“Prepare for a snow-frosted, blood-drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love
ends up being the nightmare.” - Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-
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.
“This book destroyed me and I adored it.”- Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author
N A D E Z H D A
Horz stole the stars and the heavens out from underneath
Myesta’s control, and for that she has never forgiven him.
For where can the moons rest if not the heavens?
—Codex of the Divine, 5:26
“It’s certainly not my fault you chose a child who sleeps so
deeply. If she dies it will very much be your fault, not mine.”
Startled by bickering gods was not Nadya’s preferred
method of being woken up. She rolled to her feet in the
dark, moving automatically. It took her eyes a few sec-
onds to catch up with the rest of her body.
It wasn’t wise to tell the gods to shut up, but it was
too late now. A feeling of amused disdain flowed through
her, but neither of the gods spoke again. She realized it
was Horz, the god of the heavens and the stars, who had
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EMILY A. DUNCAN
woken her. He had a tendency to be obnoxious but generally
left Nadya alone, as a rule.
Usually only a single god communed with their chosen
cleric. There once had been a cleric named Kseniya Mirokhina
who was gifted with unnatural marksmanship by Devonya, the
goddess of the hunt. And Veceslav had chosen a cleric of his
own, long ago, but their name was lost to history, and he re-
fused to talk about them. The recorded histories never spoke
of clerics who could hear more than one god. That Nadya com-
muned with the entire pantheon was a rarity the priests who
trained her could not explain.
There was a chance older, more primordial gods existed,
ones that had long since given up watch of the world and left
it in the care of the others. But no one knew for sure. Of the
twenty known gods, however, carvings and paintings depicted
their human forms, though no one knew what they actually
looked like. No cleric throughout history had ever looked upon
the faces of the gods. No saint, nor priest.
Each had their own power and magic they could bestow
upon Nadya, and while some were forthcoming, others were
not. She had never spoken to the goddess of the moons, My-
esta. She wasn’t even sure what manner of power the goddess
would give, if she so chose.
And though she could commune with many gods, it was im-
possible to forget just who had chosen her for this fate: Mar-
zenya, the goddess of death and magic, who expected complete
Indistinct voices murmured in the dark. She and Anna had
found a secluded place within a copse of thick pine trees to
set up their tent, but it no longer felt safe. Nadya slid a voryen
from underneath her bedroll and nudged Anna awake.
She moved to the mouth of the tent, grasping at her beads,
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a prayer already forming on her lips, smoky symbols trailing
from her mouth. She could see the blurry impressions of fig-
ures in the darkness, far off in the distance. It was hard to judge
the number, two? Five? Ten? Her heart sped at the possibility
that a company of Tranavians were already on her trail.
Anna drew up beside her. Nadya’s grip on her voryen tight-
ened, but she kept still. If they hadn’t seen their tent yet, she
could keep them from noticing it entirely.
But Anna’s hand clasped her forearm.
“Wait,” she whispered, her breath frosting out before her in
the cold. She pointed to a dark spot just off to the side of the
Nadya pressed her thumb against Bozidarka’s bead and her
eyesight sharpened until she could see as clearly as if it were
day. It took effort to shove aside the immediate, paralyzing fear
as her suspicions were confirmed and Tranavian uniforms be-
came clear. It wasn’t a full company. In fact, they looked rather
ragged. Perhaps they had split off and lost their way.
More interesting, though, was the boy with a crossbow si-
lently aiming into the heart of the group.
“We can get away before they notice,” Anna said.
Nadya almost agreed, almost slipped her voryen back into
its sheath, but just then, the boy fired and the trees erupted
into chaos. Nadya wasn’t willing to use an innocent’s life as a
distraction for her own cowardice. Not again.
Even as Anna protested, Nadya let a prayer form fully in
her mind, hand clutching at Horz’s bead on her necklace and
its constellation of stars. Symbols fell from her lips like glow-
ing glimmers of smoke and every star in the sky winked out.
Well, that was more extreme than I intended, Nadya thought
with a wince. I should’ve known better than to ask Horz for any-
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EMILY A. DUNCAN
She could hear cursing as the world plunged into darkness.
Anna sighed in exasperation beside her.
“Just stay back,” she hissed as she moved confidently through
“Nadya . . .” Anna’s groan was soft.
It took more focus to send a third prayer to Bozetjeh. It was
hard to catch Bozetjeh on a good day; the god of speed was
notoriously slow to answer prayers. But she managed to snag
his attention and received a spell allowing her to move as fast
as the vicious Kalyazin wind.
Her initial count had been wrong; there were six Tranavians
now scattering into the forest. The boy dropped his crossbow
with a bewildered look up into the sky, startling when Nadya
touched his shoulder.
There was no way he could see in this darkness, but she
could. When he whirled, a curved sword in his hand, Nadya
sidestepped. His swing went wide and she shoved him in the
direction of a fleeing Tranavian, anticipating their collision.
“Find the rest,” Marzenya hissed. “Kill them all.”
Complete and total dedication.
She caught up to one of the figures, stabbing her voryen into
his skull just underneath his ear.
Not so difficult this time, she thought. But the knowledge was
a distant thing.
Blood sprayed, splattering a second Tranavian, who cried
out in alarm. Before the second man could figure out what had
happened to his companion, she lashed out her heel, catching
him squarely on the jaw and knocking him off his feet. She
slit his throat.
Three more. They couldn’t have moved far. Nadya took up
Bozidarka’s bead again. The goddess of vision revealed where
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the last Tranavians were located. The boy with the sword had
managed to kill two in the dark. Nadya couldn’t actually see
the last one, just felt him nearby, very much alive.
Something slammed into Nadya’s back and suddenly the
chilling bite of a blade was pressed against her throat. The boy
appeared in front of her, his crossbow back in his hands, thank-
fully not pointed at Nadya. It was clear he could only barely
see her. He wasn’t Kalyazi, but Akolan.
A fair number of Akolans had taken advantage of the war
between their neighbors, hiring out their swords for profit
on both sides. They were known for favoring Tranavia simply
because of the warmer climate. It was rare to find a creature
of the desert willingly stumbling through Kalyazin’s snow.
He spoke a fluid string of words she didn’t understand. His
posture was languid, as if he hadn’t nearly been torn to pieces
by blood mages. The blade against Nadya’s throat pressed
harder. A colder voice responded to him, the foreign language
scratched uncomfortably at her ears.
Nadya only knew the three primary languages of Kalyazin
and passing Tranavian. If she wasn’t going to be able to com-
municate with them . . .
The boy said something else and Nadya heard the girl sigh
before she felt the blade slip away. “What’s a little Kalyazi as-
sassin doing out in the middle of the mountains?” he asked,
switching to perfect Kalyazi.
Nadya was very aware of the boy’s friend at her back. “I
could ask the same of you.”
She shifted Bozidarka’s spell, sharpening her vision further.
The boy had skin like molten bronze and long hair with gold
chains threaded through his loose curls.
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. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.
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