explosive ending will haunt you for days! ” – Robin LaFevers, New York Times bestselling author of the His Fair Assassin trilogy

“Dark, bloody, and monstrously romantic. This is the villain love interest that we’ve all been waiting for.” – Margaret Rogerson, New York Times bestselling author of An Enchantment of Ravens

“Seductively dark and enchanting, Wicked Saints is a trance you won’t want to wake from. Duncan has skillfully erected a world like no other, complete with provocative magic, sinister creatures, and a plot that keeps you guessing. This spellbinding YA fantasy will bewitch readers to the very last page.” – Adrienne Young, New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep

Review:

Number of pages: 400

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 5

Release Date: April 2nd, 2018

*Thank you to Wednesday Books for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

So I got really nervous when I found out my review was going to be coming out on release day… for the official blog tour. I was so excited for Wicked Saints before I even signed up for the blog tour, but if you’ve been here for a while you know that I’m frequently disappointed by books I’m super excited for because I’m a very picky reader. However, as soon as I picked Wicked Saints up I forgot all that and got lost in Kalyazin, Tranavia, and the midst of a holy war.

Oh my god this book was so good. As I said on Goodreads, my reaction after finishing this was to take in a few gasping breaths (because I had STOPPED BREATHING… MULTIPLE TIMES while reading this book), and then pull my covers over my head and just lie like that in silence. If that’s not a sign of a good book, I don’t know what is.

Unfortunately, reviews tend to require a few more substantial arguments for why you should read the book, so first let’s talk about the characters. I love my new sarcastic murder children so much. Like I will protect Nadya at all costs, and she would probably stab me for it. She’s fierce, and loyal, and she just wants to do what’s right with the power she’s been given, but she also makes mistakes along the way. I love her, and I will fight anyone who reduces her to just a love interest.

There’s also Serefin, the powerful blood mage prince who loves his country and his people, but who will also 100% ask you what drink is being served to make sure he can get drunk enough off it. And completing our trio of disasters is Malachiasz, our anxious monster boy who just wants to fix his country. They’re all just so flawed and human, and I love them so much.

There are also some amazing side characters in this books, and they genuinely all feel completely fleshed out. They don’t feel like side characters. I feel like I could probably tell you as much if not more about Ostyia (or Kacper, or Parijahan, or Rashid) as I can tell you about Malachiasz.

The romance is so well done, and my heart hurts because reasons. I’m so invested in it, and I feel super guilty for shipping it as much as I do, but it just felt so organic. It’s not insta-lovey. It doesn’t feel forced. It just sort of happens.

I’ve touched on this a little bit, but I was sucked in from start to finish. It was such a shame when I had to stop reading to actually do school work or perform basic functions. Like this book has my whole heart. I’m still screaming writing this review a week after finishing it. It also got to the point where I had roughly 15% left in the book, and I had apparently started digging my nails into my hand I was so stressed. This continued for the rest of the book, along with me screaming expletives at my phone and stopping to update Goodreads because my body needed oxygen. I don’t think I’ve ever held my breath because I was so invested in a book before.

There is a huge content warning on this book for self-harm. 2/3 main characters are blood mages, and they use a lot of blood magic. If that’s not something you can handle at this point in time, it might be best for you to sit this one out. The blood magic is an integral part of the book.

Barring that, the magic system and the world-building were so well done. If you told me Kalyazin and Tranavia were real places, I would be very concerned, but I would also totally believe you. I think the thing that really helps with that is that religion plays a major role in the book. There are a lot of YA fantasy books that have one scene where some vague ceremony is performed in some temple/church in book one, and then they just call it a day on including religion in their fantasy world (I am thinking of a specific book, but you can insert a lot of other books here). I’m not religious, but even I can tell that’s not how it works, and that’s not how it works in Wicked Saints. Instead, we have a very devout character, excerpts from books on the gods and saints, and you get to see the effect religion (or lack thereof) has on these two waring countries. You can see that it plays a part in how their countries are run, and their everyday lives.

