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Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy, 2) Paperback – March 2, 2021
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PRAISE FOR RUTHLESS GODS:
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"... if you liked Wicked Saints and you want more of everything, the sequel Ruthless Gods takes the monstrous romance to whole new... heights. Get ready." - BOOK RIOT
"Ruthless Gods is every bit the sequel that Emily A. Duncan's chilling Wicked Saints deserves - even darker, bloodier and even more complicated...A dark, brutal and deeply thrilling sequel that will leave you wanting more." - CULTURESS
"Magic and romance steeped in blood and betrayal. ...fans of the first volume will be pleased to have more of the same, with higher stakes and increasingly complicated questions of power and divinity." - KIRKUS
PRAISE FOR WICKED SAINTS:
**Indie Next Pick for the Spring 2019 Kids’ List**
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"If you like your young adult fantasy full of ice, blood, and angst, Wicked Saints will sweep you up in its wintery embrace." - NPR, "3 Young Adult Novels To Help You Out Of Hibernation"
About the Author
- Publisher : Wednesday Books (March 2, 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 560 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1250195705
- ISBN-13 : 978-1250195708
- Reading age : 13 - 18 years
- Grade level : 7 - 9
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.53 x 1.4 x 8.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #105,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I DNF this book (50%). This is the first time I have ever written a review of a book that I DNF, because it ordinarily feels like I have not given the book every opportunity to sway me if I don't read the whole thing. I'm making an exception here, in part because I feel like I invested so many hours into the story that it should have ended. But also because I came to the creeping realization that nothing much was happening to advance the plot. At least, nothing that made any sense to me. In part, it may have been because I was listening to the Audible version rather than reading it. Not because of the narrators, who were great--I am very appreciative of their talents with multiple accents. The problem with listening to it, at least for me, was that I heard a lot of words that I could not make sense of (terms of endearment, maybe? curse words, maybe? monsters, maybe?). I did not know what they meant, and I don't feel like they were ever defined--or if they were, it must have been once, in passing, and possibly in the first book.
I also got very tired of the excerpts from the Book of the Saints etc that preceded every chapter. This is a great literary device when it's done well. Here, it was often not clear to me whether/how any given excerpt related to the chapter that followed it, beyond providing a broad picture of this world's myth and magic and religion (and if that was its only function, it was serious overkill). To me, they only interrupted a narrative that was already having a hard time keeping itself together. This is one of several holdovers from Wicked Saints, where it annoyed me. But in WS, I tolerated it because of my overall interest in the story. In THIS book, it compounded my suffering. I'll return to the main source of that suffering in a moment.
The narrative felt like a strange combination of characters skulking about in dark places (sometimes in the environment, sometimes in the mind); cryptic conversations with witches, monsters, and/or gods who may or may not be monsters; blood and bone and blood and bone; weird, gross eye stuff; being made and unmade and made and unmade; plus excessive hand wringing and teen angst.
I get it, it's a YA novel. Hand wringing and teen angst are to be expected, and I consider myself pretty tolerant of it. There was enough in WS to annoy me, but at least in the first book, the angst does not set in until after some amount of story takes place. In RG, it's there from page 1, with Nadya as the angst-ridden hand wringer-in-chief.
Which brings me to the reason why I abandoned this book. Nadya is one of the least likeable protagonists I have encountered in quite some time. Usually, the heroines of YA novels demonstrate some small element of strength, self-worth, or redeeming value, even if their judgment is often compromised by matters of the heart or the hormones. There is a glimpse of strength in WS Nadya. But RG Nadya is all about the "boy." As other reviewers have noted, she has a small, rotating list of adjectives that she likes to append to the word "boy." Her chapters are 99% musings about the "boy," and 1% complaints about the gods abandoning her because of said "boy." Even the Audible narrator for Nadya’s chapters sounded pained and reluctant every time she had to utter that word. I started to twitch every time I heard it. Maybe this somehow gets better in the latter half of the book. Maybe the “boy” becomes a “man.” Maybe the author enlists the aid of a thesaurus. Maybe Nadya thinks about something or someone else. But I found that I absolutely could not hear that word one more time.
On top of all that, the relationship between Nadya and her "boy" is, as other reviewers have noted, toxic. But even that, in and of itself, has the potential to make a sad sort of sense. In WS, their relationship evolves in a more or less believable fashion until the climax. And then, it breaks. Ordinarily, the [SPOILER IF YOU HAVEN'T READ WICKED SAINTS--BUT I'M KIND OF ASSUMING THAT YOU HAVE] epic betrayal that we witness at the end of WS would be a solid reason for these two characters NOT getting back together. But in RG, Nadya can't seem to stay away from the tortured monster boy who causes her life-threatening physical harm. They exchange betrayals, exchange injuries, exchange blood, exchange magic, kiss, then beat each other up some more. Granted, that's only what I took from the first half of the book. But I'm not getting the sense from the other reviews I've read that Nadya suddenly starts making good life choices. Readers, don't be like Nadya.
