Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Seven Faceless Saints by M. K. Lobb, an upcoming debut YA fantasy mystery releasing next week. I’m going to try to write my thoughts out in a way that makes sense, but I’m high on cold medicine and attempting to keep from coughing up my one remaining lung. So, no promises. lol.
In the city of Ombrazia, saints and their disciples rule with terrifying and unjust power, playing favorites while the unfavored struggle to survive.
After her father’s murder at the hands of the Ombrazian military, Rossana Lacertosa is willing to do whatever it takes to dismantle the corrupt system—tapping into her powers as a disciple of Patience, joining the rebellion, and facing the boy who broke her heart. As the youngest captain in the history of Palazzo security, Damian Venturi is expected to be ruthless and strong, and to serve the saints with unquestioning devotion. But three years spent fighting in a never-ending war have left him with deeper scars than he wants to admit… and a fear of confronting the girl he left behind.
Now a murderer stalks Ombrazia’s citizens. As the body count climbs, the Palazzo is all too happy to look the other way—that is, until a disciple becomes the newest victim. With every lead turning into a dead end, Damian and Roz must team up to find the killer, even if it means digging up buried emotions. As they dive into the underbelly of Ombrazia, the pair will discover something more sinister—and far less holy. With darkness closing in and time running out, will they be able to save the city from an evil so powerful that it threatens to destroy everything in its path?
Discover what’s lurking in the shadows in this dark fantasy debut with a murder-mystery twist, perfect for fans of Leigh Bardugo and Kerri Maniscalco.
***Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It had mysterious vibes, and I thought the writing really leaned into crafting that ambiance well. The atmosphere felt dark and foreboding, and honestly, it wasn’t a world I’d want to live in. However, it was a compelling place to visit through the safety of the book’s pages. The pace was steady, and I never found myself bored, even in the quieter moments. In fact, I rarely put the book down once I began and finished it much quicker than I anticipated.
The setting was fascinating, and I enjoyed learning about the history of the saints and how they impacted the development and history of this society. There were obviously secrets I won’t spoil here. So, I won’t say too much more about the magic and world, but I did really like it. I just wish there was a bit more of it. The story focused heavily on the characters and took place in only a few locations within the same city. The author did a fantastic job of setting the scene in those places, but it just felt a bit cramped at times. We didn’t get to see most of the types of magic first-hand, and there is still so much more about this world that I want to know. I guess that could either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it. I loved it enough to be drawn in and want more! It helped that the available world-building was tailored to the story and accomplished its purpose well of moving the plot forward and revealing new things about the characters.
I love a good murder mystery, and this story hooked my interest from the very first chapter. I enjoyed following the two main characters as they unraveled the clues. Although, I did figure out the identity of the killer much earlier than they did. I didn’t find any of the twists surprising, but I did think it was plotted well even if some of the clues gave things away too early, at least to me. The only thing I think could have been an improvement was if the killer had been a larger part of the story. The reveal made it out to be a huge betrayal, but I never felt like we got enough interaction between the killer and the main characters to make me believe it.
As for the characters, both Roz and Damian were really compelling individuals to follow. Roz was consumed by rage and a need for vengeance after the death of her father. She was determined to bring down the corrupt system that used its second-class citizens as cannon fodder even though she benefited from the system as a disciple with magical abilities. Roz had no qualms with using whatever means necessary to meet her goals, including subterfuge and violence, and she was pretty bad ass. Damian was wracked with guilt and suffering from PTSD after returning from war. His job as the chief of security and his faith in the saints meant it was his duty to protect the established order, even if he wasn’t lucky enough to be blessed by the saints with magic. The two end up re-uniting after several years apart when they both were trying to find the mysterious killer. Their dynamic was volatile but full of chemistry, and I loved their second chance, childhood friends to enemies to lovers romance. It was all made more complicated because Damian had ghosted Roz after his father killed her father for military desertion. Needless to say, they had a lot of issues to process, and the author did a great job of showing the characters growing through their grief, guilt, and pain.
There were also so many timely and fascinating themes explored in the story. The relationship between Roz and Damian was a great representation of two people with diametrically opposed views working together to bring about successful change. Their conversations were one of my favorite things about this book because the arguments were so relevant to today’s world while also still being grounded in the story, characters, and their world, as well. Damian’s journey also displayed a crisis of faith and illustrated how much of someone’s resistance to societal change is likely tied to that change being a threat to their very identity or how they view themselves. It explored how to overcome those feelings of fear about losing yourself when everything you thought you knew changes around you. Finally, Damian’s job allowed for the critique of policing as a system that can uphold systemic injustice, while also humanizing the officers who truly wanted to help others and illustrating ways policing can work for the good of the people. It was a difficult balance to strike, but I think the author did a good job overall. There are other themes explored, as well, including classism, economic inequality, and religious persecution, but I’d be here all day if I talked about everything. Needless to say, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into despite this being a fairly easy read.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The setting, themes, and characters were all compelling, and the murder mystery kept me turning the pages even though I figured out the killer pretty early on in the story. I’m definitely curious to see where the story goes next. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.