Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Published: 2020

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Synopsis: Emilia and her twin sister Victoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Victoria 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 discover who did this, and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, the outlier among the seven demon brethren, always choosing duty over pleasure. He’s been tasked by his master with investigating a series of women’s murders on the island. When Emilia and Wrath’s fates collide, it’s clear this disturbing mystery will take a bewitching turn…

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Damn, this book was so good. I loved it way more than I expected to, which is kind of how it went with Stalking Jack the Ripper as well. For the sake of preventing me from dissembling into incoherence inserting some sort of structure into this review, let’s first talk about the few things I enjoyed less and that prevented it from being a 5 star read for me.

The main thing I didn’t really enjoy and that pulled me out of the story was the excessive description of foods. I think it’s probably just a personal preference rather than bad writing, but whenever Emilia started listing ingredients for whatever food… it bored me and it took me right out of the story. I strongly dislike cooking and while I enjoy eating food, I don’t particularly want to know how it’s made. That made the first few chapters of the book really drag for me since they were very food-focused. As the plot progressed, it wasn’t as prominent anymore, but it still happened occasionally and I just found it jarring. 

Another thing that bothered me was the lack of communication between Wrath and Emilia. Like, I understand that they’re kind of enemies and he’s a demon so she’s loath to trust him. But sometimes, it just didn’t make any sense and so many issues would have been avoided if she’d just talked to him. Overall, I really enjoyed their dynamic, but occasionally I felt that Emilia in particular was just irrational in an almost absurd way. Wrath was also reserved, but I felt that his reluctance was more natural and made more sense. 

Other than that, this book was everything that I wanted. I find myself recently really craving lush and decadent either fae or other kind of paranormal being, enemies to lovers romance, but not… too romancey. Like more slow burn and also other things going on. I already knew Maniscalco is great at writing gothic mysteries, so I wasn’t surprised by that, but this just hit the spot so well and left me craving more. I can’t believe I have to wait until October for the next one. 

The setting was so lush and atmospheric. Obviously, since it’s set in our world, there’s not that much world-building to do, but just the way the mythology of the world was set up just drew me right in and was so evocative. Especially the audiobook, the sound effects they used along with the narration was just… chef’s kiss. I definitely recommend this book as an audiobook. 

In terms of characters… I absolutely loved Wrath. I’m a sucker for a dark, brooding, powerful hunk with hidden but hinted at soft squishy centre. I also liked Emilia well enough. She was kind of the more boring twin, Victoria was definitely more fun for the brief time she was present. but that was kind of the point and we got to see how what she was going through changed Emilia. I definitely like the Emilia at the end of the book more than the Emilia at the beginning. She’s far more interesting and I look forward to seeing where her character goes from here.  Also… Emilia and Wrath had better be endgame is all I’m gonna say. 

Overall, I highly recommend this. It is quite dark and very… occulty, so if that’s something that makes you uncomfortable, maybe it’s not for you. It’s also pretty gory at times so that’s something else to be mindful of. But otherwise, I definitely recommend this.