Ruthless Gods – Emily A. Duncan

Last year’s Wicked Saints was a special book. It read like a black metal song crossed with a twisted fairy tale. In theory, it was the perfect book for me. Its aesthetic was spot on, and it ticked all the boxes, but somehow, the pieces of the puzzle didn’t fit together quite right and while I liked it, I had also expected to love it more than I did. Nevertheless, I was incredibly excited when I got approved for an advance copy on Netgalley (many thanks to Netgalley and Wednesday Books!) of the sequel, Ruthless Gods. And doesn’t this series just have the best covers?!

RELEASE DATE: 07/04/20

STAR RATING: 3/5 ✶

SYNOPSIS: 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. Their paths are 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. (from Wednesday Books)

OPINIONS: While many who loved Wicked Saints will enjoy Ruthless Gods just as much, for me, it exacerbated issues I had with the first book and I struggled to keep up motivation to finish. I am usually a very fast reader, and I easily get sucked into a story to the detriment of everything I am supposed to be doing – but with Ruthless Gods it was the exact opposite. I started reading in November or December and only finished now, having to force myself to continue a chapter at a time through the middle parts between other books. I wish I had enjoyed it more than I did!

One of the main issues I had throughout the book was that it felt like it was trying too hard. If Wicked Saints was your black-metal-loving cousin, then Ruthless Gods is his trve (yes, spelled with a v) Norwegian black metal friend who refuses to leave the house without corpse paint and spikes. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. The teen angst is strong with this one. The characters, which were still reasonably multi-dimensional in the first book, turned more and more into edgelord-types in this second volume, wearing their pain and issues on the outside and wallowing in their edginess. I felt that they lost self-reflection compared to the beginning of the series, which lost them many sympathy points with me and disconnected me from the story.

This, together with the fact that I read the book over a span of months instead of a few days, led to a lack of immediacy and drive in the plot. The prose felt overwritten, and the journey aimless. However, when action did happen, it felt like too much at the same time, without proper reflection. Some plot points had me rolling my eyes, and others were utterly predictable, having read a fair share of YA fantasy before.

Nevertheless, I can see many people loving Ruthless Gods just as much as they did Wicked Saints, it follows a similar formula and contains tropes known to be a surefire success in YA. It also has a stellar 4.13 rating on Goodreads as I write this review. But for me, it could have been so much more.

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