I couldn’t believe it when NetGalley approved my request for Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan half a year before its release. So I did the natural thing and procrastinated reading it for several months. Was it worth the wait? Well, duh.

~Ruthless Gods is book two in the Something Dark and Holy series, so this review may contain some spoilers for book one. Check out my review for Wicked Saints, instead.~

Nadya can’t trust her magic. Serefin can hear voices in his head that aren’t his own. And Malachiasz is fighting against what he’s becoming. Even as they are torn apart, the three of them find their fates are entwined and being orchestrated by someone… or something. And that something wants a piece of the world. 

Ruthless Gods is… unexpected. It didn’t go in a direction I could have predicted, and at times, the story moved too fast to comprehend what was happening. Sometimes the chapters would jump and I felt like I was missing something. The pacing also felt slow, even slower than book one, since most of the time the characters are traveling or talking or mooning over each other. There are some pretty crazy scenes near the latter half of the book. But it’s one of those books where I already think I need to reread it in order to figure out what the flip I just read.

If Wicked Saints is Nady’s book, this one is all Serefin’s. His journey in this book was the most fascinating of the three main characters. There were times when I read Nadya’s chapters that I just wanted to hurry up and go back to what Serefin was doing. This poor, tired, drunk prince goes through a lot in this book, and it was intense. A lot of crazy, dark, “cosmic horror” stuff happens, and it’s mostly because of Serefin.

It’s also because of Malachiasz. He’s a hot mess in this book, and it was actually a lot of fun to read him getting worse and worse as the story progresses. I’m not a fan of the whole “evil boyfriend” / bad boy love interest trope, though. I’m kind of tired of it and I don’t really understand the appeal of someone who is cruel or lies to them constantly. So the romance between Nadya and Malachiasz was hard to grasp, but knowing Emily, it probably works for people who like that kind of thing.

Nadya, however, irritated me a lot in this book. She was super whiny and back and forth about everything. She would make obvious, stupid decisions and I would think, “No! Don’t do that!” I get that she’s torn between pleasing her gods and being drawn to Malachiasz, but make a decision, geez. I don’t know what happened to all her character development from book one. It must have been consumed by her constant pining over Malachiasz.

I also thought the side characters were a bit unmemorable, even the ones who were in book one. I expected them to play a bigger part, but they kind of just followed the main characters around, reprimanding them or saving them from stupid decision making.  A lot of them seemed to be around to push the main characters in certain directions or to give more backstory on the history of the world or the gods.

But I love the world-building. The terminology for things, the blood magic, the pantheon of gods, the older and “dead” gods, the descriptions, even the cosmic horror—it was all so cool and carried the story forward.

Ruthless Gods is weird and dark and basically a hot mess. But it’s also a fun read with fascinating characters. I wasn’t ever bored or too overwhelmed while reading it. There was a good balance of introducing new, insane concepts while also making those concepts relevant and important to the advancement of the story.

If you liked Wicked Saints or like dark fantasy with characters that are a hot mess and a lot of weird, cosmic horror stuff, you’ll probably enjoy Ruthless Gods.

Wicked Saints Ruthless Gods

~I received an early digital copy of Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.~