ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Kingdom of the Wicked’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A golden snake curls through a human skull.

Kingdom of the Wicked is a young adult historical fantasy written by Kerri Maniscalco (Stalking Jack the Ripper series) and published by JIMMY Patterson Books. The book follows Emilia Di Carlo, a Strega or witch, hiding amongst the humans in Sicily. Her and her twin, Vittoria, have been carefully taught their entire lives that they must never take off their Cornicello and never bring them together or they’ll free the devil.

But when Emilia finds Vittoria’s dead body with her heart ripped out, she unlocks her own vengeful side and a deep desire to avenge her sister’s death. When Emilia finds out that her sister was secretly making deals with the Malvagi, the demon princes who serve the devil, she summons a demon herself. With the help of Wrath, Emilia will stop at nothing to figure out who killed her sister, and who keeps killing young witches 

Because Emilia is the narrator of Kingdom of the Wicked, it’s so important that she’s a well-written and interesting character. Maniscalco has a real strength for writing compelling characters. Emilia and Vittoria are twins who, while identical in appearance, are completely different in personality. Emilia is quieter and more reserved than her sister—more cautious in her use of magic. But despite their differences, Emilia and Vittoria are very close and their opposite personalities complement each other. And because the sisters are so close, Vittoria’s death absolutely devastates Emilia and shatters her world. This forces Emilia’s rapid character development. Maniscalco pushes her character to the limit so she can grow and become a stronger witch.

Emilia is eighteen-years-old, and most of the time, Maniscalco writes her voice in what feels like an authentic way. However, there are times when Emilia’s voice feels too adult for her age. She’ll seem just a little too knowledgable about life, a little too world-weary.

The way that Maniscaclo writes both Emilia and Wrath as characters capable of such a variety of emotions and motivations is compelling. Emilia is the protagonist, the hero in her own story, but a hero that’s morally gray, willing to go to great lengths, and break the rules of magic to get what she wants. And Wrath, despite being a demon prince, is capable of very human emotions, especially as he becomes closer to Emilia.

Wrath and Emilia’s relationship slowly evolves throughout Kingdom of the Wicked as Maniscalco puts them in situations that endanger one character, then the other. Initially, Wrath and Emilia distrust each other, but as the stakes increase for both of them, they have to reevaluate how they feel about each other. Reluctantly, they start to trust each other, and eventually, that trust begins to turn into romantic feelings. Maniscalco’s development of their relationship felt natural and satisfying because deep down, Emilia and Wrath are very similar to each other. They’re both scheming, fiercely independent, and capable of immense acts of vengeance.

Another way Maniscalco develops Emilia’s character and her voice is the way she includes details about Emilia’s life and interests outside of her witchcraft and quest for vengeance. Emilia is passionate about cooking and working in her family’s restaurant. She takes notice of foods she’s eating, thinking of how the flavors combine, and how she could make the recipe herself. She mentions various Italian foods in passing. Food is something that’s incredibly important to Emilia but also used by Maniscalco to help build the world and the setting. 

In addition to strong character writing, Maniscalco creates an interesting world in Kingdom of the Wicked. It is a historical fantasy, but without a definitive tie to any particular year or recognizable time period. And it’s a testament to Maniscalco’s writing ability that rather than being a detriment to the world-building, this strengthens the story by not making it too tied to reality. 

Kingdom of the Wicked is a dark enemies-to-reluctant-allies-to-lovers fantasy that provides everything one could want from a book about witches and demons.

Kingdom of the Wicked will be available October 27th, 2020 wherever books are sold, or through our Bookshop.org affiliate link.

Kingdom of the Wicked
4.5

TL;DR

Kingdom of the Wicked is a dark enemies-to-reluctant-allies-to-lovers fantasy that provides everything one could want from a book about witches and demons.