on October 27, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 448 •Format: E-Book •Source: Overdrive
One brutal murder.
A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…
And an intoxicating romance.
Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.
Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…
I have to admit, the second I heard Italy + witches I was all in for this book. I love that witches seem to be making more of a comeback in paranormal YA and I’d never read an Italian historical fantasy about them, so I was more than ready to dive into Kingdom of the Wicked. I didn’t have high expectations given my lukewarm experience with Stalking Jack the Ripper, but I found myself torn between flying through the novel and being exasperated with some of the writing and plot points.
To be clear, I did enjoy this novel. It was a fun and engrossing read with a wonderfully lush setting. I loved exploring Emilia’s quaint Italian village with its dark undertones, from exploring spooky seaside caves to secret gambling dens and unsettling monasteries. I absolutely adored reading about Emilia’s family’s restaurant and reading about her love for cooking (in the beginning) and her reverence for food and the finest ingredients. Seriously, this book made me so hungry, even when speaking about the simplest ingredients!
There’s a mystery at the heart of this novel, and Emilia, the protagonist, teams up with one of the Princes of Hell (Wrath) to solve it. I’ve noticed the Princes of Hell trope becoming popular in fantasy novels lately, and I’m not mad about it. I think it presents a wide variety of plot options that many authors choose to use differently, and Kerri’s depictions are especially intriguing. I was fascinated to see Emilia’s interactions with some of the different princes, and how they manifested in the human world, and how the sins they are based on impacted human emotions and actions around them. I think at its core this series is really fascinating.
Where I struggled with this book is that it oftentimes felt like it was written so similarly to the YA paranormal romances of the past (Hush Hush, Fallen, etc). The romance, the descriptions of the love interest, the plot twists…it all felt very recycled to me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved those types of books back in their heyday, but I feel like the YA genre as a whole has progressed past it, or could at least improve upon it. Perhaps the setting of this book did, but the character actions did not. Emilia starts as a complex and shy character, but by the end of the novel she’s making such ill fated choices, taking stupid risks, and seems to casually transform into a simple sorceress who’s more concerned with her family’s restaurant into a vengeful powerhouse. Look, there’s nothing wrong with that sort of character progression, but it didn’t feel nuanced enough to me, and it didn’t feel like it took enough time (like this kind of character arc should span a couple of books, at least). It was like the writing of Emilia slowly morphed her into her rebellious twin Vittoria in the course of a couple weeks.
Overall: I enjoyed the tone and setting of this novel, even if the writing read a little simplistic and the tropes felt borrowed from 2012. The cliffhanger it ended on definitely left me wanting more, and I know I’ll be continuing on with this series, and I’m hopeful that the second installment is stronger.