Kingdom of the Wicked Book Review
Welcome to our first post of 2021 and my first review for a Fairyloot book! Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco was the featured book for the Wicked Hearts October theme, and I'm excited to finally have the opportunity to read and review it for you book witches!
*Major spoilers ahead*
Genre: YA Fantasy
Category: Spooky Read
Want to know more about how we categorize books? See our Glossary for details.
Rating: 3/5 Stars
This book hooked me from the beginning with gorgeously dark and witchy descriptions, fast-paced dialogue and intrigue, and generally good writing. It's been a while since a book made me take notice of the writing style in a pleasant way.
The main character, Emilia, is an Italian witch who basically grew up in the kitchen alongside her Nonna, parents, and twin sister, all of which work at their restaurant Sea & Vine. Right off the bat, this book draws you into so many amazing food descriptions.
Like many bookworms, I am a sucker for food in books. Beware ye those with snackish appetites. Or those who like Italian. I made a batch of spaghetti after reading the first few chapters, just sayin'.
The tension steadily builds throughout the beginning, starting with superstitious Nonna's mutterings of demons, followed by rumors of two dead witches not far from their village, and culminating in the death of Emilia's twin sister Vittoria, which launches Emilia on a mission of justice. This mission has her dabbling in dark magic that accidentally (and conveniently) bonds her to a hot, snarky demon.
I mean . . .
Emilia is, though. Very mad. All the time. So much angry packed into one little witch noodle.
For the first half of the book, this anger is fantastic. She stands up to demons, takes risks she never would have before, and accomplishes plenty without her demon guardian's help—because she doesn't trust him enough to have him on board (thank you literary gods for a main character that doesn't lose all common sense when a hot stranger appears).
This anger quickly becomes counterintuitive. And annoying.
She may not fall into the ditzy, love-struck heroine trap, but she does fall into the other one—the one that makes characters decide, "Oh, I'll just keep leaving this very safe place and running headlong into danger OVER and OVER, with zero self-defense or plan, then be pissed at the person who has the audacity to rescue me!"
The demon Wrath, whom Emilia is tied to, proves his trustworthiness repeatedly by giving her information he doesn't have to, assisting her in her quest for vengeance (even the parts that have no benefit for him), saving her time and again in measures he really doesn't have to, and never taking advantage of her naivete by chaining her into any number of contracts or nefarious plots.
But oh no. How dare he save her. How dare he be a demon. And how dare he judge witches! You shouldn't judge someone by what they are!
By the third time Emilia needs rescuing (honestly by the second, but I really wanted the awesome writing and concept to pan out), I was so tired of her shit. She could have easily asked her demon ally for help, or at least formulated a plan or some kind of defense before leaving the magic-protected castle Wrath provided for her (maybe a thank you? No?).
But no. Emilia wants to do everything without help or common sense.
After everything Wrath does to help her, save her, guide her, Emilia gets herself into one last idiotic scrape, which Wrath shows up to save her from. He tells her he can easily teleport them away from the hordes of shadow demon attackers—the only catch is he'll be able to teleport her at will from that point on.
Granted, that could be a little shady, but after all he'd done to help with no gain for himself, plus the fact that he told her what the catch was, is it worth both of them dying to say no?
Yep, apparently it is.
Long story short, Wrath gets ripped to pieces while protecting her, and Emilia has the nerve to be upset.
When she can't immediately summon her demon hottie that she doesn't even like back from Hell, her course of action isn't to a) wait around for the summoning spell to take effect, b) reach out to the demon or army of shapeshifters she knows is willing to fight the devil, c) find her Nonna who dropped a ton of badass arcane info shortly before . . .
She picks d) marry the devil and sell her soul.
Also, Wrath comes back and she hates him again. Because . . . he took too long to materialize after dying for her?
I have mixed feelings. Am I glad I read it? To an extent, yes. The writing really is gorgeous. I love Wrath's snark. I'm intrigued by the concept and so on board with the dark, witchy, Italian atmosphere. To a certain point, I even liked Emilia and her vicious character arc.
Then it got eye-roll-inducing really fast. I'm curious about the next book and the implication that she's going to be a ruthless Queen of Hell. I'm tentatively hopeful that she'll gain tons of common sense to go with that backbone and I can pretend the first book barely exists.
We shall see.
Enjoy this review? Tell us what you think in the comments! If you're interested in snagging your own copy, you can do so here.