My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Darkness never works alone…
Nadya doesn’t trust her magic anymore. Serefin is fighting off a voice in his head that doesn’t belong to him. Malachiasz is at war with who–and what–he’s become.
As their group is continually torn apart, the girl, the prince, and the monster find their fates irrevocably intertwined. They’re pieces on a board, being orchestrated by someone… or something. The voices that Serefin hears in the darkness, the ones that Nadya believes are her gods, the ones that Malachiasz is desperate to meet—those voices want a stake in the world, and they refuse to stay quiet any longer.
ARC provided by NetGalley for an honest review. All quotes are subject to change upon final publication
I know many authors whose delivery fails as part of the second novel curse. That is not Emily Duncan. Just when you think she cannot top the gore, deception, and plot twists, she proves you wrong. I tried so hard to guess how the events would transpire, to guess the direction of the plot, but every time I guessed something, I was completely wrong. Let me continue by warning, if you are not one for gore, eyeballs, and perhaps the occasional gouging out eyes, you will be very uncomfortable reading this.
Nadya and Serefin continue their journey to end the war between Tranavia and Kalyazin, both of course with their own intentions, along with your beloved sassy duo Ostyia and Kacper, and Parijahan and Rashid. They set out on a journey to help Serefin end the war and regain control of his rebelling council. They initially try to find Zoya who was last seen with the Vultures at the end of Wicked Saints, only for Nadya to come face to face with the Black Vulture, Malachiasz. But as we saw at the end of Wicked Saints, he is far from the same man we fell in love with. He is tainted by the immense power he has gathered, lacking coherency it would seem, and perhaps chaos given form. She might be able to save him, bring him back to who he once was, but at what cost? Can he overcome the need for god-like power? He joins her on her journey to find her lost connection with her gods, but if you’ve learned anything from Wicked Saints, it’s that he always has a plan, and it more than likely with result in a betrayal of Nadya. What I also loved was the inner turmoil Nadya faces. She has been raised within a monestary believing only the magic of the gods is proper, all blood magic is heretical. But she also has this inner power within herself that Malachiasz is trying to help her see before it poisons her (the scar on her hand from Wicked Saints). She slowly starts to have faith in her own strength. I honestly think this power will play a larger role in the next book because there was so much hinted but left out.
Along the journey, Serefin is consistently entrapped within an inner turmoil that takes over his own coherency with present time. He has been what seems like possessed by a lost god(s) after returning to life in Wicked Saints. The lost god takes not only his sanity with every chapter, but it would seem his eyesight as well (hint: this plays a huge significance into the story’s future and also is the source of all disturbances in the eye gore department). But even amongst the pain and suffering he endures, he does get a small sliver of happiness: Kacper! I totally shipped these two before even Serefin knew there were feelings there. And Emily grants us just this small piece of happiness, before she destroys our own sanity.
We are also introduced to a new character, the tsarevna of Kalyazin, Katya. She is a bit of a rebellious bad ass who dabbles in the magic found form communing with the Kalyazi saints and eating some shrooms….but holy hells, if I don’t get some Kostyia (yes I shipped them) in the third book, I will lose my mind. Katya wants the war to end, and of course for Kalyazin to be the victorious one. But she also has plans to kill the Black Vulture, which Serefin agrees to help her achieve.
This is a much longer read than Wicked Saints, I felt, but it is also completely worth it. There are many times where it might feel long and dragged out, but every inch of the story is essential to try to pick up on the deception and betrayal that is occurring every instant. The characters are given so much more depth. And so often I found myself holding my breath. Overall, worth every star it has earned. I can’t say anything bad. I was driven insane by the twists and turns and deception but not in a bad way. I feel like as we read this we are losing a bit of our own sanity beside the characters.