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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.

544 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 7, 2020

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About the author

Emily A. Duncan

5 books2,755 followers
“Emily A. Duncan was born and raised in Ohio and 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 is represented by Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.”

Review/Rating Policy: I am a creature of many strong wills and book opinions so I only rate books I deeply adore. Everything else is just marked as read.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,905 reviews
Profile Image for Emily Duncan.
Author 5 books2,755 followers
April 9, 2020
it's weird! it's cerebral! everyone is sad! it nearly killed me! it's a good 100 pages longer than WICKED SAINTS!

if you like cosmic horror, forests that want to eat you, and very sad very pretty boys and very tired very done with everything girls then i have a book for you.

that's all, see ya in 2020.

edit: 6.19.19: ~we have a cover~ and i'm just going to come out ahead of arcs and put the necessary content warnings here because we're dealing with about the same level of blood/self harm as Wicked Saints, about the same level of alcoholism (Serefin is Having A Time), i guess the same level of gore? That one is rough because each person's understanding of what gore is in a book is different, I didn't think WS was particularly gory but some readers did! So! Keep that in mind I think RG is about the same level in regards to that, some minor drug use as a magic avenue (it's mushrooms, but still!), the big one in this book is body horror/eye horror. Mainly eye horror. There is so much eye horror in this book I don't know what happened. So if eye stuff gets to you (it gets to me idk how i wrote this) I'd be careful with this one!

edit: 8.1.19: i have the Actual Page Numbers now and while there's weird eye stuff throughout the book but there's massive eye trauma on pages 513/514. So, those are the pages to avoid if it's something that squicks you out, and they absolutely can be skipped, you can figure out what happens in them in the next chapter.

edit: 4.9.20: it’s OUT have FUN drink WATER. I just listened to the sixteen hour audiobook in two days and it’s a DELIGHT.
Profile Image for Hannah.
18 reviews171 followers
July 8, 2020
It is difficult to know how to begin a Goodreads review of a book when its author so regularly takes to Twitter to decry her Goodreads reviewers. One gains the impression that one’s review of this book, and of its predecessor Wicked Saints, is less an honest opinion provided for an audience of potential readers than some sort of opening argument directed to an audience of one. I find myself selecting my phrases not based on how helpful or informational they might be to you, the Goodreads user, but on how likely the author is to take them as a personal attack, or to seize upon them as the reason this review and any other negative ones she happens to come across can and must be dismissed out of hand.

I will admit that I find this sensation unpleasant. For obvious reasons, it feels as if this behavior by the author creates a sort of chilling effect towards any attempt to review her books at all. I wouldn’t like to speculate that this is the author’s intent; intent is, of course, not magic, and often entirely unrelated to its effects. When I was learning to write, my workshops had a rule consistent across institutions and skill levels: the writer would be forbidden from giving counter-feedback, personal opinions, or further information until the critique session was done. I am skeptical that, were I in writing lessons with this author, she would remain capable of adhering to this rule. Then again—I find myself suspecting that this is not the only reason being in writing lessons with this author might prove a disagreeable experience.

This said, I promise that this is not a review of the author’s Twitter behavior. I am not interested in recounting the author’s attitude and behavior towards her reviewers, her fellow YA authors, or her own writing, except insofar that that attitude and behavior reflects upon the quality of this book.

I read the previous book in this series twice; the first time out of casual interest, and the second time because I had retained nothing of the plot and characters and assumed a second read-through would make the book more memorable for me. It did not. Reading Wicked Saints gave me the strange sensation of eating plain cotton candy: it dissolved instantly, and left an unpleasant graininess behind. Armed and prepared for my ARC of Ruthless Gods with a large stack of Post-Its, color-coded specifically so I could note how many times the author used the phrase “onyx eyes”, I embarked on the sequel.


The answer, for the record, is ten.

I’d like to take the opportunity to quote a few of these, and then to quote a few more sentences I marked with “Awk.” or “???” It’s difficult to fully describe how jolting, ungraceful, and unappealing Ruthless Gods is to read on a purely textual level. I’ll attempt to show you, with spoiler cuts for length:

And some of the non-onyx-related sentences:

It is so off-putting to read these sentences that it became difficult to finish the book. What’s more, the prose was not merely ugly (and overfond of onyx) but flawed in clichéd, obvious ways that nearly every up-and-coming author has heard routinely mocked by her peers. For example, the author uses the word “suddenly” forty-one times in this book, and the word “somehow” twenty-one. It’s certainly okay to use the word “suddenly” to describe that something has happened suddenly. What is famously less okay is using the words “suddenly” and “somehow” to avoid description, or to avoid explaining how or why something occurred. Unfortunately, nearly every one of the occurrences of these words falls into the second usage—again, below the cut:

Please don’t misunderstand me: I understand that information is often implied by prose, instead of explicitly stated. In this case, however, I do not believe information is implied by these sentences, because I do not believe such information exists. There is nothing in the text to indicate the author knows the answers to any of the questions I have asked.

Why is it important that the author know this information, some of which appears very minor? Because it’s important that the world and characters that an author creates exist not only on the page, but in her imagination. I’ll discuss at length later in this review how comprehensively Ms. Duncan fails at this task, but for now, understand that with her jarring lack of cause-and-effect, description, detail, and internal logic, she actively chips away at her own believability; and she does so sixty-two times using these words alone.

It’s also worth noting that the sentence “The blood drained from her face.” occurs five times in this book.

It seems to me that many of the problems I have just discussed could have been easily caught and fixed by an editor at any stage of publication. It took me, an amateur reading for fun in my spare time, roughly an hour to find and list them. There are two possibilities: firstly, that no editor decided to use one hour of their workday to improve this book’s writing; and secondly, that this is in fact what the book looks like after hours of careful editing. Both possibilities alarm me.

Characters, Dialogue, and Voice

There’s not much to say about the voices in this novel aside from that they’re wildly inconsistent in tone and diction, adding to the general unpleasantness of the reading experience. Every line of dialogue veers wildly between casual Internet-voiced banter and ominous purple-prose-voiced angst, usually in the same sentence.

The worst offender in this is the character of Pelageya, an ancient witch who is Baghra from the Grisha trilogy and shows up several times to give our heroes plot-relevant information and then vanish immediately. At one point she says, “Not what I expected. But you are. One half of my delightfully bloodthirsty and pathetically delusional blood mage pair”, which sounds more like Cheryl Blossom than a witch from the dawn of time; she then says immediately, “A boy born in a gilded hall and a boy born in darkness. Bred in bitterness and bred in lies”, which sounds more like a voiceover from a movie trailer than a witch from the dawn of time. Also worthy of note is the being who appears to provide the following lines of dialogue:

“The being snapped his fingers. “Right, right, right. So little your kind sees. So little they know. Like children, staggering through the world...”

This is what I mean about the tonal whiplash—I’m not sure whether I’m listening to Yoda or Biff from Back to the Future. It would, I should note, be interesting to read a character in whom these voices are deliberately, thoughtfully blended. These are not such characters. Their seesawing dialogue is evidence not of an artistic choice but of a lack thereof: the author is plainly not attempting to create a voice for them at all, either because voice is not in her toolbox or because she simply does not wish to put in the effort. Again, neither possibility provides a good impression.

