New Adult Romance, Paranormal, Romance, YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked #1): by Kerri Maniscalco

Publish Date: October 27th, 2020
Number of Pages: 372 Pages
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, New Adult Romance, YA Romance, Paranormal Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Pages

There are victors and victims. Decide who you want to be. Or the choice will be made for you, witch. And I doubt you’ll like it.

I threw my head back and groaned. ‘It’s a game of scopa, not a battle between life and death. Are you always this dramatic?'”

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Wicked”

Kingdom of the Wicked was a slow burn of a book for me; the beginning started off like any other YA Fantasy title, but once you get further into the story and discover more and more myth and lore in the world that the author of the Stalking Jack The Ripper series has created, I can really say that the book takes off with a jolt in some witchy delight!

This is actually my first novel by Kerri Maniscalco, and after reading it I can say I’m definitely more and more interested in reading her other series I mentioned above because there are still some familiar themes of murder, mystery, romance, and historical settings to make the reader engaged and wanting to stay up late to see what happens next. What I’m noticing with this newer series, however, is that the author seems to have more room for fun and creativity to take her story even further!

The romance was a huge draw for me, and for the most part, it certainly didn’t disappoint! I easily got into the chemistry that oozed between the two main characters, Emilia and Wrath, and loved their whole dynamic; I never get tired of an enemies-to-lovers dynamic. While both characters weren’t anything brand new or entirely unique to the genre, I can say they’re still fun to read as they argue and (attempt) to ignore their growing attractions for each other as they work together to solve a murder mystery.

It wasn’t a perfect read; The the overall pacing with the chapters and how they’re set up was a little strange for my liking, and some of the ending needs to be clarified for me—or I need to go back and reread it for myself and make sure I pay more attention!

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Two sisters…

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 that 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…

‘One day you might beg me to kiss you.’ He stepped close enough for me to stab him.”

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Wicked”

What I Liked:

  1. The Many Food Descriptions! Several other reviewers pointed this one out, but there are some seriously delicious italian dishes that get mentioned in this book since the main character’s family owns and operates a restaurant. Cannoli’s are amazing, and I had some major cravings for some once I arrived to that part within the story…yum!
  2. The Romance Between Wrath and Emilia! This book is a great addition to the enemies-to-lovers romance trope as Wrath and Emilia have some immediate sexual tension that builds and builds between them as they reluctantly work together to solve the murder of her twin sister. They irritate each other and start verbal lashings from each other, but underneath it all is an obvious attraction that neither can ignore the closer they become. Their dynamic also grew rather realistically as they slowly begin to trust each other—at least until certain things happen—and rely on each other’s strength into a begrudging respect for one another.
  3. The Worldbuilding! I actually liked the class systems of demons the author presented us, there are also the seven demon princes of hell representing the seven deadly sins, the witches living amongst the normal folks and the witch hunters who are secretly members of the church, even werewolves; it’s all mixed together to create an interesting world that may or make this series an incredibly memorable one!
  4. The “Whodunnit” Murder Mystery! I always love a good mystery where the main character is on the hunt for a killer who leaves a bloody trail of bodies behind.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Beginning Felt Very Generic…This book was pretty boring at first and felt like any general YA Fantasy title out there, but once Emilia and Wrath run into each other and meet for the first time, that was when things really begin to take off!
  2. Not Enough Steam…I know this is a YA Fantasy book so the sexual content (a.k.a. smut) is supposed to be very limited, but really do feel like this story would be even better if there were more steamy scenes. I mean like let’s see truly how “wicked” Prince Wrath can be *wink*wink.* Maybe there’ll be more scenes like this in later books, but again, I know it can only go so far within the YA reading level.
  3. The Ending…Okay, so this one may be on me because I maybe wasn’t fully paying close enough attention and missed something, but part of the ending kind of went over my head. For most of the book, it felt like a pretty light read that didn’t require my entire attention, but then all of a sudden SO MUCH was happening at the end and I blinked and missed some vital information I think…if someone sees this review and wants to message me to fully explain it all to me, you’d officially be my favorite person!!
  4. The Short Chapters…Some chapters were only like a page and a half long, and I was wondering to myself why a single conversation was sometimes three whole chapters when it could’ve been just one? It was weird pacing to me and kind of annoying at times…

Conclusion:

This is my first Kerri Maniscalco novel, and this book really does make me interested in reading her Stalking Jack The Ripper series that put her name on the map!

