Rebel, Guard || Seven Faceless Saints Review

Initial Thoughts

So far I’ve seen polarizing reviews over this book, and my initial thoughts looking at the cover and reading the synopsis was along the lines of a resigned, “Oh great. Another story revolving a conflict of a religious nature. Haven’t I read enough of that this month?!”

But despite the straightforward and rather predictable favored vs unfavored, rebels vs society and the unfairness of the city itself, I found myself surprised by how much I liked this story. And that’s because I thought the main leads–Roz and Damian–were such different perspectives that getting to know them kept me on the tenterhooks. Between the two, though, my heart goes out to my soft boi Damian, who must be protected at all times. AT ALL TIMES.


by M.K. Lobb
Titan Books, February 2023
YA mystery, fantasy, romance
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies

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?

I honestly didn’t think I’d like this book as much as I eventually did, but I can definitely see why this book was likened to Kerri Maniscalco. As for Leigh Bardugo? I don’t know, man. That’s a tough act to follow at all sides.

The murder mystery in some sense did remind me somewhat of the beginnings of Kingdom of the Wicked, and I found that I was absorbed into this mystery almost as much as I was about the world that’s being created here. Ombrazia is an Italian-inspired city state with a ruling class of devout disciples worshipping six of the seven faceless Saints. This divides the class system to those descended from the Saints–and have magic–and everyone else. This idea does not sit with Rossana Lacertosa, who abhors everything about the way the city is run; particularly because the city state’s main source of war heroes come from the non-magical, non-disciple class (which eventually leads to the murder of her father and the estrangement of her lover).

I liked Roz’s rage. I appreciate when female characters find a way to channel their anger into a general goal, and Roz is as stabby as any knife-wife can get. I did, however, find that because she’s so filled with this lovely rage, she ends up playing a character that was mostly one-note. I suppose that’s the idea of rage making you blind to all else, but you’d think she’d have learned from making mistakes throughout the book. It was hard for her to make compromises, and it took until the last several chapters for her to really grow as a character–and even then, there’s still a lot of room to grow.

“You could have let me know you were okay. And you just…didn’t. How can I forgive you for that?”

“You can’t.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Damian Venturi. I loved that Lobb referred to Roz as her “rage,” and Damian her “regret,” because these two words definitely embodied both characters. Damian was definitely my favorite of the two perspectives, and that’s chiefly because he is the softest boi. Like Roz, the last few years have changed Damian, and he returns from a war with a helluva lot of trauma. Yet because of his need to please his father and to be an obedient servant to the city, he becomes the antithesis to Roz’s ideals. To me, Damian’s perspective was the most relatable, and while I did end up huffing with frustration at how terribly single-minded he is (seriously, though, he’s kind of terrible at his job), I also wanted someone to protect this poor boy at all times. I have a theory about him, but I won’t get into that, because spoilers…

Being loved by Damian wasn’t conditional. It should have been–saints knew he’d be better off–but it wasn’t.

seven faceless saints – m.k. lobb


As for the two together, their banter!!! Honestly, the push and pull between them was something else. I really enjoyed it when the two of them bickered or had a heart to heart, or just generally interacted with each other. I suppose in this sense, I did think about Bardugo’s “knives out, guns blazing” quote, because these two had that kind of relationship. Not the bone-deep, gut-wrenching romance of Kanej, but again, tough act to follow.

“Strength didn’t bless me. He blessed my father, and my grandfather before that, but he didn’t bless me. I don’t understand why.”

“That doesn’t mean you’re not important.”

And the fact that Damian can definitely turn around and go from 80% dangerous to 100000% dangerous at the thought of Roz being in danger? Swoon. (Though let’s be fair, Roz does her fair share of saving as well–and damn does she let hell break loose when she does!)

Perhaps the only thing I did have a quibble with was how hinged this was on a rebel versus the pious plotline. I get this was also placed as commentary and frustration over broken governmental systems, but there’s so much nuance and complication to this kind of storytelling; unfortunately, it got boiled down to rebels versus government and religion. I wasn’t a big fan of how black and white the sides were to each other, and for a book that was themed “morally gray” by Fairyloot, you’d think there was a more blatant display of this. Honestly, the only morally gray character I was seeing was Damian and his soldiers–and that’s because they actually had internal struggles about loyalty versus their moral compasses. Everyone else pretty much acted according to their roles, either as rebel, religious zealot, or corrupt government official.

4 out of 5 cookies! Honestly, now that I think about it, probably close to a 3.5, but Roz and Damian had me entertained, and I read this book fairly quickly.

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