I expected a lot after Wicked Saints and Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan went above and beyond in its delivery.
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.
Ruthless Gods by Emliy A. Duncan picks up a few months after the end of the last book. Serefin is now king while Nadya remains in the Travanian capital and Malachiasz is formally commanding the Vultures. However, this fragile peace the three have created quickly shatters when Nadya is forced to flee the capital. With Serefin in tow, they both have to save their countries and confront what Malachiasz has become.
Nadya and Serefin’s respective relationships to Malachiasz become the driving force of the novel. Nadya is torn between her love for him, his betrayal, and her love for her country. Serefin struggles to reconcile the boy he grew up alongside with the monster he became.
These dynamics were my favourite part of the novel. I especially loved the way Nadya and Malachiasz crashed into each other, as it’s a rare thing to see in YA. Throughout the novel, Nadya’s feelings are in such turmoil that it kept me on my toes up until the climax, even though her choice was cleverly foreshadowed. Duncan has done a masterful job writing the interactions between these two characters, and I cannot applaud her enough for it.
Ruthless Gods is truly made special by its characters, both main and secondary. Parj, Rashid, Kacper, and Ostyia complete the main characters and enrich the story as a whole. Not only because we get glimpses of their backstory and lives outside the plot, but also because the dynamic between them and Nadya, Malachiasz and Serefin is unique to each character.
Another aspect I loved was the casual inclusion of LGBTQ+ characters, both in terms of sexuality and gender identity. Duncan uses gender neutral pronouns to refer to one of the divine entities in the latter half of the book. The lack of conflict arising from this is not only refreshing, but allows the reader to concentrate on the plot rather than be distracted by an unlinked subplot.
Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan is a fantastic sequel that more than lives up to its predecessor. Despite how grim and bleak the story itself gets, I greatly enjoyed myself while reading it and look forward to the conclusion!