Like the romance between the two main characters in this book, the story was a slow burn that definitely left me interested to keep reading on once the next book arrives later on! It wasn’t the next binge-worthy series for me to become obsessed with, but this book shows that the series has a whole lot of potential to become a huge fan favorite among the many other incredibly popular YA Fantasy series most of us readers know and love!

A reckoning awoke in me. The more I gave, the more he returned. We traded kisses like blows. And if this were a fight, I wouldn’t know who was winning. I understood why some thought kissing one of the Wicked was addictive. Each time his tongue touched mine, it felt as if the ground beneath me quaked. Like we were a cataclysmic event that shouldn’t be.”

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Wicked”

I recommend this book to those that really enjoyed other titles like Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin or the Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black; the dynamic between Wrath and Emilia for sure gave me some impressions of Jude and Cardan with the whole enemies-to-lovers, then back to enemies dynamic!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories (The Folk of the Air #3.5): by Holly Black (Illustrated by Rovina Cai)

Publish Date: November 24th, 2020
Number of Pages: 192 Pages
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers to the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***

To see my full review of book #1 – The Cruel Prince – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #2 – The Wicked King – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #3 – The Queen of Nothing – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

This was such a nice treat: to be transported back into the magical realm of Elfhame and be reunited with perhaps one of the most popular couples to ever grace the YA Fantasy genre: Jude Duarte and Cardan Greenbriar. I’m not gonna lie, I missed my beautiful, morally grey couple after everything that did—and didn’t—happen in the previous book, The Queen of Nothing!

This book reads very much like those whimsical fairytale stories you read as a little kid, and the book certainly adds to that aesthetic with the artwork that also fills the pages. What I think is the big draw for this novella is how Holly Black majorly switched it up and instead of Jude, you get inside the intricate mind of the Wicked King himself and what the heck was going through his mind in some key scenes before, during, and after what happens in the original trilogy. Sure, some readers are not fans of him for his manipulative and abusive actions in some parts of the story, but this book is also the perfect gift for anyone who is on the complete opposite side of that spectrum.

The artwork is actually so so so so so gorgeous too! Rovina Cai is a freelance artist based out of Australia, and you seriously need to check out her website to view her portfolio! Her work is utterly enchanting and haunting; she was a perfect choice as the illustrator for this tale!

Check out her website in the link below, and be as amazed as I was:

https://www.rovinacai.com/

One thing I will say is I was just a little disappointed with how short this whole book was, and it felt like as I was really starting to get into it that it was over before you know it! I also totally figured this would be the case going in too, but this book just feels like a total teaser and I WANT MORE! Still enjoyable, most definitely, but why not just write a full length novel, but still keep all the artwork (of course)?

What It’s About:

The official Blurb:

An illustrated addition to the New York Times bestselling Folk of Air trilogy, that started with The Cruel Prince, from award-winning author Holly Black.

An irresistible return to the captivating world of Elfhame.

Once upon a time, there was a boy with a wicked tongue.

Before he was a cruel prince or a wicked king, he was a faerie child with a heart of stone . #1 New York Times bestselling author, Holly Black reveals a deeper look into the dramatic life of Elfhame’s enigmatic high king, Cardan. This tale includes delicious details of life before The Cruel Prince, an adventure beyond The Queen of Nothing, and familiar moments from The Folk of the Air trilogy, told wholly from Cardan’s perspective.

This new installment in the Folk of the Air series is a return to the heart-racing romance, danger, humor, and drama that enchanted readers everywhere. Each chapter is paired with lavish and luminous full-color art, making this the perfect collector’s item to be enjoyed by both new audiences and old.