The at-times-dramatic, at-times-quippy, never-given-character tone of the dialogue and monologues in this book reminds me of nothing more—and I apologize for the specificity of the analogy—than playing Dungeons & Dragons with someone who is not very good at playing Dungeons & Dragons. There is a particular type of roleplayer (or improv theatre participant, or co-writer, or any sort of similar role that you can think of) whose main goal in every scene is to get the last word. They tend to give long, flowery speeches, and to conclude them with sharp, superior insults. They are then shocked when their friends, instead of simply being impressed into silence by their cleverness, choose to respond. If these players are willing to learn, it takes them many months to treat scenes as opportunities to tell stories, as opposed to opportunities to look cool. If these players are unwilling to learn, they eventually become convinced that all their former friends now despise them because they are just too good at Dungeons & Dragons. This is half true.

Every scene in Ruthless Gods feels like playing Dungeons and Dragons with a person whose main goal is to get the last word. The exception is that on the page the author can, in fact, force her characters into impressed silence when someone says something cool. This does a great deal to highlight each line whose role is to sound cool, and very little to make the characters and scenes lifelike or believable.

Midway through this book, our heroine briefly acquires what may or may not be a rival to her love interest, a childhood friend named Kostya. I say “may or may not” because, while Kostya is a childhood friend of Nadya’s and it is suggested that he has feelings for her, there is no suggestion that Nadya will legitimately end up with Kostya or that they will remain friends at the end of the trilogy. We met Kostya very briefly in Wicked Saints, where he and Nadya interacted for a chapter or two before being separated. For this reason, the fact that Nadya apparently likes and cares for him must be taken on blind faith. She certainly does not seem to much like or care for him in Ruthless Gods, where he is present mostly to threaten to separate her and Maliachasz, and to show the reader that fantasy Russians are overly rigid and dogmatic. Neither of these are particularly likable roles for a character to take on, and it is plain that Nadya and the author greatly dislike him for occupying both.

Meanwhile, Maliachasz is our designated love interest. Nadya fell in love with him in the last book, and spends an extraordinary percentage of this book “scolding herself inwardly” for having pleasant thoughts about him. Some descriptions of Maliachasz by Nadya below the cut:

I have met a great number of teenage boys in my life, most of them when I myself was a teenager, and even had crushes on some of them. I never found anything particularly charming, sad, or pitiable about the fact that they were boys; most boys are. It’s a common trait among that demographic. Nadya evidently feels differently, which is certainly her right.

Review continued below:
Profile Image for  Teodora .
303 reviews1,631 followers
April 29, 2023
4.75/5 ⭐

Full review on my Blog: The Dacian She-Wolf 🐺

I hope you brought some torches with you for this one because it’s about to get dark.
Correction: darker.

I stated in my previous review, Wicked Saints, that while reading this book I got the exact same uncomfortable sensation I had as a child while entering my old childhood Orthodox church. The incense was strong, the saints were looking down at you from the walls and the ceiling and countless old ladies were gawking at you because you forgot to do some ritualistic stuff before other ritualistic stuff like the miscreant you are.

There is something poking you in the ribs while reading this book, something that feels unsettling. But this aspect just adds to the great deal that Ruthless Gods is. No mistake here.
It’s goth and cold and me likes it very.

“You danced at the edge of darkness and light and you fell.”

The atmosphere is the most incredible thing of this sequel. No matter that you happen to sit on top of your comfy bed with a cup of herbal tea in your hand while reading this, if there is a scene in a dark forest in the middle of the night where mythical creatures lurk in the shadow and look at you with hunger, you’ll be right there with them and you’re going to freeze your heart off because of the fright.

For me it’s been this way. Or like I’m being trapped in a heavy metal music video. Either work equally fine.



Ruthless Gods is a total chaos. But in a good way.
It’s full of darkness, gore, betrayal and lies. Oh, and moths. And lots and lots of bleeding eyes. And nightmarish creatures from the deepest and darkest wells of Slavic folkloric minds.

The leitmotif of the book (or at least one of them) seems to be the eye. There are eyes everywhere. They appear everywhere and on everything. And in any circumstances. Their presence symbolises the unsettling feeling of being watched. Constantly. Disturbingly. You are not alone. You are never alone.
Big Brother style, but creepier.

The existence of older, darker fallen gods shows how much deeper the digging site of the Slavic mythology goes. These ancient creatures are so old that they are a bit more than completely forgotten.

“What if the gods you worship aren’t gods at all?”

Nadya and Malachiasz’s relationship is definitely still odd and a bit unhealthy by the beginning of the book but towards the end it just becomes less odd and somehow starts to function – mainly because they start to admit certain feelings.

“Can you love someone and ask them to shatter themselves for you?”

Even though Malachiasz is a total walking and talking antithesis, he has certain moments when he’s so sweet and gentle and loving you’ll just melt with affection. I loved that Malachiasz and I was constantly looking forward to encountering his cute moments.

“But the exhausted boy with the devastating grin who only wanted the girl he cared about close so he could sleep through the night?”


One last thing I want to highlight is that there are new characters entering scene and also some old characters gain importance. And this seems somehow to change a bit the game.

What the hell, man. This book is good. And it shows you things if you really open your mind to see them.
So just go, go, go for it!

“Can you love a god? No, such things were impossible.”
Profile Image for jessica.
2,533 reviews32.3k followers
October 4, 2019
i have no idea what kind of dark and holy sorcery i was able to conjure in order to get myself an ARC of this so early, but praise to all the wicked saints and ruthless gods alike, because wow. this is EXACTLY the kind of darkness i needed to kick off my spooktober!

just like its predecessor, this sequel is so seductively wicked, so gothically bloody, so cruelly romantic; and my black soul has never been happier.

although the pacing seems to be bit slower than i remember it being in the first book, there is so much time devoted to character development that i cant really complain. serefin has become so beautifully tragic, i cant even with him. and malachiasz is still just as broken and tortured as ever. but everyones stories keep intertwining with each others and with the different kinds of magic and its just a sight to see.

my only issue keeping me from giving this 5 stars, even though i really want to, is how there seems to be a lot of jumps in the narrative. there are many instances where it went from point a to point f and i had no idea how i got there. its as if i had skipped over a chapter and lost out on vital information. not sure if this is an ARC editing issue that will be corrected before publication (i sure hope so), but i spent a lot of time trying to connect all the dots. i will definitely be reading a final copy to see if the flow in narration is fixed, because i really want to give this 5 stars!

anyways, everyone get read for this, because its just as ruthless as the title promises!

a very massive and genuine thanks to wednesday books for providing an ARC!

4.5 stars
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,536 reviews9,771 followers
March 13, 2021
Ruthless Gods, the second installment in Emily A. Duncan's Something Dark and Holy trilogy, continues to bring all the dark atmosphere I cherish.

Significantly more brutal than your average YA Fantasy series, this second book especially, toed the line of Horror and I'm here for it.

Our three main characters, Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz, return and y'all, these characters go through it.

This world is extremely brutal. The magic and the landscape, it seems everything is out to get them; maybe even each other.

