Emilia and her twin sister, Vittoria, are streghe— witches who are forced to live secretly among humans in fear of persecution. Together with their family they run a famous restaurant nestled in Sicily. One night, Vittoria does not arrive for her shift at the restaurant, so Emilia sets off to look for her. She is led to the underbelly of the monastery by a strange sensation and sounds, where she finds the body of her twin, desecrated with her heart carved out. Vittoria and Emilia’s nonna has forbade them from using dark magic or seeking out the Wicked— the princes of Hell. But Emilia is out for blood and vengeance.
Filled with grief and anger, Emilia goes to a deserted cave near the beach, where she practices dark magic and summons Wrath, one of the Wicked. Turns out not only did she summon Wrath, they are now bound through an inexplicable bond. Wrath claims he is willing to help Emilia with her revenge— he’s been tasked by his master with solving the mysterious murders of women in Sicily. Due to their bond, Wrath is required to protect Emilia until he is sent back to Hell. Together, Wrath and Emilia are up against the clock to discover who is behind the killings, before another witch ends up dead.
Kingdom of the Wicked was one of our most anticipated books of 2020. We were immediately drawn in by the premise: witches in 19th century Italy. Throw in one of the Seven Deadly sins and we were here for it. We are glad this book lived up to our expectations (mostly).
Though it started out a bit slow (whereas Maniscalco’s Jack the Ripper series was action packed from the start), we were immediately sucked into Emilia’s world. Maniscalco did her research on 19th century Italy and it showed— the world building was incredible and we loved all of the authentic touches to the setting. We were majorly jealous of the fantastic food the characters got to eat, especially the pasta and cannolis! The magical aspect was also well done. The mythology was easy to follow and we were very intrigued by the La Prima storyline (once you read, you’ll get what we’re talking about).
We were also pleasantly surprised that there were vampires and werewolves in this story as well. And of course, we loved the seven deadly sins plot point. Wrath and his brothers were dripping with evil and hotness. We are excited to learn more about the other brothers in books to come.
We admit, we thought Emilia was going to be the quiet, timid twin, but we were wrong! Emilia really became a badass and came into her own pretty quickly. She basically had to learn magic on her own because her family refused to arm her with any knowledge or ways to defend herself. Speaking of the parents— this book is the epitome of unsupervised teenagers. Emilia’s parents were barely around, and when they were, they didn’t have much of a role to play. We were frustrated because clearly Emilia’s mom knew about magic and could’ve been a much bigger help to Emilia since she knew nothing about what she was doing. We did love Emilia’s grandma— or nonna, who had major spunk. But once Emilia got the hang of the dark magic thing, she was formidable and used her brains to outsmart the Wicked. We loved how she gave Wrath a run for his money too.
Speaking of Wrath…our dear, beloved Wrath. Wrath was HOT. We knew going into this that he would be a broody and kind of a jerk, but didn’t know what angle Maniscalco would take with the romance. For people who are looking for instalove or relatively quick romance development: this is not the book for you. Our main protagonists have a slow burn romance with loads of tension. They pretty much bantered from start to finish, and whew, it was great. We won’t spoil the ending of book 1, but Maniscalco set the pace for their romance perfectly.
Overall, we enjoyed the book— though we admit we still liked Maniscalco’s other series, Jack the Ripper, a bit more. But it’s still early— we have time to change our minds We would have definitely rated this 5 stars if the beginning hadn’t been as slow of a start. But the rest of the book more than made up for that! The ending was a tad predictable, but sets up the remainder of the storyline nicely, as finding out Vittoria’s murderer was just the first layer of the mystery and tension.
Have you read this book? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!