What I Liked:

  1. The Artwork! It has a certain appeal that really works for a grimm fairytale-like story much like this collection of short stories. The artist created well over a dozen gorgeous images that coincide with what is written on the page, and just about every single page has something to look at–whether it be a gorgeous border and a full page image of Cardan Greenbriar enjoying his own little storybook out in the forest.
  2. The Perspective of Cardan! In the original trilogy, you only really got to be in the head of Jude Duarte as she overcame all the challenges laid before her in Elfhame, but this time you follow the Wicked King much more closely and get a closer glimpse of what’s been going on in his head over the years, including during some key scenes within the actual trilogy.
  3. The Story of the Drunk Moth! It was just a moment in this book that took me by surprise by how much it made me laugh! I guess I’ll give a slight spoiler warning for this::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::Basically, Cardan rides a giant moth into the Mortal realm—our world—but the creature will only fly him back if Cardan buys him booze, so Cardan glamours a couple leaves into dollar bills, goes into a liquor store and brings the moth back a six pack in terms of their agreement! I don’t know, that just really paints a glorious picture in my mind!
  4. The Continuation of Cardan and the Troll Woman! Cardan comes face to face with a particular character throughout the course of this book, and each time they meet a story is told about a boy with a stone heart. The story changes over time, much like we do, and I thought the way the author tied this together was done remarkably well, definitely pay attention to this when you read it yourself!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. It’s Way Too Short…I mean, I knew this was going to be the case going in with this book, but while the material was fun to read and it was like being reunited with long lost friends with these characters and the world of Elfhame, it wasn’t enough! It was very much just a major teaser and I wish we’d rather have just gotten a full length novel instead, especially as something to treat ourselves to after the crapshoot of a year 2020 was!

Conclusion:

For fans of The Folk of the Air trilogy, this is like the best sort of cherry on top of what was a pretty sweet and decadent dessert that the three books provided for us as avid readers. You get inside the mind of Cardan as the stories are told from his perspective, and the artwork is absolutely stunning, so I can say that besides the fact that I do wish there were many more pages to read, what’s not to like about this perfect gift of a novella?

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: The Folk of the Air Series by Holly Black

courtesy of Instagram profile @darkfaerietales_

In Holly Black’s enchanting and twisted trilogy, Jude Duarte is a young mortal girl when Madoc comes and kills her parents. He takes her and her sisters back with him to the High Courts of Faerie, and ten years later wants nothing more than to belong amongst the folk despite their hatred for humans. Among the worst is Cardan Greenbriar, the youngest and most sadistic prince of the royal court, and Jude must evade him and his threats in order to secure her place.

As she gets herself caught up within the many twisted webs of courtly intrigue, she discovers her own skills and willingness to shed blood and tell lies, and discovers not only a shocking betrayal in the works but a scandal that could rock the whole future of Faerie. Jude must make some deadly deals and align herself with some dangerous players in order to secure not only her own safety, but everyone else she loves too.

My book review for The Cruel Prince (Folk of the Air #1) is here!

My book review for The Wicked King (Folk of the Air #2) is here!

My book review for The Queen of Nothing (Folk of the Air #3) is here!

