★★★★☆ // ★★★★★
I didn’t even read the summary of Wicked Saints before I opened it. I mean, I probably skimmed it when I requested an ARC (I distinctly remember reading a couple of lines and thinking “well, obviously I want this”) but I didn’t really remember what it was about when I cracked open my copy.
So you’ll understand my surprise when, a few pages in, I was somehow deeply invested. I needed to know this story, these characters, this setting. Usually, it takes me a few chapters to get the feel of a new book, especially if I’ve just finished a different book (at the time, I had just closed Romanov). The fact that this book was immediately spellbinding was pretty amazing, and I was surprised by how much I wanted to keep reading. There were a few ARC-type errors (misplaced commas and such) which also usually annoys my brain, but not this time. I kept reading.
Wicked Saints follows Nadya (strikingly similar nickname to Nastya, which was the main character of Romanov), who can communicate directly with the gods. I’m not saying that sometimes her prayers are answered — I’m saying she can have full-on conversations with various gods. One of my favorite things about this story is, unlike most YA, there was no big to-do about her powers. She didn’t happen upon them, she doesn’t get chosen in a moment of chaos when all seems lost… she lives in a monastery, and at the beginning of the book she’s peeling potatoes in a basement as punishment for a prank. She already knows about her powers, as does everyone else, because she’s had them since birth. Her prayers to the gods are always answered, and they always result in “ancient speech” which translates to magic. Real, tangible magic — like shooting ice from your hands or making the moon and stars go dark.
The fact that Nadya’s powers are already fully-formed at the beginning of the book allowed the story to flow more freely. There was magic involved, of course, but the core of this story focuses on interpersonal relationships, a bit of politics, and war. I loved that there was enough page time to focus on the plot rather than more ‘un-trained magician learns everything on the road’ montages.
Overall, I’d say this book is a solid 4.5-star read. I hesitate to give five stars because there were some parts of the ending that were a little too fast, and the whole ending was a huge plot twist so it took me a long time to wrap my head around it. I still kind of can’t, honestly, and everything about one of the characters is super murky to me right now. Part of that was probably on purpose but it seems a bit much.
Definitely give Wicked Saints a read!