In the midst of a decades-old war, a monastery is attacked. Rumors have it that there is a Kalyazin cleric within who has the rare power to call on any and all of the gods for magic. The Tranavian blood mages see this threat as a way the enemy could turn the tides of war.
A thin escape and Nadya is on the run. She has been hidden up on the hill, far from the front for her entire life. The abbot thought she was safe, but he is now dead and the monastery burns.
Serafin had tried to attack head on as powerful blood mages are apt to do, but he has found that this cleric is more adept than previously thought. He wants to hunt her down, but is called back home for his betrothal ceremony.
In an effort to help her cause, Nadya and her protector head for an outpost, but are cut off by a mysterious band of allies… one of whom is a special blood mage who has his eyes set on treason.
Can an unlikely pair head into enemy territory and cut off the head of the state?
Duncan’s writing helped focus the story in the details of the magic system, the dueling cultures, and the political intrigue. By shifting the POV between Nadya and Serafin, the reader gets an intense view of each side of the conflict. One side gains magic from the gods, each deity specific to his/her strength. The other are called heretics for turning away from the religion, and derive power from their own blood to ignite spells. There are many fighting scenes that rely on a strong hand to guide the reader, and Duncan does just that for the most part.
Curiously, the pacing in this one shifts regularly. Whether a traveling scene, a royal banquet, or a magician’s duel, each scene varies as the internal monologue of the character can slow or ramp up the movement. This did not bother me most of the time; I thought it was important to see each character control the experience for the reader.
Lastly, I want to comment on the characters. Nadya and Serafin are required to be something they are not during the course of the novel. And in Tranavia it is common practice for the royals to wear masks… a disguising that is fun and leads to some interesting close-quarters sleight of hand.
A couple criticisms: I felt some of the minor characters were not fleshed out enough and a couple of the main reveals were held off a little too long. This created an ending that seemed a but rushed… and some of the dialogue was lacking in authenticity at times
Overall, Wicked Saints is a dark tale infused with dueling magic systems. Minor criticisms aside, it’s a book that I flew through and found uniqueness in its writing and voice.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Releases on April 2nd.
Thank you to NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.