Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked #1)
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Published: October 2020
Publisher: JIMMY Paterson
Readership: Young Adult
Genre: Historical Paranormal
Rating: ★★★★

I received a copy of Kingdom of the Wicked from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

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…

It’s been a while since I last read Kerri Maniscalco (and YA in general) and it was a nice return. Maniscalco has an easy-to-read writing style, and I did enjoy her Stalking Jack the Ripper series, so I was excited to pick up Kingdom of the Wicked (although, admittedly, I didn’t realise it was going to be a series when I first requested it).

Set in a (potentially alternate) historical Italy, Emilia has grown up being told the stories of how demons were constantly trying to find their way back into the world. The daughter and granddaughter of a longline of witches who have avoided dark magic, Emilia (and her twin sister) know the stories well, but don’t truly believe them, until Emilia finds her sister murdered. Then Emilia sets out to find her sister’s murderer and that leads her to meeting Wrath, one of the Princes of Hell, who seems to be helping her, but can she truly trust one of the Wicked?

This was a fun historical-paranormal young adult story. Admittedly, the first 30-40% of the book is a hard read as there’s a lot of set-up to be done to establish Emilia’s world, but once I passed that mark, it was a really quick, page turning story.  It was nice to see a story set in Italy, although overall, I’m not sure it added anything extra to the book (except to make me hungry for Italian food) – the story itself could have been set anywhere.

As a heroine, Emilia needs to learn new things quickly – she’s taken much for granted in her life, including the stories her grandmother told her, and so she’s on a steep learning curve for most of the book. She’s also not used to being deceived and a big part of the book is her managing the deceptions of the characters around her and learning to get onto the front foot.

Wrath was a delightfully interesting character to read about. One of the Wicked, and a Prince of Hell, he plays a particular role in trying to secure a wife for the Devil, only to get caught up in Emilia’s quest for revenge. I wish we’d spent more time with him, and I assume we will in subsequent books.

I enjoyed the demon/devil mythology that has begun to be developed in this first book – demons and angels always fascinate me in stories – so I’ll probably continue this series whenever the next book is released.

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