4 star, YA

Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Series: Kingdom of the Wicked #1

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 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.

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3.5 star, YA

Review: Red Tigress by Amelie Wen Zhao

Series: Blood Heir Trilogy #2

Fans of Children of Blood and Bone will love the sequel to Blood Heir. The second book in an epic fantasy series about a princess hiding a dark secret and the con man she must trust to liberate her empire from a dark reign.

Ana Mikhailov is the only surviving member of the royal family of Cyrilia. She has no army, no title, and no allies, and now she must find a way to take back the throne or risk the brutal retribution of the empress. Morganya is determined to establish a new world order on the spilled blood of non-Affinites. Ana is certain that Morganya won’t stop until she kills them all.

Ana’s only chance at navigating the dangerous world of her homeland means partnering with Ramson Quicktongue again. But the cunning crime lord has schemes of his own. For Ana to find an army, they must cross the Whitewaves to the impenetrable stone forts of Bregon. Only, no one can be certain what they will find there.

A dark power has risen. Will revolution bring peace–or will it only paint the streets in more blood.

Sometimes, bravery was not loud, or grand, or brilliant as the blaze of a thousand fires. Sometimes it was quiet. Unremarkable. Unknown. The resilient wend of water through rocks, year after year.

That, my daughter, is when you can choose to be brave.

Red Tigress, the sequel to Blood Heir, definitely does not suffer from middle book syndrome. While initially dealing with the crazy and somewhat tragic aftermath of book 1, our protagonists Ramson and Ana are both dealing with the 180 shift in power to Affinites, those with gifted abilities. However, now it seems this power change has gone too far with non-Affinites being hunted down and treated poorly for even looking at an Affinite wrong. Or if they had done nothing to save Affinites during the previous rule.

However, this book doesn’t focus super heavily on this. I kind of like that it’s setting up for something big – that being fighting Morganya and figuring out how to deal with the kingdom that’s long been divided into Affinites and non-Affinites – but not in a direct way yet. Morganya is up to something, planning something behind people’s backs that has yet to make sense. And hence, Ana and Ramson reunite to track down this mysterious plan before it can come to fruition.

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3.5 star, YA

Review: Flamefall by Rosaria Munda

Series: The Aurelian Cycle #3

Revolutionary flames ignite around Annie, Lee, and a brand new POV character in the second book of the Fireborne trilogy.

After fleeing the revolution and settling into the craggy cliffs of New Pythos, the Dragonlords are eager to punish their usurpers–and reclaim their city. Their first order of business was destroying the Callipolan food supply. Now they’re coming for the Dragonriders.

Annie is Callipolis’s new Firstrider, and while her goal has always been to protect the people, being the government’s enforcer has turned her into public enemy number one.

Lee struggles to find his place after killing kin to prove himself to a leader who betrayed him. He can support Annie and the other Guardians . . . or join the radicals who look to topple the new regime.

Griff, a lowborn dragonrider who serves New Pythos, knows he has no future. And now that Julia, the Firstrider who had protected him, is dead, he is called on to sacrifice everything for the lords that oppress his people–or to forge a new path with the Callipolan Firstrider seeking his help.

With famine tearing Callipolis apart and the Pythians determined to take back what they lost, it will be up to Annie, Lee, and Griff to decide what to fight for–and who to love.

With war on the horizon from an enemy previously thought vanquished, this society Annie and Lee live in continue to make us question what is the right decision to make in hard circumstances in Flamefall. For a story about dragons, this series and book stands out for its exploration of government and politics with the added bonus of dragons thrown into the mix.

Annie is now head of the fleet of dragons, a feat that once would not have been possible as she was born into a serf family. With such great responsibilities, she is already put to the test with the looming threat from escaped dragonlords who were now refocusing their attention on the kingdom that once was theirs.

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