So, why 2 stars instead of 1? The second star is me giving the part of the book I did not read the benefit of the doubt. If there had been more of Serefin and less of Nadya (or maybe, all Serefin and no Nadya), I might have kept reading.
Wicked Saints was a book that ripped hearts out and laughed about it. Ruthless Gods was a book that took those hearts, smashed them with a hammer, ran them over with a steamroller, and lit them all on fire to make sure they were well and truly dead. So much happened in this book, much of it very Not Good and the stakes are incredibly high for all involved. The Holy War is far from over and now there’s something deep, dark, and vicious at the center of it all.
Wicked Saints was, without a doubt, a very dark book and if you thought things couldn’t get darker (more hopeless), well, you were wrong. Ruthless Gods is Wicked Saints bigger, meaner, uglier, bloodier sibling, but gods! it’s also such a beautiful book. From Duncan’s impeccable, lyrical writing, to the interactions between some of the characters and their sweet honeyed words. Do not be fooled though — there is no brightness in this book and just when you think there could be, something comes along and murders that thought.
”Things are waking up. Old things, dark things. The old ones who have slept for so very very long.” — Ruthless Gods
The three fated characters are still very much a part of the overall story arc, but their capacities have changed quite a bit from the first book. There are bigger forces at play between the Divine and the heretics, the war between Kalyazin and Tranavia, and things are spiraling out of control very quickly. All are pawns in this game of ruthless gods, but they each have their own agendas as well. Trust isn’t possible when the fate of their world hangs in the balance and it’s anyone’s guess whether this world or these characters will endure.
Aside from the war ramping up by one million notches, there were quite a few surprises and revelations thrown about in this book. Some of those revelations will have a giant impact on the fate of this world, while several others will have a giant impact on the fate of readers’ hearts. All I can say is if you think you’re immune to pretty books breaking your heart, think again. And if this book doesn’t break your heart, then perhaps you didn’t have one to begin with.
”His was not a power that could save. He was made for nothing but destruction, chaos, disaster, pain, pain, pain. — Ruthless Gods
Bottom line — the Something Dark and Holy series is a bloody, dark, gothic masterpiece that’s become one of my top 5 favorites. I can’t wait to see what the third book of this beautifully monstrous series brings to these beloved and broken characters.
*eARC received via NetGalley.
This is YA, but that doesn't mean it is a light read. There is a lot going on in these pages, and it is dark.
I forgot about Kacper, but I remembered when I saw his name, and I am rooting for him and Serefin as much as I am for Mal and Nadya.
The ending...I did feel like one thing in particular came a bit out of nowhere. Is killing a god really that quick and easy? But now I am of course eager to learn about the ramifications. I am curious about how the afterlife works in this world (if the author thought of one), especially since we're dealing with gods. I hope we learn more about the gods in the next book (I am sure we will).
This books ends on a cliffhanger, and I really want to see how it all comes together. It will either be happy or tragic. I feel like it could go either way at this point (I hope, of course, for a happy ending).
I do wonder if Duncan is ultimately vouching for the gods or against them. This, too, could go either way.
Top reviews from other countries
Don’t start here all the storylines are a direct continuation of book one hard to describe any of the plot without spoiling
Dark moody and atmospheric, ruthless gods combines Russian and Polish folk lore with a good dollop of lovecraft the world building is excellent and the characters on there own are well drawn it’s their interactions mainly between Mal and Nadye that can sometimes come off as a bit forced and clunky like seriously how often can two characters betray each other? Mal is a fascinating character and a interesting villain and Nadye is much improved from the first book not quite as naive and a bit harder which suits someone whose patron is the goddess of Death and Magic but, but they are still stuck in the tropes of a by the numbers YA romance which in a story with great characters and interesting world building is a more then a bit disappointing especially due to the constant betrayal, lying and Mal in particular tendencies towards mass murder as well as picking really inopurtune times to make out this is a particularly toxic example of a YA romance and the weakest part of the novel it’s hard to sell two characters one as a Evil Mastermind and the other as her countries last great hope when they both keep making such a spectacular bad decisions based on a very bad case of YA instalove, at least in this book Nadye is a more active character and is at least aware of who and what Mal is so while still Ill advised it at least comes off a little less creepy then it was at times in Wicked Saints.