Going off that, this book is so unique. I never knew I needed a book about monsters, magic, and fantasy Poland and Russia before reading Wicked Saints, but now I’m sad there aren’t more books like it out there. It’s also very dark, and my inner emo is very happy about it. Dark in YA doesn’t always mean dark, but here it certainly does and I could not be happier about it.

The reveals are also so well set up that figuring them out ahead of time just feels more shocking than predictable. For example, I have a Goodreads update at 51% that just reads “Oh my god I think I just figured out a thing based on one line from our favourite idiot, Serefin. I want to scream”. I did in fact scream when it was actually revealed that I was right, because even if you figure out the reveals there are so many other implications to consider.

Overall, Wicked Saints was so well executed and gripping, and I would die to have book 2 in my hands right now. It has therefore earned 5 out of 5 stars from me.

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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/

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Crown of Feathers ARC Review

Crown of Feathers

Number of pages: 496

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 4.75

Release Date: February 12th, 2019

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

I wished for this one on Netgalley because I had been hearing good things about it. I didn’t really know what to expect from it. As the same thing happened with Sky in the Deep, maybe this is new strategy that’s working for me. Maybe I need to go into more books just having heard good things. There was also the added bonus here of the author being Canadian *aggressively sings O Canada*, so I’m glad I liked it as much as I did because now I can pre-order a physical copy for my shelf.

This book is so good. After 3 years of doing this I’m still the worst at positive reviews, so all my brain wants me to do right now is shove the book in people’s faces and tell them to read it. But I can’t do that because not only is it December 2018 while I’m writing this, but this baby is also going right on my favourites shelf when it gets here.

The initial betrayal the synopsis mentions shook me to my core. I was so upset I had to put the book down, and I didn’t read it again for roughly 2 months (this is also because I’m a university student and my life was a living hell at that point, but it being because of the book sounds better).

I liked that there was reason behind girls not being allowed to become Phoenix Riders within this particular group of people. I didn’t particularly agree with it and neither did our main characters, but at least it made some semblance of sense.

I also liked that there wasn’t really any romance. I find that it’s always really hard to make it work logistically within girl pretends to be a boy storylines when the male love interest appears to be straight. There could have totally been something from the third POV as well, but I sort of liked how it ended with that, and I think it’s going to play into things in the sequel. There’s totally romantic tension there, and I totally ship it, but there wasn’t anything really concrete and it worked well with the story.

Looking through my Goodreads updates (of which there are 15), apparently there is an animal killing at roughly 37%. Past me notes that it isn’t too graphic, but I feel compelled to warn others who maybe aren’t able to read that sort of thing at the moment. There are also a few other animal and mythological creature deaths, but they’re more mentions that X animal has died that we knew by name. We’re dealing with battles and animal magic wielders here, so if you need to sit this one out please do.

Content warnings aside, Crown of Feathers had me hooked. I was yelling at it, squeezing it (or my phone), and I was tapping/ flipping pages like there was no tomorrow. I had so many theories flying around my brain, and that’s never really happened to me before. And when I ended up being right on one thing it didn’t feel like the book was predictable; instead it felt like I had won the lottery.

The characters were also so well done. They all felt so human. There was so much stuff like Veronyka thinking her sister was one thing, and then slowly learning that maybe she isn’t so simple, and the other POV characters learning they don’t have to just be one thing. It was fascinating to read.

The thing that removed that pesky .25 of a star was that while I found the bits of history really interesting and they really helped with the worldbuilding (which was fantastic by the way), there were a few too many instances where the characters would tell some piece of history for pages, and then the chapter would end, providing another piece of background historical information. That part just didn’t work for me.

Overall, I hope I’ve convince you to read Crown of Feathers in this review, but in case I haven’t READ THE BOOK. It has therefore earned 4.75 stars out of 5.

The Gilded Wolves ARC Review

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Number of pages: 464

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 5

Release Date: January 15th, 2019

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

It didn’t manage to make me cry, but it did manage to slowly break my heart, so that’s something. I’m not really sure if I’m okay, and I probably shouldn’t be writing this right after finishing it, but I’m doing it anyway because I make good choices.

