Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan (Book Review)

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page Count
: 544

**Ruthless Gods is the second book in the Something Dark and Holy series! There are likely going to be SPOILERS for the first book. If you want to read my review of Wicked Saints click here!**

I was very excited about the release of Ruthless Gods and remain a big fan of this series, despite it being in a more horror-esque genre than I am used to. Still, I can see how these books keep dividing readers and there are a lot of people who absolutely do not enjoy it. All I want to say to that is, if you didn’t really enjoy Wicked Saints, I find it very unlikely that you will all of a sudden like this one?

Okay, on to the actual review. Ruthless Gods picks up a couple months after the last novel finished and usually I am always bit iffy about a lot of time passing and us not actually getting to see what happens on the page, but it was handled well here. I was a little worried, that this book might turn out to be some sort of filler, as it really didn’t feel like they were making much progress in the grand scheme of things and with another book on the way, they definitely wouldn’t resolve anything just yet. However, I was surprised by just how many pieces were moved and how much information was revealed in the end, because it sure didn’t feel like it halfway through the book.

Something I enjoyed very much in Wicked Saints and that still fascinates me is the belief system and the numerous gods and beings of power in this series. The more I read about them, the more I was filled with this deep-rooted feeling of dread and I was so very glad not to be in the shoes of any of the characters. People who had asked for this series to become darker sure got their fill!

Divinity and the concept of forever sometimes feel so beyond my small little brain and it’s also what makes this book so special. These characters have no idea just how big the scope of things are and how much they are in completely over their heads. It’s difficult to describe something that’s just beyond your grasp of understanding and I think Duncan does a masterful job of invoking curiosity in all the things left to discover, while also showing that it might be too big of a knowledge to grasp. If the characters can’t do it, why should the reader?

The gods were ancient and unfathomable. There were older, deeper things, but how much farther could a mortal’s brain comprehend than beings of forever? Nadya had so much more to learn about the gods who had touched her and led her down this dark and terrible path.

What I really loved about the first book was the dynamic between all the characters. I think I was very heavily focused on Nadya and Malachiasz last time, but this book my heart belonged to Serefin “moth boy” only. I was a little upset when the groups parted ways, because 1.) Serefin was in danger and all by himself and 2.) I just really enjoy his banter with everyone, but especially his peculiar relationship with Nadya. I am not saying I ship them, because they so very clearly are in love with other people, but I friend-ship them? None of the characters really chose the life they were thrust in, but something about Serefin’s fate particularly breaks my heart and all I want to do is protect that silly moth boy and give him a more peaceful life. (Let’s face it, most of these characters deserve better than the hand they were dealt, but it felt like there was the least agency and free will involved in Serefin’s mess.)

A Serefin-inspired aesthetic, because what else? I need everyone to keep my moth boy safe!

So many of the relationships in this series are beyond complicated and tainted and warped. I can see why some people think it doesn’t make sense for the pining to continue after one betrayal after another, but … I do? Something about this torturous cycle of lies and distrust and love and deep-rooted care foiled by other people’s or other beings’ plans just works. These characters are tied by something greater, finding their way to each other even under the most unlikely of circumstances, so yes, I can suspend disbelief and see how they cannot quit each other (be it friendships, lovers, confidants, whatever).

This was going to kill her. This, right here, this beautiful boy and his monstrous power and his lies and the knowledge that nothing mattered, they would always betray each other in the end.

In the end, the only thing I asked myself is: Will all of this have a happy ending? Will everyone be okay?
The most likely answer to that is: no.

Fazit: 4/5 stars! The horror increases as I keep worrying about all my favourite characters.

I can’t wait to see how all of this is supposed to pan out! Did you read Wicked Saints and Ruthless Gods? Do you find yourself interested in the series? Let’s chat!

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan (Book Review)

Publisher: Wednesday Books
Page Count
: 385

**TW: Self harm (blood mages need to cut themselves to use magic), parental abuse, war, torture and gore**

I’ve wanted to read this book for so, so long! And I know that it divides people, because so many hate it, a lot of people think of it only as “meh” but then there’s people like me who absolutely 100% LOVED this journey. It’s honestly not often that I see a book where I could throw my last name in and it would just blend in nicely with the others, also, if I am not mistaken entirely, there’s going to be a Katya in the sequel and that’s just one letter away from my name, so I am going to take it! All those minor details aside, monsters, gods and mortals with major morality quarrels are the way to my heart.

“There was madness in his black eyes – madness and something terribly close to divinity.
Which was, in essence, the same as madness.”

You don’t get much time to adjust to this very rich world before you are thrown into a war that has lasted centuries already. The different viewpoints are clear, but you uncover so much more to it all throughout the story, it’s hard to explain where you find yourself and your allegiances at the end of it all. Our three main characters all grew up within certain belief systems and it has shaped them into the people that are presented to us at the beginning of the tale. Especially Nadya’s religion plays a huge part of her self image and it’s understandable that she meets people who portray everything she was taught to hate with hostility. I thought I would be more annoyed at them for being so stubborn and unwilling to see the other person’s point of view, but ultimately, it just made for all the better tension when they all ultimately meet and have to team up. None of these characters are saints, even if some might believe differently, because they all have done terrible and selfish things at one point or another, but for me it was easy to see how (at least most of them) came to be that person. I did not hold their past against them, which made some betrayals sting all the more. But honestly, it’s not just the main three characters you find yourself easily attached to, I also found myself drawn to the fiercely loyal companions and was worried about their well being by the end just as much as the others. I am not exaggerating when I say I screamed “MY POOR CINNAMON ROLLS OF STEEL!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY BABIES?!?” during the final pages.

Now, I understand if the romance in the book might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It worked for me, but then … I am also someone who wasn’t bother by the Rey and Kylo Ren pairing in Star Wars? I chose that specific example, because I know the author is like the number 1 Kylo Ren fan and there are certainly some Reylo similarities to be found here. Just like that didn’t work for everyone, I am guessing it also won’t work for every reader here. I, personally, felt the tension and was fine with it.

“When he stepped past her, a smile flickered at the edges of his lips. There was darkness at the corners, something evil just underneath the surface, sinister. He turned and grinned at her, monstrous but beatific, holding out his hand, darkness gone. Maybe she’d just imagined it. She took his hand.”

There’s also the diversity I enjoyed a lot. While you feel this world largely inspired by Slavic culture, the world ranges from deserts to snow regions, includes people of color, with disabilities and different sexualities. To me, those are all parts of what makes for good and enjoyable world-building. I was most fascinated by the supposed gods and the religious texts and accounts of saints though! There’s definitely a lot more to it than meets the eye and I wonder what we will discover about their origin and purpose as the series goes on.

I am glad I waited beyond the hype and checked out the book myself, because for me, this was an immediate hit. Also, even though I still have to wait a couple months, I am way closer to the release of Ruthless Gods (aka the sequel) than I would have been had I read the book upon its release. I still want it so bad right now … the sooner the better!

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Give me all the monsters, gods and mortals and the sequel while you’re at it!

Have you read the book? What are your thoughts on it? Let’s chat!