Thank you to JIMMY Patterson for a free digital copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Y’all, let me be honest for a second. I was very excited about this book. Maniscalco’s Stalking Jack the Ripper series was a rollercoaster for me (and by that I mean, I like the series as a whole but not all the books were absolute gems for me). But I love historical fiction, and the fact that Maniscalco is releasing a historical fantasy excited me!
Content warning: grief, murder, gore, violence
Title: Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked #1)
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Expected release date: October 27, 2020
Genre: Young adult, historical fantasy, paranormal
Length: 448 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “Two sisters.
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…”
Oh, I wanted to like this book so much. I’m saying I didn’t, but I wanted to give it 4 stars but found some glaring details that simply didn’t work for me. My two major complaints are 1) world-building and 2) the romance. Let’s start with the world-building.
Yes, sign me up for another historical fantasy because I’m all about it. But did we have a clue exactly what time period this book place in? Nope. There aren’t enough context clues to garner this information. Italy is still referred to as a kingdom, but there’s at least 80 years of history before Italy was no longer a kingdom (in the 1940s). I wanted more of the actual world-building in terms of the actual, real world. Maniscalco has the folklore down precisely. A lot of the information Emilia spits out is information handed down to her from her grandmother (and, quite frankly, we see Wrath really take this info and break it down in a way that makes Emilia question things). I did want more of how our main character, Emilia, interacts outside of it and outside of her family’s restaurant. Now I do love how the whole restaurant atmosphere and how much it means to Emilia and her family; I loved being in the restaurant with them and the way Maniscalco described the food! Gosh, talk about making me hungry! We do see Emilia interacting with other vendors in the market but it wasn’t enough for me to feel fully immersed.
Emilia also seemed to make some illogical choices regarding the safety of her family. I understand that due to the circumstances of the murder but at the same time… When certain decisions were made, certain other minor characters seemed complicit. (This is hard to talk about without spoiling anything!) I like to think it’s because they believe Emilia fully capable of taking care of herself, but at the same time, if this book is supposed to take place in 19th century Italy, I feel like some stereotypes still fit in this white Western world in regard to how women are viewed. I think therein lies my struggle to like Emilia. I’m not saying she wasn’t likeable, it’s just… I almost feel like I don’t know her enough, if that at all makes sense. I won’t pretend to understand what it’s like to grieve the way she does, because I simply don’t. Emilia really pushes aside all of that in order to get all the facts. I mean, let’s talk about summoning a demon, let alone someone like Wrath!
I also have some qualms about the “intoxicating romance” though. My face when I finished:
The two practically hate each other and any romance between them felt forced. There’s a lot of lying by omission from Wrath’s part and… Well, I don’t know. I’m supposed to feel something between these two and I’m just…not. Totally lackluster right there. Sure, there were a few make-out scenes but due to the fact they would rather gouge each other’s eyeballs out, I found it unbelievable. I’d like to think this could turn into an enemies-to-lovers story but… By the end of the book, I’m still confused.
Now the ending. That’s something I can get behind. I hope all the frustration I felt regarding Emilia and Wrath disappear in the second book (okay, maybe not disappear completely but…) It almost reminded me of the Hades/Persephone myth.
Check out these other early copy reviews:
- Monogamist Reader said this is her new book obsession!
- The Last Book on the Left expressed some of the same concerns I had regarding the setting of the novel.
- I agree with Melanie at Meltotheany that this felt like a set-up book.
You can pre-order this book from Amazon, Barnes and Noble (Barnes & Noble exclusive edition), Book Depository (U.K. edition), or with IndieBound. If you do pre-order or have already done so, you can submit your receipt for pre-order goodies!