Wicked Saints & To Best The Boys || Two 5-Star Young Adult Fantasy That Brings Strong Heroines Under The Spotlight

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.



Wicked Saints will give you a saint who can ask (and be granted) God for powers, a boy from the ‘other side’ who doesn’t believe in God, a prince who’s apparently cruel, loads of blood magic and power harnessing, heartbreaks, and heart flutters.

“We’re all monsters, Nadya.”
“Some of us just hide it better than others.”

The plot of this book impresses me like no other. It combines beliefs and thoughts into understandable chaos that certainly mashes up to, unfortunately, force you to take sides. But you can’t! Because the characters are complex and they believe in what they believe in, and there won’t be a point where you can clearly call one right and the other wrong. It’s a great fantasy that is built on the power of magic. 

“And who are you that you can do what countless others have failed at over a century?” No one. Just a girl. Some small scrap of divinity. She shrugged. “I’m the first person who refuses to fail.”

The characters are amazing. Nadya is on the run from the cruel prince or anyone from the enemy side, her beads working as a connection between her and the Gods. She’s gifted but is also intelligent, smart, and uses her heart on the right occasions. Serefin is the prince whose father is eager to sacrifice him for power, his hands adorn a cut every now and then when he uses his blood magic. He’s not too keen on emotions but he’s definitely cunning to find a way out of anything. There are other characters who I’m not mentioning for spoiler purposes. Just pick up the book already! 

“How do you do it? Live without faith?”

The writing is another aspect that I would love to appreciate. It stunningly encompasses every emotion and setting while developing the story in a very subtle manner. You’ll never know when you start loving (OR HATING) a character and suddenly there’s a twist. The alternate POVs are always hard to execute so well but I guess Emily Duncan can help you learn through this book. 

Finally, I don’t know what else to say about this book without either spoiling it for you or sounding repetitive. So trust me, just pick it up and trust me, you won’t be disappointed! 

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.



To Best The Boys is a story that gives you a strong, intelligent, brave, inspirational female character, loads of understandable science, growing relationships and ardent friendships, humanity, and extreme thrill and anticipation.

What doesn’t kill you makes you compelling.

The plot is exciting with a lot of things at stake and the evident imbalance of respect between the Uppers and Lowers urging Rhen, the daughter of a scientist father and a mother who is bed-ridden with the ‘crippling disease’ (a lung disease that gradually kills), to win the scholarship competition and enter the Labyrinth. 

Because I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m just tired of feeling like the way things are is the only way they can ever be.

The best theme explored in this book is certainly feminism. Rhen’s attitude to the societal norms is challenging and gives her a fiery aura to stand tall and strong in a competition that has only ever been played by boys. Not only this, her parents and friends never suspect her energy for equality and in fact, support her feministic views by pitching in their own righteous thoughts. 

“They feared she’d be a distraction.” She snorts. “Apparently your feminine wiles are capable of making them idiots, Rhen.”

Another strength of the story is its relationships. Whether it’s Rhen and her parents or Rhen and Seleni (her best friend and cousin), the characters have tons of strings attached and no reader can complain because it pulls all the emotions out of you. The science is nothing that one can’t understand and not because it’s ‘easy’ but because it’s wonderfully incorporated into the plot and explained through excellent writing that makes it easy to understand. Being a fan of adventures and puzzles in books, I found the race through the maze to be a stunning collection of thrilling incidents and surprising events. 

“That makes me sound like the crazy ocean with all its sirens and storms.” 
A funny look flashes across his face. “Why do you think I love it so much?

What were your recent 5-star reads? Which YA Fantasy did you read last? And did you love it? Is fantasy even a genre you like to read? Let’s chat!

This post may contain affiliate links; to know more click here. All quotes are from an advanced readers copy provided by the publishers via Netgalley but that, in no way, affects my rating and/or review. Thank you, Wednesday Books and Thomas Nelson Books!


Read more of my reviews here. Add me on Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter 


11 thoughts on “Wicked Saints & To Best The Boys || Two 5-Star Young Adult Fantasy That Brings Strong Heroines Under The Spotlight

  1. I just love the way you write your reviews! Your colour scheme is one constant that I’ll recognize anywhere. Both of these books sounds so good! Adding them to my already overwhelming TBR right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you so much, Sumedha! The colors are the only reason I blog, haha, just kidding XD Sure, go ahead and them but I hope you read them soon and love them ❤


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