Speaking of not making good choices, prepare to meet the main cast who are all just trying their best. And their best barely keeps them alive throughout most of this. Still, I love them all so much. I just want to give them all a hug and protect them forever. If anything happens to Enrique or Hypnos in particular I’m going to riot, but they’re all still such complex (and very broken) characters.

If I were to compare The Gilded Wolves to another book it would definitely be Six of Crows. There is a heist, a diverse crew of 6, plus a bunch of other similarities that are **super spoilery**. The only thing I will say is that The Gilded Wolves is sort of like Six of Crows’ more glamourous and less broody cousin in that it isn’t quite as gritty. I still definitely recommend it if you’re in need of something to fill the Six of Crows shaped hole in your heart, but keep in mind they’re not the same book; they’re just similar.

Speaking of Six of Crows, The Gilded Wolves had a similar kind of unconscious effect on me. Less in a I cannot stop thinking about this book (though that happens to be case at the moment because I’m theorizing) way, more in a I was reading it and completely got lost in it to the point where when my dad set down diner I looked up in confusion.

The Gilded Wolves also fed my love of history and math (don’t worry, everything to do with numbers is well explained if you aren’t a huge fan of math). My love ancient history and mythology knows no bounds, so the many references to it made me very happy. I will say that if you aren’t a big history/mythology person that some of the references might not make complete sense. I could see things mentioned and pass over them because I had prior knowledge of those things, so it didn’t affect me personally.  However, the part I see there being a potential issue with is that while these things are explained to an extent, you might feel like you don’t fully understand what’s going on without any prior knowledge.

I did not expect that twist at the end, and now my mind is reeling. What does this mean for so many things? I picked up on some stuff and figured out the meaning of the honeybee, the bone clock thing, and something else that even when spoken about vaguely is spoilery well before the text made the reveal, but that’s probably because I watch way too much Murdoch Mysteries. All this is to say I need book 2 right now, followed closely by book 3.

Overall, The Gilded Wolves spoke to the nerd in me and I love it for it, earning it 5 out of 5 stars.

Strange Grace ARC Review

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Number of pages: 400

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 1

Release Date: September 18th, 2018

*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for a review. My opinions are honest and my own.

I’ve had my eye on Strange Grace for months, so when I saw it was available to request on Netgalley, I had to request it. Well… at least I don’t have to preorder it anymore.

The weird thing about this book is that despite not liking a single thing about it, I still want to give it 2 stars at the very least. And I skim read the last 35% of it to the point where skim reading is a very loose description of what I did.

This is also the first instance where the formatting of the e-ARC was so frustrating that I’m mentioning it in my review. The kindle version was so hard to read that I had to switch to reading it on the Bluefire reader app. This would have been fine (albeit frustrating for updating Goodreads on my progress), but there are no chapters in this book, so you just have to scroll endlessly to find where you left off. There were also random incomplete sentences in red in the kindle version. The whole thing was a mess.

I found the writing made me feel very detached from the story and the characters. The writing style is trying to be atmospheric, but it ended up causing me to stop reading to try and figure out if the metaphors used even remotely made sense. The two that stood out to me focused on sunsets. I won’t share the exact quotes because I read an uncorrected proof, but one of them was along the lines of ‘the air changed from pink to orange’, and it took me several reads of the sentence and about 20 extra minutes of confusion to figure out it was describing the setting of the sun. Feel free to let me know in the comments if I’m just dumb for not being able to figure this out in a normal amount of time.

We also don’t really get a chance to get to know the characters. There is a lot of telling us about them doing stuff like walking and picking up grass, and having characters interpret the actions of other characters, but I know next to nothing about their personalities. The only things I know about the characters’ personalities is what other characters said when describing them. Sometimes that information conflicted, sometimes it didn’t, but either way I would have liked some proof that character X was actually as brave as people kept say they were.

