When I found out there was a dark YA fantasy partially inspired by Poland, I knew I had to get on that hype train asap. Thank you Wednesday Books for an ARC of Wicked Saints, Emily A. Duncan’s debut about blood magic, religion, pious girls, alcoholic princes, and monster boys. Dark and gothic in aesthetic, this book is not for the faint of heart and I loved so much about the conflict and dynamics among our three protagonists, Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz. Emily took time to answer some questions about Nadya’s holy relationships and books to read once the book hangover wears off.
Nadya has a very close relationship with the gods on her prayer beads. Where did the inspiration for both the gods and their dynamics with our heroine come from?
I wanted a pantheon that was constructed alongside the magic system, so that they would be interwoven. Some of the gods resemble some of their real Slavic counterparts, but all of the gods in my book are, ultimately, totally made up, but I wanted each one to feel unique and have their own personalities, and to not necessarily have those personalities totally match whatever it was those gods represented. So some of them want to work with Nadya, some of them like her (as much as a god really can like a mortal), and some of them refuse to work with her unless under duress. And if you’ve grown up with a whole pantheon of gods chiming in on your day to day life, like Nadya had, it would stand to reason you would become close with some but not necessarily others.
What came first: the characters, the world, or the aesthetic?
Strangely, the aesthetics came first? Which isn’t normal for me, usually the first things are the characters. In a strange turn of events, the characters were the last to show up.
Personally, having finished the first book, I cannot wait for Wicked Saints 2. What are some books you would recommend to keep us in the Tranavian and Kalyazi spirit? What are some books that inspired this story?
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is gorgeous and weaves Russian folklore in imaginative ways. Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer if you want something very dark. I was actually far more inspired by video games for Wicked Saints than I was books, though there’s a lot of Dragonlance inspiration in all my works–including this one.
Polish and Russian are not the most intuitive languages (trust me, I speak one of them). Emily developed this handy pronunciation guide for all the characters, places, and gods of Wicked Saints
Emily A. Duncan works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. She lives in Ohio. Wicked Saints is her first book and you can get it today from Amazon, Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, or wherever books are sold. You can follow her over at Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.