And spooky season continues with Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco! After having made a name for herself with the Stalking Jack the Ripper series featuring forensic science enthusiast Audrey Rose, this is the first volume in a new series for Maniscalco. Set in a pre-industrial Sicily, Kingdom of the Wicked is the story of the stregha Emilia, murder, witches, demons and lots of delicious Mediterranean food.
Many thanks to Kate Keehan and Hodder for the eARC! All opinions are my own.
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
RELEASE DATE: 27/10/2020
SUMMARY: 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… (from Hodder)
OPINIONS: Kingdom of the Wicked has an incredibly compelling opening. It is a story that gets you stuck in from the start, and by the time things slow down you’re so invested that you don’t really want to stop reading. The concept is pretty amazing, combining a murder mystery with witches and demons together with telling the story closely from Emilia’s point of view. I can honestly say that I ended up being pretty surprised by some of the twists! However, the pacing throughout is not always consistent and the story does drag at some points.
There were moments when I felt like I was reading two different books, one that lived up to the concept, and one that fell victim to the clichés of YA, focusing more on the will-they-won’t-they aspect of the relationship between Emilia and Wrath than anything else – which felt more like a trope than something organic. Tension yes, but actually giving in to and making it into something properly romantic it felt like ticking a box required for YA fantasy. Other parts I loved – apart from the world of the streghe I really enjoyed the prevalence of food in the novel. Maniscalco’s descriptions of Emilia’s cooking are mouthwatering and I’m very tempted to try to recreate some of them for myself!