I enjoyed the character growth in this sequel, as each protagonist is faced with their own private battles. As they continue to grow closer, outside forces are simultaneously tearing them apart.

Each is battling their own demons, causing conflict amongst them. Meddlesome Gods continue to play them like pawns in a game. The intensity is constant.

This was definitely an action-packed ride!

I'll admit, I wish I would have taken the time to go back and review the first novel, particularly the ending, prior to picking this one up.

Up to around the 50% point, I was confused. I was enjoying it because of the writing, but it was a confused enjoyment.

My plan is to reread the first two books prior to the release of the third. I absolutely will be sticking with this until its, no doubt, savage conclusion.

I love this world. Based on an Eastern European culture and landscape, I find that the aspects of terrain and local folklore and legends, really add to my overall enjoyment of the story.

If you are a fan of Grimdark Fantasy, Blood Magic and Gods who manipulate the worlds around them, then you should definitely pick this series up!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it so much!

Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,460 reviews9,613 followers
April 7, 2020
My special edition came from Owlcrate. Beautiful art under dust jacket plus a pin

I have no words! I mean I have a few. These poor broken babies!! We learn lots of things. Go through a million more. That ending!!!!! I hope for something good in next book.

More closer to pub date when I can quote and stuff

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
December 8, 2020

September Tier List Video is up! Check it out for all my September reads!
The Written Review

Heart Eyes all the way! Can’t wait to dive into this one!

Update - it ended up being surprisingly good. Very unexpected

With thanks to Macmillan Publishing and Emily A. Duncan for a free copy in exchange for an honest review

YouTube | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Snapchat @miranda_reads
May 10, 2021
The Gods are ruthless and friends can be just as bad!

This was an amazing book. So much happened and I loved it all. Like Wicked Saints, nothing in this book was predictable. It was truly an adventure fantasy. The three main characters and their sidekicks started out in the capital city of Tranavia and ended up going on an Epic Journey to the far side of Kalyazin to change life as they know it by either ending the war or freeing the Gods from whatever made them stop talking to the cleric, Nadya.

This book was scintillating, thrilling, intriguing and heart wrenching. The world-building was amazing, the characters were multi-dimensional and well thought out. The romances were sweet and heartbreaking all at the same time. This is one of my all time favorites already. It has Blood Mage’s, Witches, Dark Magic, Kings, Queens, Gods and Monsters, what could be better?

It starts out with Malachiasz retreating to the salt mines, which is the domain of the vultures. We still aren’t aware of what exactly happened to him after the plan to kill the King of Tranavia didn’t go as expected. Nadya is at the castle with the prince Serefin and is still pretending to belong at the Travanian court, though both her and Serefin know that it is a weak explanation and watch for his detractors to figure out she is from Kalyazin and come to execute her as a traitor. If that happens, it won’t be long after that they come for Serefin for harboring her.

The main detractor is Żaneta’s Father, Patryk Ruminski who wants her retuned and is threatening Serefin. So Serefin, Nadya, Ostyia, Kacper, Parijahan, and Rashid leave the palace to travel to the salt mines to try to talk Malachiasz into letting them bring Zaneta home to her father for the good of the country. The descriptions in the book on places like the salt mine are great. It makes it feel like you are there.

”It never got any lighter and so she was never able to see. The air tasted of iron, a metallic tinge clung to it. The darkness was unbearable. Things moved in the depths of the dark and she could not tell if the creatures that crouched in the corners of the labyrinthine passages and slunk in the doorways, with their rows and rows of teeth, that appeared vaguely human, were real, or if her brain was imagining them.”

I won’t give away any spoilers past the beginning of the book and what is in the blurb, but the rest of the book is just as awesome. Serefin is hearing a God in his head from what happened to him at the end of Wicked Saints, Nadya is stressed because the Gods of the pantheon aren’t talking to her and Malachiasz is struggling with his power and hunger for more. So much happens and there are plot twists and obstacles along the way all leading to a brilliant ending. Of course there will be a third book so it ends in a cliffhanger, but the book is so great I actually didn’t mind. Though it will be tough waiting for the next book.

I voluntarily read & reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

Profile Image for Nastassja.
423 reviews986 followers
May 3, 2021

Ruthless Gods is out today! Don't forget to check out the book if you haven't done it yet! Happy reading! ;)

And just because I love this book, here's some art made by yours truly:

**Many thanks to Wednesday Books and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC of this book**

Actual rating: 4.5 stars

The world they wish is broken bones and blood—always blood.

To finish this monstrous book on Friday the 13th and on full moon is a sign. A sign that this terrible, erratic, weird but beautiful book means something special to me. Three days of my life were solely dedicated to it. I was so engrossed in the story I couldn't properly eat, sleep, or do anything normal like interacting with people. But who cares about interactions when you have the whole world unraveling at your fingertips. Gods, this book is like a corrupted memory that gets stuck in your brain, infesting every cell with its maddening force. But I was a willing victim for the second time since Wicked Saints came out and captured my mind.

What I love about this series the most is how hard it is to grasp the reality inside the story: you never, for 100%, sure what is going on, you never know who to trust, you never fully understand that terrifying world inside the book. It's so gothic, so dark, so repelling with its bloody horrors coming off the pages, but it's also so unique and different from so many books I've read before. For sure, Ruthless Gods as well as Wicked Saints is not immune to cliches and eye-rolling situations. But it's nothing compared to the thundering of my heart in my throat because I am so terrified for the characters - of the characters and what they might do, what they might unleash. Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz mess up SO MUCH in this part, I can't even express with words how terrible they are but beautiful.

It's like Emily A. Duncan knows exactly what she is doing by creating absolutely irredeemable characters and making you care about them.
Because it doesn't matter how monstrous Malachiasz is.
It doesn't matter how delusional Nadya in her pursuit of holiness.
It doesn't matter how much corruption is inside Serefin.

Jeez, I don't even know where to start with the mess this book was. Threads of the plot and events were so messy and twisted. So much happened I still can't understand. Don't even get me started on that ending! I've noticed Emily is getting more wicked with her endings. No mercy! The stakes are higher, the world is in chaos, betrayal is in the air!

Malachiasz and Nadya are still my OTP, and I will go down with this ship, I swear! I can't express in words how every scene, every dialogue between them hurts to the core. They care about each other so much, they don't want to hurt each other, but they constantly do: they betray, they stab, they regret. But they can't stop the vicious cycle because they are enemies on the opposite sides of the war. Gods, enemies to lovers is by far my favorite trope, but when you add star-crossed lovers to it, my heart is ripped out still beating and bleeding.

Serefin is my baby! I wanted to hug and take care of him. He's gone through hell and back, literally! The horrors that were done to him, the atrocities he was made to do - Serefin will never be the same, but I want him to be happy all the same. It's a conundrum, really, when you want a happy ending for the characters you love but deep down you understand they can't have it. Can they? I ask you, Emily A. Duncan, how much will they suffer before they can rest?!

And the plot, which was a nightmare full of unseen terrors! I wouldn't be able to explain the intricate web of terrible myths the author created, so terrifying but so real when you read and feel them. I love this book because it's so confusing and dark and refreshing and because its weirdness makes it stand out from other books. I needed something so utterly dark in my life. Though I must confess that I wanted some stuff to be a little bit 18+, I am perfectly happy to prolong the depraved dream inside my mind *turns on the hot stuff*.