Strange Grace doesn’t really have a plot, and it’s not exactly character driven, so I’m not really sure what to call it. The ‘story’ was so dragged out that I lost interest about 25% of the way through. At 39% stuff was actually starting to happen, but I was already done with this book by that point. At 40% I was wondering why there was so much book left (turns out there really didn’t need to be). There was a point where while all of the exciting stuff was happening in the creepy forest, instead of us seeing it all happen in real time, we got to see nothing happen from the perspective of a character who added nothing to the story. This was so we could see all the action spread out in broken flashbacks throughout the rest of the book. This book would have made a great short story, but instead it’s a full-length novel.

I already mentioned this, but there are no chapters. Instead, there are breaks with a picture of a tree, and then a bunch of short chunks from various different perspectives. Even in this book where almost nothing happens, there are perspectives included here that are entirely unnecessary to move forward with the nothing. Again, this book was very dragged-out.

One thing I found strange was there was a lot of kissing seemingly for no reason. Rhun is smiling, so he kisses Aruthur. Mairwen is standing there, so Arthur kisses her. The devil is attacking, so Mairwen kisses him (multiple times). Rhun loves Mairwen, but not in that way, but also in that way, so he kisses her. Mairwen did the thing they were all going to do, and they’re all mad at her for it, so they kiss her. Is there a romance in this book? I couldn’t tell you. The characters throw the word love around a lot, along with the random kissing. Maybe I just missed something, but the random kissing was so frequent that I don’t think I did.

I also had issues with Arthur in particular. The characters would be talking calmly, and he’d say something like ‘let’s set some people on fire’ (not an actual quote) out of nowhere, and the other characters would pretend it never happened. Like I get that the other characters have all said Arthur burns too hotly for Three Graces, but it still feels oddly out of character (despite me knowing next to nothing about him). Is he supposed to be edgy?

Overall, I was very clearly not a fan of Strange Grace, earning it 1 star out of 5.

Aru Shah and the End of Time Book Review

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Number of pages: 355

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 5

I wasn’t originally going to review this book. I figured I would read it, hopefully love it, and move on. I haven’t read a middle grade book since the fifth or sixth grade, and I’m about to be in my second year of university. I have no standard to base a review of a middle grade book off of anymore. But while I was reading this all I could think about was how much 11 year old me (who was just starting to fall in love with mythology at the time) would have absolutely loved this book, and that’s the angle I’m going to review this from.

That isn’t to say that current me didn’t love Aru Shah and the End of Time, because I absolutely adored it, but I can picture that 11 year old girl staying up past midnight to read this like she read Allie Finkle books (does anyone remember those?). I can picture that same girl so engrossed in it at lunch that the anxiety she feels about being in the same room as her cruel classmates fades away. This book would have given that girl hope she desperately needed, and she would have known she’s not the only one struggling to fit in. (As a quick aside, I am in fact in tears writing this review). And now I’m so glad this book exists for kids like me.

Aru Shah and the End of Time features Roshani Chokshi’s signature rich and beautiful writing style, though I felt like it was slightly more watered-down here than it is in her YA books. This isn’t a criticism; this book is aimed at a younger audience. Still, this book never treats its audience as though it won’t be able to comprehend some more complex language. Nothing is “dumbed-down”.

I loved all of the characters. They’re so complex and well done. Younger me would have would have wanted to be best friends with Aru and Mini (and let’s be real, I would have probably tried to talk to all of the birds I could find, hoping one of them would be my own disgraced guardian). Current me just wants to give them all a hug and protect them at all costs, especially the palace.

This book had me laughing almost every chapter, so I know younger me would have found it just as amusing (though she would have had to hide it better as to not alert her parents to the fact that she was still reading way past her bedtime).

I read the Percy Jackson books a very long time ago, so take this next paragraph with a grain of salt, but I really do think that if you enjoyed the Percy Jackson books that you will enjoy Aru Shah and the End of Time. From what I remember of the Percy Jackson books, you can definitely draw some parallels between this book and The Lightning Thief.

