Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2) by Kerri Maniscalco

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ARC provided by the publisher

➽ 1.) Kingdom of the Wicked ★★★

“And there is nothing more dangerous than love, is there? People fight for it. They die for it. They commit acts of war and treason and all manner of sin in its name.”

Whew, what a rollercoaster again! Kingdom of the Cursed picks up immediately after the events of Kingdom of the Wicked, and with Emilia trying to pick up the falling pieces of her life. Her main priority is to still avenge her sister and discover who was killing witches in her Italian town, but this time she is looking for clues in the land of actual heck, where she is promised to one of the seven demon rulers, and not the one she already has feelings for. Yet, Wrath escorts her back to his personal heck kingdom, and Emilia soon realizes there is much more she has to be in search of if she ever really wants to live a normal life again.

I feel like talking about my thoughts on this series is just so difficult. Let me start out by saying that this was the most easily consumable book I’ve read all year, and there wasn’t a moment I wasn’t thinking about it while not reading. The atmosphere, setting, and entire vibe is perfect, especially for the autumn time! The main character and her quests for vengeance and for her own discovery really is phenomenal. The writing is lush and descriptive and feels like its own sort of magical teleportation. And the story itself feels enthralling at every turn, and plot points are constantly being set up to leave the reader anticipating that next page, while also begging for the next book.

“When the demon responsible for Vittoria’s death finally felt the flames of my fury, I’d hopefully have burned this House of Sin to ash.”

But there was just a horrible chapter that really dampened my entire reading experience and it really breaks my heart because this is one of those situations where I truly believe if publishing houses would just hire beta readers who review critically, this could have been such an easy chapter to fix. I actually believe that if chapter 17 did not happen, this could have been a five star book for me and you could have seen me holding it up as a new profile picture in 2022. But that scene just 1.) made me wanna throw up and 2.) made it so hard to root for the romance after, even though the author constantly tries to make an excuse for the behavior, but it honestly just makes it feel even worse. Also, I wouldn’t make excuses for anything that happened in that chapter, but once I finished the book I realized that the “training session” was so unnecessary, at least in this book, and again it just ruined my reading enjoyment.

For the sake of the rest of this review, I’m just going to ignore this chapter. But in my review of Kingdom of the Wicked, I said how this series is the first series in so many years to remind me of those fantasy series I read when I was younger and truly could not put the books down, and I would look forward to their next installments being released months and months in advance, while trying to devour to story when it hit my kindle at midnight!

And this story was extra reminiscent of those feelings because this second book takes a very large jump in the adult or new adult fantasy genre. This book is very steamy, and Emilia and Wrath have very sexy thoughts on the brain 24/7. This author also makes full use of this series being about demons inspired off the seven deadly sins, and this story uses very public displays to showcase this. (I do scream at Emilia not knowing about oral sex though, especially when she claims to have read such naughty romance books in her past though!)

Overall, again, this is just a hard one for me to review and rate. I will for sure read book three and see how it all wraps up, because I am actually unhingedly invested in everything, especially with how this second book closes! I really loved all the new developments with Emilia’s powers and with all the witches and the history of witches, actually. I loved a lot of the side characters we were introduced to too, and maybe one demon prince will actually pull a Rhysand, which would be insane but I’d really welcome it at this point. I also want to see all of the different lands and castles of hell, too, because so far every exploration has felt magical and so exciting! I do apologize for this review being all over the place; middle books are always a bit more difficult for me to review, especially ones where I am trying to pretend an entire chapter didn’t happen. I’m going to be very curious what everyone thinks of this book once it releases!

“Not all stories end happily, Emilia”

Trigger + Content Warnings: a lot of blood descriptions + depictions, grief, gore, violence, mention of loss of a loved one, brief mention of the topic of rape, drugging, a lot of sexual themes and scenes, and a full warning that chapter 17 has very questionable physical consent involving mind control powers using magical compulsion – truly full dubcon vibes but sex does not ultimately happen, but it is just a very uncomfortable scene that actually made me nauseous, so please use caution while reading.

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Buddy read with Maëlys & Lea! ❤

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco | ARC Review

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ARC provided by Netgalley
Publication: October 27th, 2020

“In the end, the monster we feared didn’t come from Hell. He came from privilege.”

Oh, this review is going to be a wild ride. The range of things I feel for this book is very unreal. Listen, the atmosphere of this? The settings? The premise? I couldn’t get enough. Dare I even say close to perfect? And the plot had me so very invested in every single way. But this actual story and the plot conveniences, the characters and their lack of critical thinking, the obvious plot twists? The Lord might be testing me. The whiplash I felt while reading this was a full experience and deserves a star rating of its own, truly.