This review is a far cry from coherent, structured thoughts. But I didn't want to postpone writing it, because I wanted to catch the essence of my feelings, to re-read it later, and to feel those fresh emotions rolling off of me after just finishing a book that made a lasting impression on me. It's the magic of feeling alive when for a long time you couldn't catch that fire with any other book.

Gods, I've missed that fire! And I hope book 3 will turn it into an inferno.

*For more visualizing, while reading this book, please check out author's Pinterest board. I swear, it's worth checking out! *shudder**

Expected publication: April 7th, 2020 by Wednesday/Macmillan


Original review:

How to be ruined by a book in three days:

-Start a book you don't expect anything from.

- Read a little bit and feel sure that NOTHING WILL TOUCH YOU IN THIS STORY.

- Then sometime later realize you are actually enjoying it.

- Go from mildly interested into full fangirl mode







- WHAT HAVE I SIGNED MYSELF FOR?! *crawls into the darkest corner of the world to suffer*

Profile Image for Samantha.
416 reviews16.7k followers
August 5, 2020
tw: blood magic (aka blood & self harm); gore; lots of body horror (especially stuff with eyes)

I was hoping I'd enjoy this book more than I did Wicked Saints, but I largely have the same issues as I had with the first book. I did go into this installment with lowered expectations though, which helped.

This series is so deeply about the aesthetics. Duncan is very good about invoking an image, sense of dread, and overall ~mood~ that sticks with you long after reading. That was true of Wicked Saints and even more so with this. It's goth on goth on goth and I love that.

However, much of the character work is a lot of telling instead of showing. The main characters' connection is repeated to us without us actually seeing that bond forming. Phrases (much like book 1) are repeated over and over. It's a "villain romance", but we are repeatedly told how he's really just an anxious boy on the inside. I'd like to see more depth from all of the characters instead of just told about it.

Duncan is very good about writing individual scenes with characters, but within the context of the rest of the story, they don't have much continuity or make much sense.

I continue to have more questions than answers, and not in a good way. I will finish out this series but I do think it has more potential than what I've seen, sadly.
Profile Image for Lia Carstairs.
408 reviews2,186 followers
May 31, 2021
Update [April 17th, 2021]: well, i hated this book anyways and the fact that this author is problematic, racist, a bully, and included anti-Semitic themes in her book... down my rating goes <3

for more info: https://mobile.twitter.com/RinChupeco...


Original Review (2⭐):

I feel betrayed.

And speaking of betrayals... just wow....

There were a whole bunch of them in Ruthless Gods. If you thought the betrayals in Wicked Saints was bad, you're in for a real treat here.

It's kind of ironic actually. There were so many betrayals in the book, yet at the end I also felt betrayed along with the characters.

"They had all been waiting with their knives at one another's backs. It was time to plunge the dagger home." 💀

After the ending of Wicked Saints, I was really excited to read the next book (and I LOVED Wicked Saints too). I had my expectations high, considering where things left off. Too bad that's not what I was left with.

Instead, I was left off with disappointment.

I feel like there was way too much talking and less actual action. I literally had to force myself to finish the book. There was also something else missing, but I just can't figure it out right now. Something that made it less unique than Wicked Saints...🤔 (I'll remember eventually)

Also, where the first book made me actually ship Malachiasz and Nadya, this one... no I don't like Malachiasz anymore. In Wicked Saints, he actually reminded me of the Darkling (who I LOVE), but Malachiasz in this book...nope. Don't like him.

My heart broke for him in the beginning because of all the pain he had to endure and I felt bad. But then, he actually started to annoy me—I was actually willing to forgive all the lies he told and the actions he made but Anyways, don't like him anymore. I don't know why I ever compared him to the Darkling. Malachiasz deserved what came for him, but now he's gonna be a problem in the next book.😒

Now Serefin on the other hand...😭💔 I feel so bad for him. The guy was dealing with so much with him . He just wants to stop the war, but Serefin feels like he's going mad and losing control of everything. And whose fault is that I wonder...*cough* Malachiasz *cough* I love that even if it was for a moment, he found a little happiness with Kacper. Hopefully there's more them in the next book.

Now last but not least, Nadya. In regards to her decisions concerning Malachiasz, I'd say they weren't wise, but other than that, I found the new revelations cool. She's definitely stronger both physically and mentally compared to the last book—though obviously her life is very different. I hate that she was lied to so much by so many people, so I understand some of her decisions (not concerning Malachiasz).

It's really hard to blame someone when they themselves don't know who to trust anymore. Now that she's , I really can't wait to see her use it!!! Honestly, when Nadya He deserved it, so who cares. Haha to him.😜

Other than that, I didn't like the pacing that much and I hated the added POV's of so many different characters. I didn't really think it was necessary too. I was content with having only Serefin, Nadya, and Malachiasz's POV's like in Wicked Saints. I wish there was more action and not as much talking as there was like the 60% of the time.

And though this wasn't that good, that ending holds promise for the 3rd book. Although, this time I won't keep my hopes up.😔
Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
691 reviews98 followers
April 7, 2020
I have been sitting on this review for weeks and am finally ready to tweak the final version. Here goes.

Thank you so much to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own.

I read Wicked Saints as an ARC too and enjoyed the basis of the story, although found Duncan's writing style to be repetitive to the nauseatingly "I need to skim" point of being terrible. I thought she would take that round of criticism from Wicked Saints and build a better novel (with editorial assistance) in Ruthless Gods....and OH god was I wrong.

If I had to read *one of 5 adjectives_____boy" one more time I would have died. She has the continent's ENTIRE future political leadership trekking across the country and all they do is continue to chase each other's tails. Maybe the hunter couldn't have done much politically but can we treat Serefin like the actual king of Tranavia? This entire trek could have been EPIC and all we got was more of "blah blah I was betrayed blah and now I'm afraid but let's kiss again" and Nadya's broken record just played, and played, and played.

Oh yeah, Nadya thinks that she did but she really learned nothing from book 1 and she's still terrible. She is changing but doesn't seem to be internalizing any of her lessons, although Kostya comes back long enough to force some true self-reflection. That particular dynamic was surprising and one of the more interesting ones.

Duncan did do a bit of a better job showing monstrosities versus just talking about them, but again it was so repetitive. I did like her take on the gods and monsters and older beings, but she could have used Nadya's broken record headspace to talk more about some of the Slavic lore she was throwing out in names and titles only. That is something I'd like to have read about.

Serefin was my favorite character again because he is amazing, even though Duncan turned him into the token "other" character. I really think Ostyia would have been enough in that department. Serefin and his moths and his bad vision and his nonexistent brutality (talk talk talk, never shown) just make me happy, and I think he had the most interesting arc in this book. If nothing else Duncan did use his and Malachiasz's time together to explain all of the Tranavian political hierarchy that was missing from Wicked Saints.

Last but not least: the @OneReadingNurse infamous medical rant. Have you ever actually seen a pupil blow? I have. Someone having a stroke? A blown pupil is TERRIFYING, and having someone's pupils "blow open" is TERRIBLE choice of phrase for someone surprised or experiencing adrenaline. Not only that but I think it was used at least 3 times throughout the book and I just don't understand why an editor didn't clam this up.

