Book: Kingdom of The Wicked (Kingdom of The Wicked #1)
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Published By: Hodder and Stoughton
Publication Date: 27th October (sorry!)
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Emilia and Carolina talk about summoning spells
Content Warnings: Gore, violence, blood, self harm (in the context of blood offerings for spells), loss of a loved one, depiction of grief, murder, death, brief mention of unwanted touching, magical compulsion
Thank you to Netgalley UK and Hodder and Stoughton for allowing me to read this book early, this in no way affected my opinion of the book.
I discovered Keri Maniscalco with her Stalking Jack The Ripper series in 2019 and finished the final two books in the series last year. I enjoyed the series, though I definitely admit to being pretty disappointed with the final book in the series, Capturing The Devil. Still, when Kingdom of The Wicked was announced, I was super excited for it because a witchy fantasy that involved the seven deadly sins as Princes of Hell sounded really fun. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed by the end result, the book wasn’t as exciting as I was expecting and the worldbuilding was sparse and confused. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
One brutal murder.
A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…
And an intoxicating romance.
Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.
Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…
As usual, my biggest problem with this book is something you’re probably sick to death of me going on about…..can anyone guess? Yes, it’s PACING. The pacing in this book was all over the place, after a really gripping opening, and a fairly good first couple of chapters, the middle of this book SAGGED. It did pick up again towards the end but there was quite a large portion in the middle where I was honestly just super bored? Not much was really happening, except Emilia wandering around and badly trying to solve a murder. I don’t need action all the time for a book to grip me, but I do need to feel that something is going on, and all too often I found my mind wandering whilst I was reading this.
My other main problem was the worldbuilding. For one thing, for a supposedly historical book, it really didn’t feel that way? You don’t get a very good sense of the setting (obviously we know it’s Sicily, but the settings on the island felt pretty poorly described), and the time period isn’t really properly defined. We know it’s the Kingdom of Italy, but that could put the time anywhere between 1861 and 1946, and there aren’t really many real clues to suggest as to where this book falls in that. I was quite surprised because Keri Maniscalco was pretty good at the historical details in the STJR series, so it was strange that things were so loosely defined here. You don’t really get much of a sense from the writing either, obviously no writer is ever going to go full 19th century in their writing, but I felt in Stalking Jack The Ripper, she at least made a better attempt to not make the characters sound like they were straight out of the 21st Century.
The fantastical elements could also have used some more development. I loved the idea of basing the demon princes around the seven deadly sins, but aside from Lust, it didn’t feel like their powers really all that developed? I thought Maniscalco could have done much cooler things with Greed, Envy and Wrath than she did, considering that with Lust, he was able to cause people to feel an overload of happiness and joy and then suck it all away leaving them hollow? That was super cool and I wish she’d been a little more inventive with what the other three princes could do. Also for a book called Kingdom of The Wicked, we never really get to see their Kingdom which felt like a bit of a cheat!
I’d also have liked to learn more about the Witch families, we learn that there are thirteen of them and that they’re descended from the first witch (called La Prima) but because they aren’t allowed to interact, we don’t really get a sense of any other the other families’ histories. There’s also loads of lesser demons introduced later on in the book, with very little explanation. There’s this whole thing about “shadow witches” and “star witches” as well which didn’t seem to be properly explained.
On the upside, all of the food sounded delicious, and I was super hungry when I was reading this, I just wish Maniscalco had given the same attention to setting description as she did to food!
Emilia’s grief over her sister was really well drawn, but I wish we’d got to see Vittoria for a little longer before she’d been killed. Since we as readers didn’t know her that well, even though Maniscalco does a good job describing Emilia’s grief, it doesn’t have as much impact as I would have liked, because we’d barely got to know Vittoria before she’d been killed and everything we find out about her is very second hand.
Speaking of the family, for someone who is supposedly so close to her family, we don’t really get to learn all that much about them and Emilia is separated them for much of the book. Also her parents and grandmother are somehow totally fine with her moving out? Nope, do not believe it.
It’s a problem that the book suffers from with all of the secondary characters, none of them were developed massively well.
As for Emilia herself, I wasn’t a big fan. She was kind of bland as a character, and she didn’t really drive the story forward, she more stumbled into a bunch of stupid decisions. I like introverted main characters, but they need to be active in driving the story forward and Emilia felt very passive. I did like that she was starting to come into herself more towards the end, but for the most part, she was fairly dull as a protagonist. From the little we know of Vittoria, it sounds like she probably would have made a more interesting main character!
I wasn’t a fan of the romance, I know, surprise, surprise. I really just don’t love mortal/immortal romances, it’s a bit of an awkward power dynamic, not to mention a ridiculous age gap. I mean I suppose this is slightly different because Emilia is a witch, not a human, but it still felt kind of weird for this immortal creature to be interested in an eighteen year old girl. I also just don’t think Kerri Maniscalco writes romance scenes very well, every time I read one in this book I cringed.
The romance also wasn’t really developed properly? Wrath and Emilia spend most of the book hating each other and then it feels like a switch flips and suddenly they love each other? As a couple they didn’t really make much sense to me, Emilia is pretty awful to Wrath for most of the book and he doesn’t really do anything to deserve it. I mean they had some decent banter, but aside from that, I didn’t really feel their connection as a couple.
Speaking of Wrath, for a demon of war, he’s super tame, I would have liked it if he’d been a bit more scary! Also why do all demons have to be incredibly attractive? Seriously do authors think pretty immortals are revolutionary? At this point it would be more unique to actually have an ugly demon!
There’s some iffy consent in this book, or rather lack thereof: there’s a scene where Emilia and Wrath are required to be naked in a bathtub for some spell and she’s unconscious when he removes her clothes, which is a complete no in my book. There’s no excuse for it, Maniscalco could have thought up another way for him to save her life that didn’t involve him removing her clothes without her consent. There’s also the scene at Lust’s party where Emilia is under his compulsion which involves invisible demons touching her, which she’s obviously not in the right mind to consent to, though that is addressed in the book, where the previous incident is not. The spell to summon Wrath involves Emilia accidentally betrothing the pair of them, again without Wrath’s consent, which is addressed in the book but again, I didn’t feel was really necessary.
The map was super cool, but since we don’t actually go to the Kingdom of The Wicked, kind of unecessary!
I wish the eerie atmosphere that Maniscalco created in the prologue was kept throughout the book, I was expecting this really dark, spooky read and it didn’t really deliver the way I hoped it would.
I was really annoyed by how much Nonna kept from Emilia! I mean I do get it, the plot kind of relied on Emilia being oblivious to a lot of the things Nonna knew, but it seems so strange that you wouldn’t arm your granddaughters with the information they needed to fight the Wicked, if you knew they were going to have to go up against them one day.
The murder mystery was far more convoluted than it needed to be, which is an issue I had with a couple of Kerri Maniscalco’s other books as well. It was pretty obvious who the murderer was from the start, but she made the whole explanation super confusing, where it could have been far more straightforward.
THE ENDING. I AM SO ANGRY WITH THAT ENDING. I NEED SO MUCH EXPLANING ABOUT PRIDE AND WRATH AND HOW THEY ARE LINKED, AND THE WAY IT JUST STOPPED AS THINGS WERE GETTING EXCITING? NOT COOL.
Overall, I thought the concept for this book was cool, but everything was super underdeveloped and I wasn’t happy with the cliffhanger ending. I will probably read the next book because I’m interested in what happens next, but I don’t have high expectations.
My Rating: 3/5
My next review will be of my first read of 2021, which is really a hangover from 2020, Seasons of War by Derek Landy.