When you open this book for the first time, the prologue will transport you to a stormy night in 19th century Italy, where two little twin girls are being gifted very special necklaces while slowly learning their witch powers and history from their grandmother. There are seven demon princes but only 4 the witches should fear, but somehow their necklaces will keep them safe, even though they are instructed to never place them together.

“One will crave your blood. One will capture your heart. One will steal your soul. And one will take your life.”

Then the story actually takes place ten years in the future, where Emilia and Vittoria are now eighteen-years-old, but we see how that night has shaped their lives for the last decade in so many different ways, but for sure centering on those necklaces that were entrusted to them. Both girls are trying to help their family with their restaurant, find and follow their dreams, and lead normal lives, but they soon find out that normal and safe and happy was never in the cards for them.

Again, I do not want to give much away, because I think I very much benefited from not reading the synopsis of this story. But the gates of hell are weakening, and their city and family are no longer safe. Not only do they have to worry about hiding the fact that they are witches, but now they have to worry about demon princes, witch hunters, and other creatures that go bump in the night! But Emilia is thrust in the heart of it all, with her witchcraft on full display, when she makes a deal with a demon when she is most desperate.

Together, Emilia and Wrath (be still, my BDB heart) are forced to work together to investigate brutal and mysterious murders that are happening, but they are both looking for clues for very different reasons. My favorite part of this book was truly going alongside Emilia and seeing all these different settings. From secret casinos, to her family’s kitchen, surprise palaces, spooky beaches, to the scary and dark corridors within the church, I couldn’t get enough of all the different adventures in all the different places.

“Grief carved me in half. And fury honed the pieces into a weapon.”

I really loved the depiction of grief and depression in this book, too. How the weight of sadness can be unbearable, especially alone, when your world and future are taken from you right before your eyes. I also think Kerri Maniscalco did a really good job portraying not only the different stages that can be held within grief, but to also tell the reader that there is truly no wrong way to grieve. Heartbreak can be sadness and pain, but it can also be anger and revenge.

I also did really enjoy the romance and I think if you are looking to indulge in a new OTP that will remind you of 2015 then you are in luck with this one! I did enjoy Wrath a lot more than Emilia for the most part, but I feel like the plot convenience (and Emilia acting stupid) was the downfall of this book. I am not good at unraveling mysteries, but I truly unraveled this one instantly, I only wish Emilia could have a little sooner and it made the reading experience a bit annoying. Also, she gets upset at the strangest things, and wholeheartedly accepts the wildest things for no reason. I truly feel like her character was mostly used to move the book along conveniently instead of actually making her feel like a main character with depth and identity.

Also, I’m just going to say it, the grandmother in this book is one of the most infuriating characters I’ve read about all 2020. Like, regardless of prophecies, how are you going to be this mysterious with eight-year-old little girls and then really not fill them in on any blanks for the next ten years of their lives too? The grandma is really written to look like this cool and wise character who helps save the day, but I truly could not stand her or her shocked reaction when things would fall apart around her.

On top of the mysteries in this book being a bit of a letdown, I will also say that I felt like so many big events in this book kind of happened just for (hopefully) set ups for the next installment. I’m all for setting up things in early books, but it just kind of feels bad when absolutely nothing happens regarding these big chapters after the scene has ended. I feel like if this book felt more cohesive throughout, instead of just setting up for what is to come, I would have gotten so much of a higher rating from me, but I have to rate and review off the material that is given to me and it made for a bit of an infuriating reading experience.

“Man had a funny way of blaming the devil for things he didn’t like.”

Overall, I couldn’t put this book down. Truly. And I would bet you a great sum of money that I will also pick up the next one, because this book ended on a very perfect cliffhanger set up that I greedily want to know everything about. This book really did give me nostalgic feels for some reason, it made me very hungry most of the time, and it made me truly never want to put it down. The writing is so easily consumable, and I really did fall in love with the setting and plot set up. I only wish it felt a little bit more like a full story and not just a set up book. I still predict that this book will do really well, and I think most people will have a very good reading experience with this with.

Trigger and Content Warnings: gore, violence, blood depiction, self-harm to get blood for spells, loss of a loved one, grief depiction, murder, death, brief mention of unwanted touching, and magical compulsion.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Maëlys & Lea! ❤