The ending (other than the last sentence which again was a terrible word choice, but sounded cool) was almost enough of a cliffhanger to make me want book 3, but I don't think the plot is enough to cancel out Duncan's writing. I will be waiting for the cliffnotes version.

In summary: if you liked Wicked Saints, read this, if not or if you were on the fence, stay away. Ruthless Gods IS marginally better but I personally can't do it for a third novel.
Profile Image for Katie.dorny.
979 reviews499 followers
March 24, 2020
The Darkling fan fic continues in round two.

So..this had some high highs and low lows for me.

Again, like the first novel this jumped about so much for me. And it didn’t do a refresher in the first couple of pages that I enjoy books to do in a series (I acknowledge my personal preference here).

The world of the Gods is slightly more explored in this book but it’s also just as confusing and parts are explored that aren’t explained but we’re supposed to just get it? And I didn’t?

Also we have lgbt characters and that alone gave me LIFE if nothing else.

Also..the romance...like..I know it’s fantasy but at least have some aspects of the romance be within the spheres of a normal relationship? Cause nothing ever was as far as I was concerned and all the phone self hatred got a bit too much and to wrapped up the insta luurrvve for me.

We basically waste a lot of time on a trek forcing love that is so bland whilst filling some pages to rush a crescendo that wasn’t explained properly in the authors writing. We were also gifted the most obvious cliffhanger of all time.

I stand by my original comment: this is Darkling fan fic and you cannot convince me otherwise.

Arc provided in exchange for review.
Profile Image for Baba Yaga Reads.
111 reviews1,506 followers
September 8, 2020
When I read Wicked Saints a year ago, I thought I had found the perfect guilty pleasure to appease my inner goth teen. You can therefore imagine my excitement when I realized its sequel was coming out right in the middle of lockdown — talk about perfect timing!
Except...this book retained very little of the fun, over-the-top, romantic Grisha fanfic that was Wicked Saints. More specifically, my problem with Ruthless Gods lies in the fact that contrary to its predecessor, this book really wants to be taken seriously while also having no substance whatsoever. After all, what else could you expect from a series that's the goth equivalent of cotton candy — dressed in black and covered in blood, but cotton candy all the same? Asking me to treat it as a Serious Dark Fantasy is like asking Sophie Kinsella fans to treat I Love Shopping as an earnest exploration of the impact of consumerism on young women: absurd and counter-productive.
This book tries so hard to be edgy that it ends up being just plain boring. It's darkness without depth, gore without grit. But let’s have a closer look at what made me dislike it so much, shall we?


If you’re a Grishaverse fan, you already know what’s going to happen in this book. The story begins with our band of ragtags embarking on an epic journey across Kalyazin to uncover the dark secrets surrounding the gods’ powers. This isn’t a particularly original premise to begin with, but the real problem is that the Kalyazi gods are nothing but alter egos of the Ravkan saints. Seriously, if you’re familiar with the magic system created by Leigh Bardugo it will take you approximately 3.5 seconds to figure out the big mystery behind their existence (what if the supernatural beings we worship...weren’t gods at all? *gasp*).


This, however, isn’t the only thing Duncan borrows from the Grisha trilogy. Kostya is obviously the Walmart version of Mal Oretsev, a character he somehow manages to outdo in terms of insufferability. The power dynamic between Nadya and Malachiasz is likewise reminiscent of that between Alina and the Darkling, with their “mutual exchange of power” and resulting psychic bond; the main difference however is that where the original relationship was menacing and disturbing, this one failed to incite any emotion in me for the simple reason that Malachiasz is supremely unconvincing as a villain.

See, that’s why I’m always skeptical of YA books advertised as heroine/villain romances. A believable villain has to be both twisted and scary, two traits that are hardly compatible with a healthy romantic relationship between teenagers. YA authors know this, and usually try to get around the problem by watering down the worst aspects of the love interest’s personality. The result is that all these bad boys end up being exactly like Malachiasz: bland and unmenacing, stripped of their charisma so the reader can feel sorry for them. In other words, they stop being good antagonists.
I wish authors understood that there’s no unproblematic way to write a villain love story. You either accept that this kind of relationship is toxic and roll with it, or you don’t write it. Not every romance in literature has to be the paragon of what a healthy relationship should look like, but you need to be aware of the tropes you’re using and the audience you’re writing for. An authentic villain/heroine romance (like the one in Catherynne Valente’s Deathless) is just not appropriate for a YA book; the only way to make it fit the genre’s requirements is to downplay it to the point where it stops being a villain romance at all.
To sum it up, this book promised me something it wasn’t willing to deliver, and I fell for it despite knowing better.


I’ve already talked about Duncan’s massive blood kink in my review of Wicked Saints, so I’m just going to add that this book doubles down on the self-harm and cutting, particularly when it comes to Malachiasz physically harming Nadya in order to “awaken her power”. And let me be very clear here: I don’t think that kinks are inherently bad. Fiction is fiction, and everyone is entitled to write whatever they want as long as they do it responsibly. However, once again I don’t think this kind of graphic content is suitable for a YA novel. To be honest, I question the publisher’s decision to market this series as young adult when it would have worked much better as an adult dark fantasy with heavier themes and a more prominent romance.


I really liked the body horror and gothic imagery that Duncan conjured up; at the same time though, the overabundance of eyes and flesh wounds felt quite...gratuitous at times. The more I read, the more I got the impression that the author was creating her world by assembling random elements she thought looked cool rather than by building a coherent narrative. For example: Duncan likes cosmic horror, Slavic folklore, and Christian iconography, so she threw together a bunch of items inspired by these “aesthetics” and decided that was what her universe was going to look like. The result is that this world doesn’t feel real — it feels like the novelization of a Pinterest board.


“His tone was a little bit chaotic monster, a little bit melancholic boy.”

I already examined my problems with Duncan’s writing style in my WS review; suffice it to say that the repetitive language and cliché-riddled prose didn’t improve in this installment. The author is still very keen on stressing that Malachiasz is simultaneously a boy and a monster (something I think all readers were aware of right from page one) and that he loves to lift Nadya’s chin during particularly dramatic moments. The most significant new addition to the narrator’s vocabulary is the word “eldritch”, which is used an excruciating amount of times. We get it: these creatures are very ominous. You don’t need to remind us of that every ten pages.
I’d also like to ask fellow readers if I’m the only one not seeing the point of the little quotes from The Book of Saints at the beginning of each chapter. More often than not, they don’t seem to make sense or relate to what happens in the story. Were they only added to create atmosphere, or are they supposed to mean something? If you find out, let me know.

All in all, this book was a complete disappointment for me. Not because it was bad — that I was expecting — but because it was bad in an utterly boring way, which is just about the worst thing a book can be.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,290 reviews215 followers
October 23, 2019
I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Holy cannoli people! Ruthless Gods was one wild ass roller coaster ride. Sort of emotional for me because I kept shipping (and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life) two people that just NEVER did anything romantic (yet). I still have high hopes and that's that.

