Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan is a sequel to Wicked Saints, and the second book in the Something Dark and Holy trilogy.
I received an ARC of this book through NetGalley. This is my honest opinion, which I am providing willingly.
TRIGGER WARNING: alcohol abuse, drug use, gore
There will be spoilers for the previous book included in this review, so if you haven’t read it, consider waiting to read this post.
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.
Serefin is now the king of Tranavia, facing unrest in his court and distractions in his head. As a result of the events in the last book, Serefin has been claimed by Velyos (a fallen god). He’s worried that he’s losing his mind, and his drinking is escalating in consequence. Getting Żaneta back from the Vultures is the best way he can figure out to reduce the pushback from the nobles, lead by Żaneta’s father.
Nadya has lost her connection to the gods who have guided her throughout her entire life. She has no powers, and has lost the boy that she loves. She’s become allied with Serefin, and spends most of her time is focused on reading religious texts in the library of the palace, trying to uncover something that she can use to help Serefin and try to regain her own powers. For the vast majority of the book, Nadya waffles between lamenting the loss of her powers/connection to the gods and hating Malachiasz but loving him at the same time. Mostly the second part.
“And as much as she hated it, she lingered, hoping for the return of the sad, broken boy who had brought her here … Why should she hope for the boy who had betrayed her so completely?”
Nadya also has some kind of power that isn’t connected to the gods, but it’s not even close to what she’s used to, and she isn’t even sure where it comes from. The lines of corruption coming from the mark on her palm bring up a plot point I’m familiar with from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. There’s also a tether there that made me think of the Throne of Glass series — along with the idea of gods who have their own agenda that isn’t made clear to their pawns.
Malachiasz, more than anything, just reminds me of the Darkling that Leigh Bardugo created as well, but I struggled to see Malachiasz exhibit the lure that the Darkling was known for.
I didn’t absolutely love Wicked Saints, but I was honestly hoping that book 2 would be better (in the way that second books have a tendency to improve dramatically). Unfortunately, it didn’t and I found myself underwhelmed.
There were some issues that really started to get to me the further into the book I read.
I started dreading Nadya’s chapters, knowing that in each one she would be whining about Malachiasz betraying her but wanting to save him at the same time. I had hoped to have Nadya reclaim her strength and become a main character, rather than a supporting character to further a romantic arc that is beaten to death. It never happened. Romance doesn’t seem to be a great arc for any of the characters — there’s a gay romance arc, but it felt like more of a plot point than an actual romance that I could get invested in.
There were a lot of overused words and phrases. I got so tired of reading “onyx eyes,” “beautiful boy,” “sad boy,” and the word “eldritch,” which was inexplicably used so. many. times. There’s also a huge fixation on additional eyes appearing — it happens many times throughout the book and skeeved me out every time.
“A cluster of eyes, in unsettling colors and dripping blood, opened up on his cheek.”
I spent a large portion of the book feeling confused and as though there was something going on that I clearly missed, even though I read these books pretty close to each other (within a few days). I read on, hoping that things would be explained further on, but alas, it did not happen. The foreign words sprinkled throughout the book also weren’t defined. I’m still not clear on the vast majority of them. Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for using foreign words, but defining them makes it so much easier to understand what is being spoken about.
I know there’s a third book that is planned, but I definitely won’t be reading it. I’d rather not spend additional time vacillating between grossed out, confused, and frustrated, when I can just revisit books that address similar themes, but do it way better.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 10
Overall Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
This post uses affiliate links and I will receive a small commission for purchases made through my links at no additional cost to you.
Did you read Ruthless Gods? What did you think of it?