This shouldn’t affect your decision to read this book, but I had to mention it here because I am a huge nerd. There is a joke in this book about matrices (plural of matrix, the thing in linear algebra that helps you deal with vectors (I’m trying to keep the explanation simple)), and it made me so happy I had to mention it. Actually, this showcases that there is something in Aru Shah for people of all ages.

Overall, I loved Aru Shah and the End of Time, and I can’t wait to continue with the rest of the series as it comes out. It has therefore earned 5 out of 5 stars.

Daughter of the Burning City Book Review

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Number of pages: 384

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 4

I buddy-read this with Lynn from From Oceans Away back in January, and I never got around to reviewing it. Luckily I have all of my thoughts written out by chapter, so I’m still able to review it.

I have a very weird gripe with chapter 3 specifically. I had to reread it multiple times, and I still didn’t really understand what happened in the end. It was so strange to me, because I was starting to get into the story with the first 2 chapters, but then there was this really choppy and information filled chapter that took me out of the story. And it threw me off for a couple of chapters.

Other than chapter 3, I really didn’t have any major issues with the writing. It did keep sucking me in and then throwing me back out, which was a bit frustrating, but I think it found its groove eventually.

I really hated the love interest for the majority of the book. He was the biggest jerk to Sorina for no reason. However, as I became more suspicious of him, the more he grew on me. I like that he became a more complex and interesting character along the way. Also, according to my messages to Lynn, chapter 17 really sold me on him, but I have no memory of what happened and I didn’t ever explain why.

I thought Sorina was a bit insufferable at points. She’s a person who has lived with this sketchy traveling carnival for most of her life, but she just immediately trusts people. She shares sensitive information with people she barely knows who are already acting suspiciously, and from what I remember she isn’t too concerned about interacting with people that multiple people close to her have warned her about. I also think the fact that she has no eyes, but can see perfectly was kind of lazy. And the only explanation for why this might be is essentially ‘I dunno. Magic.’

Venera was my favourite character by far, and she was a really minor part of the story. Not only was it nice to see her and Sorina’s friendship, but it’s also mentioned that she really likes working with numbers. Can we please just have more math-loving heroines in YA? I’m so sick of seeing every contemporary character groan about Calculus and worship their English teachers. And characters in other genres all just wonder how numbers work.

I think a lot of the twists were generally done really well. There were a couple I completely didn’t see coming at all. There were a few reveals that felt really anti-climactic, such as the true role of the proprietor of Gamorrah, but I was genuinely surprised by most of them.

I did end up predicting the villain early on, but what I appreciate the most about Daughter of the Burning City is that it made me constantly doubt my prediction. I ended up being suspicious of so many characters, with so many theories for why they could have done it, that my earlier theory being correct surprised me.

Overall, I enjoyed my time reading Daughter of the Burning City, though it wasn’t perfect. It has therefore earned 4 out of 5 stars.

Isle of Blood and Stone Mini Review

Isle of Blood and Stone

Number of pages: 400

Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1

Rating (out of five stars): 4

I’m not really sure what I expected from this book, but I was really pleasantly surprised by it. Isle of Blood and Stone was this really quite book that almost immediately made me smile in spite of myself.

I thought the world was really interesting. There aren’t many books that feature cartographers, and it was so interesting to hear about the different islands. I really think the author did a fantastic job with the world-building.

I also loved the writing. I had barely started trying to write my first book when I started reading this, and all I could think while reading was how I wanted my writing to look like the writing in this book.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the characters. Their characterization was well done, but I just didn’t connect to most of them (although I did really like Reyna). I actually think I was more connected to and interested in the world than the characters, which is maybe why I’ve been finding it difficult to really cohesively collect my thoughts on this book.

I did predict the big reveal, but I found learning about the reasoning behind it really interesting. It was also interesting to see how the characters dealt with the person being someone close to them.

Overall, I really recommend Isle of Blood and Stone, earning it 4 out of 5 stars.