In this, you are reunited with the gang again: Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz. Of course there are other important and lovable people but then I would never get to the actual review. So let's just focus on these people who either get betrayed or backstab some one. Seriously, this book straight up tortued me. There was so much betrayal in this thing that I didn't know if I was going to make it out alive.

Now I thought the first book tortured me.. but no, this one definitely takes the cake! Sweet Jesus - I don't think I've recovered yet and I finished this thing yesterday!

Besides betrayal on every page, there's romance in the air! Of course it wasn't my ship but HEY - I can dream people! It was cute to see some people get together but dammit - I just want my damn ship!!

Then there's the cliffhanger ending - oh lord, I'm dead over it. I NEED the next book stat! I have endless questions that demand answers because I am slightly dying over how this one ended. I need everyone to be safe and happy but I also need some revenge because what went down - I'm just not okay with.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,402 reviews1,850 followers
April 7, 2021
April 6, 2021 : Though it would be easy enough to just quietly delete this review or rating in light of everything, I won't (nor would I ever). I'm holding myself accountable for this ignorance instead of burying it. However, I want to now preface this review to say that I apologize if anyone picked this book/series up because of my more or less favourable review and was then harmed or disappointed by the antisemitic content and my "approval"/enjoyment of it. I'm sorry to say I did not see it and no one is to blame for that but me.

I'm not going to link to everything, because there's so much (and more with each passing day!), but the twitter or instagram threads that go into more detail -- not only about the content of this series but the author themselves and the additional harm they have done -- are easy to find. I don't say all this to prevent anyone from choosing to read anything by this author but more for the chance to go in fully aware of what you might encounter.

Be kind, be safe, be well.


I feel like I'm in exactly the same place with RUTHLESS GODS as I was with WICKED SAINTS. This series, the content in these books, the twisty story of betrayal and blood and more betrayal, is both worthy of love and full of frustration for me. The worldbuilding, the pantheon of gods, of monsters, of heretics and holy people, it's all very complex and fascinating, but equally confusing and repetitive.

I feel this one did hold together better than book one, where we know so little and even less is made clear (which is apparently how the author wanted it), whereas things took a turn here that revealed both more and, in some ways, well.. not less but definitely not everything.

Another aspect that I both loved and didn't was the romantic element(s). One couple I was hugely there for (yes, please, more), and the other? I felt smitten by it at times and over it for others. It's a very push, pull, and then throw the other off a cliff kind of dynamic and it makes it fascinating and fun and also agonizing (not in a good way) as you struggle to keep up and, also, parse it all. Also like in book one, I'm pretty sure I would die for Serefin, and, I mean, I would at least call 911 for the others. If they asked me to.

So, yes, hardly a glowing review, but I think book three has the potential to knock this out of the park. We're on stronger footing at the end of this installment -- it definitely didn't feel like book two syndrome -- and if this trend continues it'll be bigger and bloodier and probably even more betrayalier (it's a word). I'll read on. I'm two books in, after all; can't stop me now.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


This review can also be found at A Take From Two Cities.
Profile Image for Dark River.
140 reviews61 followers
September 11, 2019
We're going on an adventure!

I must begin with saying that I am a big fan of second books in series. We already know the most important characters, we know the world, basic rules have been established. It's less introducing us to everything and more plot, more character development. Luckily, it was no different here. It felt a bit like coming home (well, if your idea of home is a bleak, wet, snow-covered forest that houses a bunch of monsters who may or may not want to kiss and/or kill you).
Emily A. Duncan has begun to craft a deliciously dark tale with Wicked Saints, and has only spun it further in Ruthless Gods - so much further. There is more of everything, more hurt, more angst, more betrayal (everybody is each other's personal hell basically :')) - more than once you are left to wonder who to even root for and it's the best thing), more lore, more body horror (so much body horror; it was wonderful), more romance too - just more, more, more. And that was exactly what I had craved after finishing the first book.

The writing hooked me from page one and has guided me through this fever dream of a monster book effortlessly and beautifully.
As I followed Nadya, Serefin (my snarkiest of moth children - I'd forgotten how funny he is) and of course the one and only M A L A C H I A S Z - new #1 evil book boyfriend, it felt like I was sucked right into an eldritch nightmare and I trembled, laughed, cried and doubted right alongside all of them. We finally get to learn more about the gods the title mentions, and also get to explore the magic system (or magic systems rather) in greater depth.
Many questions are answered, old suspicions confirmed, but new ones rise in their place, and how I will survive until the next book - no idea. None whatsoever. All I know is that I can't wait to hold a finished copy of Ruthless Gods in my hands in 2020, and until then I will continue to blabber about it to anyone who will listen :)

- I've already said this in my review of Wicked Saints and I will say it again here: I already love this how it is, and my 5 stars are very heartfelt, but I would love it even more without the YA label. This could have easily gone even deeper, gorier, sexier without that holding it back. Like damn, I would have liked some more ' h e r e s y ' on that altar, okay!? No apologies.
- I have seen the Something Dark & Holy series compared to the Grishaverse on multiple occasions, and have drawn my own comparisons from time to time, but it is very much its own, distinctive thing; Emily's own tone and world. Much, much darker overall, and with a diverse cast of characters that is a hell of a lot lighter on the morals.
For once I also find myself guessing about how all of this will wrap up - I have hopes that this series will continue to surprise me.

**Free e-arc received from Wednesday Books/Macmillan through netgalley.com - Opinions are my own
***spoilery review bits after pub date
March 11, 2020
3.5 bloody stars

This novel was one of my most anticipated sequels of the year, if not THE MOST anticipated overall. Duncan's first novel, Wicked Saints, had left me at awe and I read it several times, on audio as well as in physical copy. (The audiobook is fantastic by the way. The narrator's accent is perfect!) What makes these novels so different are the Slavic folklore vibes infused with the gothic and grotesque, yet the writing is brilliantly beautiful in places.

Ruthless Gods has a bit of a different structure. The overall story arc doesn't build until you have read about 60% plus of the novel, and so as a reader, you find yourself in these situational pockets of circumstances and elements that need to be fitted together. With a cast of several characters, and the weaving in and out of a consciousness of a sort of dark underworld, there are many threads one has to hold on to before the picture overall comes together.

The Kalyazi and the Tranavians are still the main factions in this novel but a darker more powerful force is taking hold of the characters on both sides. Rumors of death and dark magic keep everyone guessing upon what is happening and what the reckoning will bring. Everyone lost something, everyone lost someone, and some lost it all.

Serefin is plagued by an inner voice about a boy in darkness, bred in lies and bitterness and the Gods aren't speaking to Nadya anymore. All she is is a Kalyazi peasant girl now. Notes on Kalyazi magic and blood magic keep her guessing about what is ahead. 'Her' magic should never be found in Tranavian spell books! How does it all intersect?

There's an infiltrated traitor among manipulating the outcome of a dooming prophecy and there is so much blood and bone and magic. It's dark, chilling, dirty and spiteful. Desires, hate, and revenge are the driving force of the plot until doubt brings it all to a halt, but a powerful force prevails.

Most of all the chapters begin with a proverb of some sort, like those from the Book of Saints. Those read amazingly genius and I wonder how much was taken from old Slavic texts or others as inspiration.

