It’s the end of January and we are ready for a new month. Hopefully everyone is doing well and coping during this ultra long pandemic. For our last review of the month, we are finally looking at one of Ashli’s favourite authors, Kerri Maniscalco. Maniscalco is known for her Stalking Jack the Ripper series. In October of 2020, she released book one of her new series, Kingdom of the Wicked. As usual, here is the official blurb for the book and then we’ll jump right into our thoughts.
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…”
E: Ok so this is going to be a roller coaster of a review from me. I almost felt like I had whiplash while reading this. One minute I was fangirling and the next I was questioning everything.
When we first start it’s a stormy night in the 19th century . The atmosphere is set with grandmother telling two twin girls to beware the 7 princes of Hell. Then -whiplash!- but only fear 4 of them .. wait what?
A: I think it is that the four mentioned princes are specifically bad for their family line…
E: Well anyways let’s continue. They have necklaces to keep them safe. But then are warned never to put them together. Okay…. Now we’re just waiting for the moment when the two young girls do the one thing they are never supposed to do .
10 years later the girls are eighteen and helping with the family restaurant . I don’t know why but I had to double check multiple times we were still in the 19th century. Something about the restaurant setting has my brain trying to make the story set in the present day.
A: History lesson time! Modern restaurants were fairly new in the 19th Century. They actually started in France and then came to the America’s in the early 1800s and they were mainly for the wealthy to show off their social class. At this time, the main staples were some sort of meat and potatoes making it known as the Meat And Potato Century. Italian restaurants like Salt & Vine actually can be dated back to at least the 17th Century. Rumor is that the oldest restaurant in Italy is La Campana, supposedly on the same street since 1518.
E: Emilia has a lot of choices to make as events unfold due to the weakened gates of Hell. She ends up making a bargain with one of the Princes (cue the brooding, dark, sexy devil boy). While they work together my experience of whiplash continues. Obviously Emilia has a lot of grief and anger with the murder of her sister, but it felt like I was watching a girl make stupid choices over and over. Maybe this makes her human and more relatable . But often I found myself confused at the things Emilia would be upset by, or when she would stick her heels in the mud and be a pain in the ass. Then there were so many situations that instead of thinking critically about she just accepted. I think this whiplash (I need a better word for this now) is what kept me from really connecting to Emilia as a character.
A: In a way I connected the most to the Princes more than Emilia, I do agree on that. In Kerri’s other works, the main character was soooo much stronger and easier for me to relate to. Audrey Rose was more like Vittoria… so strong with a lot of willpower. She knew exactly where her place in the world should be and fought through the obstacles in her way. Emilia… almost threw tantrums? I mean she was strong with Lust… she actually outwitted and tricked him!... but most of the time she pouted and complained… but she did grow. Audrey Rose grew with her ability to interact with other people better in the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, but Emilia takes the cake for the most growth so far. Yes she had relapses but we all do.
The relationship between Emilia and her sister is interesting. I feel for her that she loses her sister so early on in the book as I wanted to see more about their differences when it comes to magic. But more than that, I do wish it didn’t take the death of her sister for her to find her personal power but at least she found it in the long run. It was kind of expected that the braver sister would be the one to do something to get herself killed and the more timid sister would be the one to go on the journey. I’m interested to see what would have happened if Vittoria was the one who had to take a journey and learn to slow down because her rash actions put Emilia’s life in danger. What would Vittoria’s relationships with the Princes look like?
E: I didn't read the cover or the summary of the book before reading, so Vittoria’s death totally took me by surprise. I really liked the way the author used anger and revenge to fuel Emilia’s actions-- even if it ended up causing Emilia to make stupid choices.
We also need to talk about that damn grandmother. I couldn’t stand her! In order to protect little girls, sure, keep them in the dark about the scary things happening in the world. But damn woman, you can’t keep everything from them as adults! They needed to be brought into the fold and aware of what was going on. She felt insanely over protective because things were so dangerous but then she was shocked when the world started to fall apart —as she had been saying it could. Where I wanted her to be this wise character who provided wisdom and insight into background info that we needed, I instead found her infuriating and overbearing and sort of rolled my eyes by the time she came around and helped save the day.
A: I found her the most annoying at the beginning but also relatable. I mean come on… she is the crazy old woman who is super obsessed with her granddaughters getting killed by one of Hell’s Princes… Speaking of which...
I can’t choose between Envy and Wrath… I might have to go with Envy to be honest as he is at least forthright about his personality. Wrath is so hard to figure out as to which personality is his real personality.
E: I feel like I'm here for Wrath. He has a good amount of brooding masculinity and then there are the moments of humanity that make me feel like a relationship between him and Emilia could work out. I did like Envy as well. He felt more one dimensional to me though, so I would love to see more of him in book 2.
A: This book made my mouth water so often. I loved how Kerri brought in her family heritage and the food that she loves. I seriously need to figure out how to make some of these things gluten free and dairy free because I am craving cannolis now. Especially after that scene of Emilia and Wrath in bed playing cards while eating them.
E: My mouth watered as well. But for totally different reasons 😉
A: Of course it did… lol Truth time… I found it more of a cute cuddle scene which is my preference in pretty much any situation lol I was actually shocked that I found the Princes so steamy when I have issues with that in reality.
E: I want more steam! I was hanging off every word because I wanted more to progress in that way. I wouldn't say I was disappointed, but it was a sloooooow burn for sure and I need something more to happen in the next installment.
A: Honestly the sweetest moments that Wrath had really were when he was experiencing food for the first time. That layer of evil was peeled back to show almost a kid in a candy store personality.
E: Yes! Totally. Like I had mentioned, it was the moments of humanity he experienced that made him more of an interesting character for me, over the other Princes.
A: Well, we’ll have to come back and discuss further once book two comes out. From the spoilers, I have a feeling you’ll get your steamy for sure. Until then, we will come back to pure steamy and see Erin go gaga over hot immortals next month with our review of Sarah J Maas’s new installment of the Court series. In the meantime, check out Kerri Maniscalco’s Spotify playlists which act as theme songs for each of her books. I’ve found some of my new favourite artists from these playlists and I hope you will too!