"Seven Faceless Saints" | Reviewed by Bea Jacquin
“Seven Faceless Saints,” a young adult novel by M.K. Lobb, isn’t your typical enemies to lovers, us against the world book. Damian and Roz’s relationship is as messy as their lives. Having a history together only complicates matters as they end up on opposite sides of their country’s war.
For generations, seven saints have been worshiped—Strength, Patience, Mercy, Cunning, Grace, Chaos and Death. There also are also “disciples,” those graced with special skills. Disciples' skills are based on the saint they worship. For example, Grace has a connection to cloth, Patience guarantees ease in manipulating metal, etc. Every so often a disciple will be imbued with enough power to rival the saint of their skill.
Seventy years prior, not one, but two saints were reincarnated. Strength and Chaos, a volatile combination that divided the country. There was Brechaat in the north, and Ombrazia in the south. Brechaat rallied behind Chaos, certain their saint would prevail. When Strength won, and Chaos along with its disciples were slain, the very name became taboo.
Damian Venturi, captain of the police, is tasked with finding out who murdered a disciple, an assignment made all the more dire because failing will ensure he’ll be returned to the front lines of a war that nearly claimed his life and tried his sanity. His investigation is just beginning when he learns there’s not one, but three recent victims.
Rosanna “Roz” Lacertosa, has spent the past three years hoping for a letter from Damian; any word to indicate the war hasn’t claimed yet another person she loves. A disciple of Patience, Roz has little faith in any of the saints. It’s her disillusionment that led to her joining the rebel movement, the group that first learned of the murders in the city and the first to be concerned that the unfavored are being slain.
Damian is expected to be as merciless and devout as his father, but when he’s ordered to ignore the unfavored, who have been murdered, his unwavering faith starts to falter and he has to choose: follow orders and avoid being sent back to the front lines, or seek justice for the three victims.
Doing what’s right brings Damian into Roz’s own search for the killer and dredges up emotions both would rather forget, but are forced to face. As their search uncovers secrets that could destroy Ombrazia, Damian, who’d always trusted Roz, begins to question not only his faith, but his trust in the government that leads them.
In Damian we see the less discussed side of PTSD—what happens when fear and anxiety is turned inward and begin to break Damian down. In Roz we see the embodiment of rage. She’s lost faith in the saints, those she was raised to trust, and she lashes out. Lobb does a fantastic job giving us characters who are struggling but continuing to fight, for each other, and for change.