Serefin the other main character is suffering the consequences from the events of the last book and all three main characters in different ways finds there destinies entangled in the mystery of who and what the gods are , a solid and Improved sequel to wicked saints I just wished they had dialled down the romance a notch or at least made it a bit healthier maybe? and concentrated a bit more on the world building and mystery. The addition of other POV characters was very welcome as was the authors decision to avoid the dreaded love triangle route.
Still will definitely buy book three still a way better then average series ms Duncan can certainly write the world building is top notch as is the writing this is definitely a series I would recommend to anyone that likes a bit of a gothic vibe to there fantasy.
The setting for Ruthless Gods (both Tranavia and Kalyazin) is beautiful and bleak, menacing in its darkness and I really enjoyed how each place seemed to reflect what was going on with the characters. There was a lot of internal struggle, fighting and despair going on, and the settings (especially that of the forest) became part of that fight. I’m torn between wanting to visit them, but also wanting to run as far away as possible from the very idea of them. The struggle that Nadya, Serefin, Malachiasz had because of their settings never really changed over the duration of Ruthless Gods. Everything had a sense of displacement. Everyone was uncomfortable, no matter where they were. Their longing to be in another place, or further along their journey made them seem unsettled. Even when they were in their ‘homeland’, everything was still against them, and added to the tension of the book.
I really enjoyed Nadya so much more in this book. She’s become stronger and more determined. She still followed the path others set out for her, but she grew in strength, started questioning things, became her own person and a character I really care about! Nadya is fierce and brave even though she’s scared. I love her relationship with Malachiasz, which really built upon the foundations laid in Wicked Saints. They are so bad for each other, and yet their magic is tied together, and they can’t escape the draw that they hold to each other. I loved their banter, their journey and their romance. Malachiasz is probably my favourite character. He’s morally grey, morally questionable, a monster and also just a boy who is really out of his depth. He’s got so much going on, physically and mentally and I honestly just want him to be OK. I loved seeing more sides of him, and he is my favourite chaos monster. Finally, we have Serefin to round off our unholy trio. He has a really tough time in this book. After dying in the last book, I really didn’t think things could get much worse for him, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. Not that the other characters didn’t suffer too, but I really felt for Serefin. Please, someone just let him have some alcohol in peace! I honestly love so many things about all the characters in the books, their interactions, their journeys and most of all, some really stupid decisions they make. The new characters we met along the way were also a lot of fun, as well as getting to see more of Kacper, Ostyia, Rashid and Parijahan, who we learnt more about, and who I also love (especially Kacper). I can’t wait to find out what awaits them next.
For me, one of the best parts of Ruthless Gods was that questions of morality and mortality are looked at in a way which makes everything so confusing. Everyone thinks that what they believe in is right, even when they’re questioning the outcomes. There are so many questions about the divine and the self. Every character has a crisis of faith and self after the events of Wicked Saints, and yet they all keep holding onto their beliefs despite that. Their faith is constantly shaken and confronted by something new, making them have to call into question every aspect of their lives. The unquestioning belief in their country/religion vs the truth of what they have seen and learnt keeps shifting their desires, and makes everyone seem so much more human.
One thing I really wanted more of in Wicked Saints was getting to know more of the history of the pantheon, more about the gods themselves and what divinity really means in this universe. We started to slowly get answers here which made everything feel like it’s slowly coming together. The monstrous and divine are so enmeshed in this series in a way I haven’t seen before. The conflicted imagery is so perfect, and it’s one of my favourite things about this series. Definitions of divinity from the different perspectives are also fascinating here, and I have so many questions.
I really can’t wait for book three. Ruthless Gods was a chaotic masterpiece of a book, and the only downside for me was that there were a couple of things I would have loved to see more of, or have further explanation on, but I’m hoping I will get those in the next book.
While I did enjoy this book I must admit that I did prefer the first one. Ruthless Gods suffers a bit from middle book syndrome in that it is there to be a journey to get to the third book and the final confrontation. This book did mainly consist of the characters travelling to a location they all believe can help them and give them answers. While this meant that there was less action sequences it did allow the reader to see more of the characters and what makes them tick. This included the secondary characters form the previous book. We were also introduced to a new important character. My biggest issue with this book is that this time the three main characters all have their separate agendas and reasons for wanting to go on this journey. In Wicked Saints they were more working towards a common goal, which I much preferred even if they did have their differences. I understand that they have different motivations and are on different sides on the war, and therefore are going to want different things. I just missed the dynamic that was there previously. We were given some answers and hints about the gods and magic of this world, and I am looking forward to the next book and am intrigued what will happen and how it all draws together.
Can't wait for book 3...