Maniscalco performs magic with latest series

Witches to save the world, romance with demons of hell roaming Earth, vengeful and paranoid mortals out for blood. “Kingdom of the Wicked” has plenty jam-packed between its pages to appeal to a wide range of audiences.

I’ll admit it, I was nervous to read another Kerri Maniscalco series after her writing style fell off towards the end of her debut series “Stalking Jack the Ripper.” However, this novel was nothing like SJTR- in the best way possible.

Set in 19th century Palmero, Emilia and twin, Vittoria, are witches that have been warned about the Princes of Hell since before they could walk. Aside from that their family lives a normal life running a popular restaurant.

When Emilia stumbles upon the viciously murdered body of her sister, everything she’s known about their normal life is turned on its head. She recruits the assistance of Wrath, a Prince of Hell and the very person her grandma has been warning her about.

The world-building within this novel is phenomenal. There’s depth and layers to every place these characters visit, hinting at bigger themes to be explored in later books. If only the author put the same amount of “show, not tell” into the main character as she did setting.

Maniscalco did an interesting job creating Emilia’s character. She comes off in a way that’s supposed to feel like some sort of hidden genius and extremely competent, but everything about her seems reckless and not thought out in the slightest. More often than not she escapes harm due to plot convenience, which is disappointing since her character has potential.

Her connection to Vittoria, however, was done with perfect execution. Their relationship, and its abrupt end, creates the perfect motivation for Emilia’s reckless behavior and opens doors for many twists and turns within the plot.

Emilia did not appeal to me as much as I had hoped she would, but Wrath actually surprised me. Maniscalco crafted his character with just enough subtly that once you think you’re beginning to understand him, you realize just how wrong you were. Their dynamic is odd, sometimes it blends nicely, but mostly their personalities clash too much to make the romance feel anything less than forced.

I did, however, find the intricate world Maniscalco crafted quite fascinating. Her subtle hints to the superstition of past generations made it feel as though magic could be real, just carefully hidden.

Humans interactions between demons and witches and all sorts of mythological beasts are a sure way to hook readers, and adding it to her novel did exactly that.

The lack of magic was a slight disappointment. It wasn’t that there wasn’t enough, just that it was too inconsistent to make sense of and Emilia did not do as much as I imagine a young witch would. Compared to the magic her sister was dabbling in, I felt cheated out of a whole new world.

“Kingdom of the Wicked’’ wasn’t a bad book in fact, there were a lot of areas it exceeded in (Maniscalco’s descriptions of the food Emilia’s family made had my stomach growling!). There was a lot of untapped potential in this first book that, hopefully, the sequel will expand upon.

For anyone who loves fantasy YA, enemies to lovers, or gothic witchiness; this book is a must read!