I find it really difficult to review this novel because I don’t want to give it all away, but at the same time, I may not have caught everything that I should have in reading. Like the first book, it may require several rereads. I have no doubt that Duncan has had it all wrapped up in her mind, but I couldn’t follow everything exactly that was going on. My experience reading this novel was riddling in parts but I love the excruciatingly well-executed situational moments the author has created. With that, the culmination of events didn’t rise as steep and fell slightly flat for me, however, it is still a great read and Duncan’s voice has me at her command.

If you loved Wicked Saints and the writing style, give this a try. Some say it is much darker, but I would say, it just is more intense and powerful in ways of expression. It isn’t all gore or horribly graphic, though I cannot say that a dip in a fountain of blood may or may not happen ;)


I received a digital copy of this novel from Edelweiss and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, thanks to the publisher. All opinions are my own.

More of my reviews here:
Through Novel Time & Distance
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
926 reviews793 followers
March 10, 2021
4.5 stars!

Considering the fact that I hated the beginning of this, no one is more shocked than me that this is a damn good book.

First 100 pages:
Plot: ★★★★★
Character development: ★★★★★

This is the second book in a series, so if you don't want to be spoiled for Wicked Saints, please check out that book first! (My review of it here.)

Wicked Saints was a surprisingly polarizing read in 2019, and I think Ruthless Gods will be similar—if not for the same reasons. Ruthless Gods, in my opinion, is LEAGUES better than the first novel, but only if you can pass through the first 100 pages of extremely vague writing, frustrating lack of explanation, and several wham-bam 180 degree flips that completely switch many things up.



Nadya, Malachiasz, and Serefin are all having a bad time at the beginning of this book as the end of Wicked Saints left us with a LOT to unpack. Nadya's gods have left her and she's broken many of her homeland's laws to save the enemy. Malachiasz's last-minute betrayals left him with the powers of a god, but no way to keep his sanity and control them. Serefin was literally murdered and brought back to life, and now a god is whispering bad things in his ear.

Oh, and the gods we thought were scary in the first novel aren't even the ones we need to worry about.

Now, like I said above, the first 100 pages of this novel were ROUGH. We're talking, I was so frustrated I thought someone else had wrote this, rough. Considering it takes places very close to the ending of Wicked Saints, I was surprised to find the first bit of this book lagged. It seemed like an odd form of a holding pattern, as not much happened and yet lots was happening, and we were still primarily doing odd character-building scenes that also altered previous facts. I think all of the alterations were positive and made the plot stronger...but wish that they had been either included in the first book or brought to us later, because I was making audible frustrated gripes when the witch, Poletga (spelling is butchered, sorry) gave us these vague nothings over and over with each of our characters.

But, as you can see from my 5 star rating, this was a damn good book. I loved that it kept me on my toes, and the additions to the plot were exciting and made the story more original than I gave it credit for in Wicked Saints. In particular, I hope we see more of the Akolan politics in the third book, as it did give this fantasy world a fresh burst of diversity. AND I hope we continue to keep up the pace with this incredibly dark, mythic approach to old gods that really cemented itself in this installment.

It's unflinchingly bloody, twisted, darkly sensual, unrepentant, and surprising. I loved it.

Thank you to Wednesday Books via NetGalley for an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for ash |.
555 reviews95 followers
May 2, 2020
Hahahahah I'm not okay.

Ruthless Gods is an aesthetic nightmare filled with perpetual influence and betrayal-- from the gloomy, dark tones, villains and monsters to the bone chilling landscapes dripping in mystery and suspense. With darkness often comes a sense of horror and dread. Nadya, Serefin, and Malachiasz are at the epicenter of it all, contemplating their eternal damnation as they try to avoid plunging the world into darkness as they try to save it from dominant powers hostile to humanity.

The relationship between gods and mortals can be a complicated topic because they can show support and generosity or devastating destruction. Our trio learn first hand that mortals are not made to hold too much power without it twisting the body and bringing chaos to form. They started something very terrible and they need to decide if they are willing to pay the price the gods demand.

Chaos is happening and we are witness to it, and that’s all that’s guaranteed. This sequel delivered and firmly sets things up for the finale, and I have no idea where it's heading. This is way bloodier than Wicked Saints and there is some eldritch horror stuff going on. I wish the eldritch myths and monsters that we encountered were expanded upon more and weren't quickly dismissed, and some of the final scenes just felt out-of-character/ oddly paced which caused me to disconnect. Looking back now, this is similar to how I felt at the end of Wicked Saints. Before I end, I want to add that the audiobook is narrated by the same people who did Wicked Saints and it's phenomenal!

4.5 stars! I loved this a bit more than Wicked Saints.

01 Wicked Saints
Profile Image for Ashlee » libraryinthecountry.
774 reviews642 followers
April 6, 2020
EMILY, HOW DARE YOU. Y’all are not ready.

This book is cruel and dark and WONDERFUL. Everything it was destined to be. Onyx and obsidian, laced in blood. An inky and monstrous gem of a sequel.

I don’t know how I was lucky enough to get my hands on Ruthless Gods so early, perhaps it’s a gift from the divine or something far more sinister. Perhaps both? You’ll probably have to read the book to find out. And read the book you should.

Wicked Saints completely shattered what I believed was possible in fantasy and Ruthless Gods grabs those possibilities by the chin and yanks them into a deep embrace until they’ve been twisted into something that’s almost out of the scope of our understanding. Truly cosmic horror at its supremacy.

If you thought Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz have suffered, prepare yourself. You have not seen the extent of their suffering and after reading Ruthless Gods, I’m certain I haven’t either.

This story examines the desperation of love and lies and the love between them. It examines the mortality of faith and the fragility of the mind. It examines the consequences of choices we make while seeking peace, identity and our humanity. There are no good options and one cannot have all of these things.

Your favorite characters are exhausted and their free will is slipping out of their grasp. There’s kissing and broken boys and girls with blades and lots of blood.

You might go into thinking you’ll devour this book, but plant your feet firm because it will devour you.
Profile Image for Mlpmom (Book Reviewer).
3,001 reviews368 followers
January 31, 2020
This was every bit as deliciously dark and full of blood, guts, gore, and death as the first book and while I did love every single page of it and all it's dark magic madness, this second book somehow felt different from the first.

Yes, it is different, of course it is. Things have changed. Everyone is more desperate, things are getting real up in here and yet, at times the writing felt disjointed. It took me a few paragraphs sometimes to figure out what had just happened, where we were in the story and what had changed. Was it because this was an ARC? possibly. Either way it sort of through me at times and took me a moment to settle back into the story. But, once again Duncan takes us on a wild ride filled with danger, mystery and so much darkness. One filled with murder and revenge and madness, so much madness.

Really a wonderfully told story that only promises to get better with the next book, disjointed starts and stops and all.

*ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for v *✲゚*。★.
169 reviews215 followers
April 12, 2021
i've previously advocated this book
the author is racist, pro-incest, bullies aocs
this book has heavy antisemitism.
spin the dawn by elizabeth lim (enemies to lovers w/ you+me against the world journey)
children of blood and bone by tomi adeyemi (stolen magic)
the young elites by marie lu (morally grey characters+betrayal)
Profile Image for Boston.
404 reviews1,846 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
January 11, 2020
DNF at 25%. I’ve just come to realize that I don’t think I care about this series now as much as I did when the first book came out. What I did read was well written though.
Profile Image for Kelly⁷.
569 reviews87 followers
June 4, 2020
"It was different, this time. Darkness was something he was intimately used to; darkness was nothing to him. He had lived and toiled and learned in darkness. This was both more than that and yet something else entirely."


First, I will be careful with the spoilers, just so you guys know. Second, this was my first time doing a buddy reading and I did it with my wonderful friend Carmen.

Emily A. Duncan is a game-changer.

I just can wish for more books like this, where the characters are not feared. Where you go along the narrative and understand that the characters have different paths but that at their cores they can relate with each other.

Emily gives us that. She is fearless, she's ready to take on the monsters and love them as much as we do. She's ready to embrace the darkness and make it beautiful.

For the very first time in my life, I will not make a review full of spoilers. I just need people that loved/liked Wicked Saints to read this book and be amazed at Emily's power.

I understand that these books are not for everyone since it has a lot of blood and self-mutilation, and I respect that.

But for the people who are fine with that, PLEASE COME READ THIS MASTERPIECE.

In this book, Nadezhda Lapteva aka Nadya aka THE LOVE OF MY LIFE, has become the very best female character I have ever read!
She's amazing, you guys. I love every fucking minute I read about Nadya.

On the other side, Malachiasz Czechowicz is THE OTHER LOVE OF MY LIFE, OMG. I love him so much, I need to hug him and feed him some iron supplements because I'm pretty sure he's anemic. I need to just make sure he feels loved and that's everything I ever wish.

I love the theme of this book, I love how we think we have some characters figured out but nope, you are wrong. Everything in this book makes it a masterpiece.

So, if you (as I am) love darkness and all things gothic, love villains and well thought/complex characters, then Ruthless Gods is for you.
Profile Image for Laura ☾.
818 reviews270 followers
April 12, 2020
“The world they wish is broken bones and blood—always blood.”
Ruthless Gods, picking up where Wicked Saints left off, is a dark, magical tale, even more dark, unsettling and eerie than the first instalment.

“He was everything; he was nothing. She was torn apart in a thousand directions but there was only one and it was forward. There was nothing else but this.”

I loved Malachiazs as a complicated villain/monster. In this instalment we really see all the characters evolving, changing, twisting and unraveling their relationships as it goes along. Particularly Nadia and Malachiazs's relationship was absolutely fascinating to watch unravel.

I actually noticed how alike Serefin and Nadya are in some ways - while opposed in others - throughout this book, particularly concerning their wit and snark.

Duncan does a fantastic job of world-building, including the exploration of the mythology/magic system, which is enthralling andvery different from most. Although ‘self-serving gods’ is not a new concept, the interpretation of gods as monsters is rather unique.

I need the third book now! NOW! I am not okay after that cliffhanger of an ending!
April 16, 2020
First off one word: WOW! What a great sequel to something I've been anticpating. This book took me a while to read I tried reading the arc back in Ocotober when I first got it because I read wicked saints in September. And I was like: 'Perfect timing, I just finished the first book let's go onto the next one!'
Well nope past Drew u rushed in it.
And so in March of 2020 I buddy read this with my friend Heather but couldn't get into it then. And then April 7 rolled around and I got the audiobook, and finished copy/signed copy from Owlcrate and loved it! This was totally worth the wait!
Now all I have to do is wait until next year for the third and final book in this trilogy! But this might be my favorite sequel of the year and that saying something! Great job Emily! Also I loved the two narrators we had: Natsha Soudek & Tristan Morris! Great job to them for bringing these characters to life!
Ps. Thanks Heather for buddy reading this one with me!(:
Profile Image for Kat.
Author 8 books350 followers
March 15, 2021
Gorgeous descriptive language. A Kylo Ren/Rey romance between Malachias and Nadia that makes me greedily want more of them on every page. Just like “Wicked Saints” this epic Slavic fantasy/horror novel is full of gods, monsters and twisted dreamlike sequences that leave you wondering if you’ve confused up from down. And of course, lots of romantic angst. And ooo… Casper and Seraphim were delicious! Will not spoil the end, but I can’t wait for book 3!

Please excuse typos/name misspellings. Entered on screen reader.
Profile Image for Jessica McKenna.
247 reviews16 followers
April 9, 2021
*Edit: In recent days it has come to light that the author, Emily Duncan, knowingly included antisemitic tropes in this series. She has also bullied Asian authors online. While my review below gives my thoughts on the general horribleness of this book as a story, it does not include mention of antisemitism, as I was unable to pick up on that at the time. Please check out ADL's guide to antisemitic tropes. If we can spot these things sooner, we as a reading community can make a difference sooner!

Now on to the review, where you'll see...You're not missing out on anything with this one anyway. Just don't read it.

When a book has not one, but two scenes in which the main character gets plot-relevantly covered in blood, and yet somehow still manages to be boring as hell, you know you have reached a certain level of bad.

Ruthless Gods is exactly like Wicked Saints except less interesting. I really don't know what else I expected.

I mean, sure there's a guy who's now made himself into a pseudo-deity with eyes growing all over his body at inopportune times. And yeah there's some eldritch horror possessing one of the other main characters. So you know. I suppose one could be forgiven for thinking this would be a pretty engaging screwball mashup of crazy happenings.

But...It just feels like the in-between book in all the wrong ways.

There are again random scenes that jump randomly to other random scenes, so you never really feel suspense...ever. Things happen too quickly and too awkwardly to build up any of that.

But this time, if you've read Wicked Saints, you expect that. And you expect to not really have anything resolve all that well. So there isn't the "when is this going to become sensical" thought in the back of your head, keeping you going. Instead there's just "dear God how did anyone allow this to go on for more than 400 pages."

I liked some of the new stuff. We get a bit more of a backstory for one of the side characters that...well, it has pretty much zilch to do with the rest of the story, so who knows why we have it, but we have it, which is more than could be said before. I liked the new Kalyazi royal character (whose name I do not remember, but I think maybe has a K and a Y in it?), she was pretty badass so there's that to recommend this. Also always nice to see some queer representation, and that was involved pretty admirably so there's that too.

But overall, I just can't recommend something that's essentially wading through sludge. That's what this series truly feels like to me, at this point. And I mean that as a total allegory: It's dark, it's depressing, it takes forever to get through, you hit a couple of dry patches here and there that make it better, you hit a couple a really f***ed up patches here and there that make it weirdly interesting and like, okay, maybe I could dig this sludge thing, but then you pass them and are back to just random kinda ugly goop, and you just know it's going to continue on for another ten miles because this isn't even the last book.

I think the goal was as always to be dark and mysterious and edgy, but you have to clean up those lines a bit if you want edge. If you don't, all you get is sloppy grit, and that's...fine, I guess? But it's definitely not hitting marks the same way.

To be honest, I probably wouldn't still be reading these at all if I weren't able to snag ARCs for free from a friend. I will read anything you give me for free. But if I'd paid money for this, I would be looking to sell it off to the highest bidder to make that money back. With interest.
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