Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was given an ARC by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
I should start out by saying: I did not love Wicked Saints. I thought it was an average book, but I could feel it building towards something, which is why I was excited for this one. I had high hopes for this book to be much better than the first, but it fell flat for me. This will be non-spoiler, since the book hasn’t come out yet, but I will touch upon some things that happened in the first book, so if you didn’t read that one, you might want to steer clear of this review.
In the first book, it felt like a lot of build-up and it read very much like a debut novel, which of course, it was. I didn’t feel particularly attached to the characters, except Serefin. I had hoped that this book would win me over, but unfortunately, my opinion remains the same of many. I really really wanted to love this book. But this, like the first, was an average read for me.
Anyway, onto the review!
This book, jumps right in and immediately begins building the plot, where in the first, it took 150 pages to get some semblance of what was going on. It was definitely faster paced than the first one, which I did enjoy, but some parts of the book did drag and when they dragged, it seemed to go on forever. This is, as well as the lack of page numbers in the e-ARC (which of course has nothing to do with the book), was part of the reason was I read this book so slowly.
This book isn’t very action-based, it’s plot-heavy, so if you’re in the mood for a lighter fantasy read, you’re in the wrong place. Some of the chapters are steeped in information and I found that it wasn’t something I could give half my attention to and still know what’s going on, which lead me to have to go back and read a few things multiple times.
That being said, I don’t dislike Duncan’s writing style. I like a lot of her use of description, she paints really vivid images of specific scenes, specifically of Malachiasz. The plot was a lot better and was definitely more interesting than the first, but it was also complex. I love the voice she puts into her characters, it’s really distinct in each of them, which is something I enjoy, though I do still feel really distant from many of them despite that. Maybe first person POV would have helped to bring me closer, even though I generally prefer third.
I like how original the magic system is in this book, even if I don’t completely understand how it works. Other than the Tranavian blood mages, much of the magic within this world I haven’t encountered before. I only wish I knew more about it. We learn a little more about the gods in this book, which was nice. The title is about as accurate as they come.
I really liked how there were “interlude” chapters, in which it wasn’t Serefin or Nadya’s POV, but some of the side characters. I can’t really call them main characters when I still feel like I know next to nothing about some of them.
I love plot (so much), but I am a very character-driven reader, and if I’m not connected to the characters I’m not as invested in the story. I think that’s my main problem with this book. I didn’t feel completely connected to the characters, or like the characters enough to give this book any higher of a rating. It might just be me.
I did like how Parj got more page time, but there’s something spoilery that I can’t talk about now that has to do with her. I don’t really know why it’s completely relevant, maybe it will have some significance in the next book.
Also full disclosure: I deadass could not remember for the life of me who Kostya was. Whoops. Moving on to more important things.
I don’t see the appeal of Malachiasz. There I said it. He’s not some angsty misunderstood teenage boy. He’s not some soft boy who made a single mistake in his life that led him on the wrong path. He’s legitimately evil. He’s a literal monster with horns and apparently, as it was mentioned about 25 times, clusters of eyes opening up on his body (mainly on his cheek). He has a few one liners here and there, but I don’t even think he’s a completely compelling villain. I feel like Duncan definitely took some inspiration from the Darkling to create his character, but it doesn’t feel as well done as the Darkling does. The Darkling was likable, understandable and a captivating character, where Malachiasz is the type of character that makes me want to roll my eyes. He’s also a pathological liar, but I’ll get to that later. He isn’t a redeemable character. Just because he has pretty eyes and anxiously bites his fingernails doesn’t make him likable. The amount of times that the word boy is used to describe him is ridiculous. Some variation of “horrible, beautiful boy” of “terrible, monstrous, gorgeous boy” is used in almost every chapter in Nadya’s POV. Well, I suppose I should address my opinion of their pairing.
I want to say that I am a huge fan of enemies to lovers. It is one of my favorite trope and I am usually a sucker for it. I cannot stand Nadya and Malachiasz together. Like at all. I don’t understand why Nadya’s so drawn to him. He literally does something so disgusting in one of the early chapters of this book and a chapter later she’s talking about how “misunderstood” he is. I just don’t understand it. She keeps talking about how she’d love to get revenge on him for what he did to her at the end of the first book, but at the same time she looks at him and forgets that he did any of that. She keeps trying to think the best of him and he’s not someone that deserves that. He’s also a liar. He spent all of the first book straight up lying and he’s not exactly forthcoming in this one either. Yes, because this is a healthy way to build a relationship. And Nadya knows this and she still walks around willfully blind to every wrong he does. Literally Serefin shows up at hears Malachiasz say one sentence and knows he’s full of shit. I just can’t stand their relationship. And everyone else just sort of doesn’t react to it? Like this is a good or normal thing?
Nadya is definitely not a favorite protagonist of mine, mostly because of how naive she still is, even after everything. I’m going to call it naive and not stupid like I read in someone else’s review. I just feel like she has the common sense to put things together or to understand more things than she lets on, but again, she’s willfully blind to so many of the things that go on around her. It just annoys me a bit. But there were quite a few things that happened surrounding her in this book that I’m interested to see come to fruition in the next book.
Anyway, I won’t say much about her since she’s a brand new character, but Katya’s POV was an interesting one to get, especially since I feel like I know next to nothing about the actual monarchy in Kalyazin. I don’t know how their government works, but I assume its somewhat similar to Tranavia’s. Now that I think about it, there was more information about Akola’s government that there was of Kalyazin’s. Either way, I don’t know if I love her as a character, but I definitely think she’s intriguing and know she’ll be vital to the plot of the next book.
I think it’s time for me to finally talk about Serefin. I love Serefin. He’s by far my favorite character in this book. I definitely found myself the most connected to him. He’s having a rough go of it after everything that happened in the first book, btu I definitely found myself most excited for his chapters. I think that he’s a far more compelling character than Malachiasz, and I honestly would have preferred him as Nadya’s love interest, but knowing Duncan’s love of Star Wars’s Reylo, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. He’s such a complex character is in the midst of further development throughout this book. But pretty much everything that I could possibly say about him is spoilery, so I’m going to just leave it at that.
The ending of this book was by far my favorite part. From about the last 7 (maybe?) chapters onward I was a lot more invested in the story than I had been throughout most of the book. The pace changed completely and the ending few chapters felt rejuvenated. It’s a crazy ending, if I’m being honest. I won’t say anything about it, but I will say that.
Lastly, I feel that some of the ideas in the book are sound enough, but they aren’t executed in a way that particularly hit the nail on the head for me. It was sort of a half-hit. I will read the last book when it comes out since I dedicated myself to the first two and I hope that I enjoy it more than I liked these.
That’s pretty much all I had to say, but if I think of anything else, I’ll come back to this review and add.
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Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan