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Seven faceless saints
2023
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Publishers Weekly Review
Magically gifted Roz Lacertosa and soldier Damian Venturi, estranged former sweethearts, join forces to catch a killer in Lobb's richly textured, medieval Italy--inspired fantasy debut. Though the residents of Ombrazia are all descended from one of seven saints, only those blessed with their patron saint's magic become disciples, enjoying privileged lives while "unfavored" citizens are sent to war. Roz and Damian were inseparable until Roz developed powers, and both Roz's father and Damian were drafted. Damian survived his tour, but Roz's father was executed by Damian's father, a general, for desertion. Now, Damian heads the disciples' security force, while Roz conspires with rebels to dismantle Ombrazia's inequitable system. When two unfavored kids and a disciple are murdered, Damian's superiors order him to focus solely on solving the disciple's killing, prompting a furious Roz to seek justice for the kids. Damian suspects the crimes are related, however, leading the two investigations to intersect. Scarcely described but emotionally complex characters, rhythmic writing, and a cunningly crafted mystery distinguish Lobb's series launch, which balances action and romance with meditations on faith and fate. Roz and Damian's unresolved feelings and a pinwheeling third-person narrative foster tension throughout. Ages 14--up. Agent: Claire Friedman, InkWell Management. (Feb.)
School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up--Since her father's brutal murder, Roz has dreamed of nothing but justice and revenge against the corrupt systems responsible for his death. In her old Italy--inspired city of Ombrazia, only the descendants of the seven saints carry the passed-down magic powers of the saints themselves; though Roz isn't proud of her status as a disciple of Patience, she'll use it to her advantage to serve her own purposes if she can. When a series of murders forces her to team up with her childhood-love-turned-enemy Damian, now a haunted young military captain who has returned from the frontlines of the ongoing war, the pair find themselves faced with an unfathomable evil, forced to confront their most deeply held beliefs about their destinies, the seven saints, and themselves. Though the chemistry between Roz and Damian falls a little flat, the genre-bending high fantasy murder mystery concept is intriguing, and the narrative raises some interesting questions about the nature of faith and unquestioning loyalty. The religious system underpinning the politics and social structure of Ombrazia is not deeply investigated, which may be a feature rather than a bug for readers interested in fantasy vibes minus the minutiae of deeply introspective worldbuilding and character development. Roz is bisexual. VERDICT An additional purchase for libraries where fantasy is popular.--Allie Stevens
Booklist Review
Lobb's delightfully voice-y dark-fantasy debut begins with a bang, taking readers on a twisting murder-mystery journey as Rossana Lacertosa unravels clues while navigating heartbreak and trying to preserve her own life. The lush world building paints a gorgeous but fatally dangerous place where saints reign supreme and few can be trusted. As Rossana deals with her own grief and tries to keep her loved ones safe, she faces the stress of confronting former flame Damian, who left for the army and consequently left her behind. But as fortune might have it, the only person who can help Rossana solve the mystery is Damian, and the two forge an unlikely allyship in the face of a dangerous murderer who is hunting down citizens. As the saints and their followers fight to uphold the city's holy and untainted image and Damian and Rossana try to figure out their own relationship among the clues, they discover an underworld to the city full of frightening secrets and unsavory truths.
Kirkus Review
Ex-sweethearts--turned-enemies Rossana Lacertosa and Damian Venturi work together to find a killer. In Ombrazia, all disciples descend from the seven faceless saints, but descendants like Damian who do not possess magic are the unfavored. They can't attend the magical Mercato night market or reside in the opulent Palazzo. Instead, they live in poverty and are drafted into war, like Roz's father, whom Damian's general father, a disciple of the saint Strength, killed for deserting. Shortly after, when she was 16, Roz's magic revealed itself. She became a disciple and a rebel, pledging to use her power to bring about justice. Two years on, Damian has returned from the war. Now 18, his father makes him head of Palazzo security. Then two unfavored children are murdered, and the Palazzo ignores their deaths--yet a disciple's murder requires Damian's investigation. Roz confronts him, and Damian agrees to work with her; he, too, suspects all the murders are connected. They rekindle their romance and uncover a web of politics, lies, and power that is anything but holy. This fantasy murder mystery, set in an alternate Italy and laced with romance, is slow to start and sometimes hard to follow, but queer Roz is the saving grace. Layered and authentic in her trauma, anger, and strength, she far outshines Damian. However, both read as much older than teenagers. Full and detailed worldbuilding, but the characters and plot struggle to compete with it. (Fantasy. 14-18) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary

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.



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?

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