Series: Kingdom of the Wicked #1
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 that 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…
Equal parts tension-filled chemistry and terrifying mystery, Kingdom of the Wicked proves that Kerri Maniscalco is amazing at writing stories that have me on the edge of my seat! I loved her Stalking Jack the Ripper series and I knew whatever she wrote next would have big shoes to fill. But this has impressed me more than I had anticipated.
Set in a Sicilian landscape of an older time period, Emilia and her family run a restaurant together while secretly being witches among ordinary humans. She and her twin were always warned of dark magic and evil beings who’d try to lure their souls, but at some point, was there any grain of truth in these warnings or just childish stories meant to scare? Things change drastically when Vittoria, the wilder twin, is found dead by Emilia which sets her on this dangerous and reckless path of vengeance.
At the heart of the story there is definitely a mystery. Who killed Vittoria and why? She wasn’t only simply murdered, but there seems to be a nefarious agenda behind why she was chosen or the way she met her fate. Emilia, always considered the good twin, the rule follower, does something super reckless and accidentally ties herself to a Prince of Hell. It’s interesting all of them are named after the seven deadly sins, but I suppose in after thought, that’s not too weird or original. The one she is stuck with is Wrath. And oh boy, is there some steamy chemistry going on between them! *fans self*
Wrath, while I do like their budding relationship, I’m still unsure of on his own. I know most people love bad boys but he’s dangerous and hard to trust at times. I know people love morally gray characters but I really liked Emilia the way she is. She definitely grew courage and pushed herself out of her comfort zone as she planned and went about the city looking for answers for Vittoria’s fate. But she’s not inherently a bad or wicked person, and I’m just a teensy bit afraid he’s going to change her not for the better.
The pacing overall is great. I would’ve read this in one sitting if I could sleep at night. Some of the descriptions of the murders were a little gruesome and the atmosphere was definitely full of tension, the kind you feel when you’re waiting for something to jump out at you. But nothing too scary.
I loved that the story was contained in a way. As it is a series, I was worried we wouldn’t get any solid answers about Vittoria at all, but that’s not the case. We get some answers but it, of course, opens up many more questions from there that I look forward to seeing in the next book.
There were hints that the romance could get more complicated in the future (and by complicated, I mean love triangle!), and I’m the slightest wary about it. We shall see if that actually pans out.
Other things to note was the world building and dynamic differences between the Princes. Their characters weren’t just the trait they’re named after, and the clues related to Vittoria’s last days were wonderfully crafted as we, along with Emilia, are opened to this darker world she had not known actually existed outside of her grandmother’s tales. I liked that the world building isn’t really about the location in this book, which has the typical feel of an olden day world that would be scared of magic and witches. No, the beauty is in the history of the witches and how it relates to the Princes that fit into the present day problems. This is an example that the fantasy world doesn’t have to be super vast to still be considered thoughtfully crafted.
To end, I would say I really enjoyed Emilia’s growth and the ability to connect with her character. Yeah, maybe I’m also the good girl who generally follows rules, but she maintains integrity as she deals with the vilest creatures out there, mostly on her own. She isn’t stupidly trusting, but she isn’t so guarded she won’t accept help if given. I look forward to the plot elements in the sequel, but mostly, I can’t wait to see how Emilia handles her next challenge.
Kingdom of the Wicked is the first of a chemistry-filled new series following the good girl who has to avenge her twin’s death at the hands of darker powers. Emilia was an easy character to connect and empathize with, and her overall growth in the book felt real and empowering as she tackles new dangers she would’ve never otherwise pushed herself towards. With the reluctant help of a Prince of Hell, who may or may not be fully trustworthy, they follow every clue to determine who the killer is and what agenda is being played. Since this is only just book 1, we obviously get some answers but many more questions on top. Book 2 cannot come soon enough!