Ruthless Gods, the sequel to Emily A. Duncan’s debut novel Wicked Saints, is set several months after the events of book one as Nadya tries to figure out how to get the pantheon of gods talking to her as she lives in Serefin’s castle under a false title. Serefin, now king, is trying to keep his country from falling apart while trying to figure out who the voice in his head is and to get the voice to leave him alone. After an attempted assassination on Serefin and Nadya, the two quickly flee the Tranavian to figure out how to stop the war between Tranavian and Kalyazi. Along with deciding what to do with Malachiasz as he is being corrupted by magic too powerful that is deepening him into madness.
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication Date: 7 April 2020
RRP: $19.99 AUD
Personal Rating: 4.5/5
This gothic fantasy is set on a background of Eastern European Slavic folklore and culture, making it unique against all other young adult fantasy that is based on Western Europe folklore. The magic system is also inspired by Joan d’Arc’s story and Dungeons and Dragons clerics. Making it the perfect novel for those who are into the popular table-top roleplaying game.
Much like the first novel, Ruthless Gods, is narrated through multiple points of views. Still, Nadya and Serefin being the main characters. The world-building takes the back seat in this novel, and more information of the gods and how they came to be in slowly fed through the reader and Nadya and Serefin learn more about those who are considered holy.
My biggest complaint about book two is the weird pacing at the first 100 pages of the novel. I found myself thinking it was moving too fast and then too slow, and I could not calculate the passage of time in the plot accurately. It was distracting because it left me a bit confused about how long they had been out searching for the magical holy forest. But after the 100-page mark, the pacing goes back normal and could keep track of the character’s passage of time.
Unlike Wicked Saints, Ruthless Gods focuses more on character arcs as Serefin, Nadya and Malachiasz begin to question everything they know and attempt to forge their own paths in an attempt to save their respective nations. Duncan said this novel is perfect for those who felt cheated by the Star War franchise’s destruction of the Reylo ship. The “I hate you, but I actually love you even though you are my enemy” vibes between Nadya and Malachiasz is what Rely deserved.
The second book of Something Dark and Holy trilogy is a must-read if you are in desperate need for a dark fantasy about girls with daggers, anxious princes, melodramatic goth boys and Slavic monsters that will haunt your dreams.
Trigger warning: There is self-harming involved, but it is not malicious, Tranavian blood mages need their blood to perform spells, so they are frequently cutting their forearms and fingers to get blood.
Thanks to Wednesday Books for providing me a egalley of the novel via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review.