The Folk of the Air trilogy is full of twists, deadly surprises, and enchanting romance that entranced me into Holly Black’s world of Faerie, and has been a vastly popular series for fans of YA-Fantasy everywhere!

~~~

Here is my official Fancast/Dreamcast:

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Jude Duarte/Taryn Duarte: Daisy Ridley

Credit to owner

Who I really need as is a young Natalie Portman, but Daisy is an awesome choice to play the twins if I do say so myself! Based of her portrayal of Rey in the new “Star Wars” movies along with her role in “Murder on the Orient Express”, she’d be great at capturing both Jude and Taryn’s split personalities.

Prince Cardan Greenbriar: Mitchell Wick

He’s got the flow, he’s got the smoldering gaze, and the sexy body! My pick for the wicked king of Elfhame is none other than this gorgeous male model.

Vivianne Duarte: Ana de Armas, or Sophia Bush

Ana de Armas, who stared in Rian Johnson’s whodunnit film, Knives Out, definitely has a certain look that I believe is quite similar to Jude and Taryn’s older half-fae sister. Sophia Bush is another great choice who’s been in hit TV shows like One Tree Hill and Chicago P.D.

Locke: Douglas Booth

Just dye his hair a fiery orange, and you’ve got yourself my version of Locke! This British actor has been in the BBC mini-series based of Agatha Christie’s novel: “And Then There Were None,” along with the newer edition of “Romeo and Juliet” alongside Hailey Steinfeld.

Balekin Greenbriar: Aidan Turner

The older, more sinister of the Greenbriar siblings needed to be played by someone who is able to play a villain and look good doing it. I think I was watching The Hobbit movies when I came up with Aiden Turner as my choice, who was also in the And Then There Were None mini-series, but it worked!

Eldred Greenbriar: Anthony Hopkins

If these books were turned into a film franchise, it’s something that no one would expect Hannibal Lector to be a part of, so I thought it’d be fun to see Anthony as the elderly king of Elfhame and get him all campy and fairy-like.

Madoc: Keifer Sutherland

Kind of a random/filler answer to who would play the role of Madoc, but from what little I’ve seen on his old show, 24, Keifer would hold his own as the General.

Nicasia: Aja Naomi King

I love her in ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, and for some reason I pictured Nicasia being black—why not?—so Aja Naomi King would excel at the role of the elitist princess of the deep!

Dain Greenbriar: Tyler Hoechlin

Another Mr. tall, dark, and handsome to play a Greenbriar sibling! Catch him from the Teen Wolf TV show that used to be on MTV (if you feel up to it, I know that sentence makes it really tempting).

Heather: Kat Graham

Kat Graham has been a favorite of mine ever since her witchy days back on The Vampire Diaries, and she’s always switching up her look, so I thought she’d be a good fit for the alternative, artistic character named Heather.

Valerian: Dan Stevens

He was pretty decent in the recent live-action Disney film, Beauty and the Beast, alongside Emma Watson, so he’s familiar with playing in fantasy settings for projects.

The Ghost: Robert Hoffman

Kind of a meh choice, but surprisingly it was harder to find an actor with sandy colored hair and hazel eyes that fit the bill of the mysterious assassin. If anyone remembers him, he was the jerk of an ex-boyfriend in She’s The Man and was in Step Up 2: The Streets even though none of those roles really help my casting of him.

The Bomb: Melvnin

This instagram model has such a beautiful, unique look; she looks like a faerie in real life!

Oriana: Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow is an actress who hardly needs any introductions or reminders of what films she’s done. Oriana always seems like she has a cloud hanging over her head, but she still pulls it off with such grace and splendor…Our girl Gwynie would rock this part!

Queen Orlagh: Viola Davis

Since she works with Aja (above) in “HTGAWM,” why not have her play Nicasia’s mother, the Queen of the ocean?

Asha (Cardan’s Mother): Sarah Paulson

Say what you will about American Horror Story, but there’s no denying that Sarah Paulson is an absolutely brilliant actress! Asha seems like an incredibly complex character, and I would love Sara to bring her character to life!

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Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy

My Review: The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1): by Holly Black

Publish Date: January 2nd, 2018
Number of Pages: 370 Pages
Publisher: Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

I had incredibly little expectations for this title when I picked it up only a couple of months after it’s initial release date. The cover instantly drew me in; I’ve said it before, but YA books have been getting the golden treatment in terms of cover designs. Prior to it, I’d heard very little about Holly Black as an author, and any of the previous work she’s released before this title. She’d done other stories like the Modern Faerie Tales trilogy, The Magisterium series with Cassandra Clare (Bestselling author of the Mortal Instruments Series who’s also her BFF), but none had gotten my attention quite like The Cruel Prince.

I think it was also the many comparisons to Sarah J. Maas’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series all over social media that made me even take note of it to be completely honest. At the time, I’d just begun to read that series, fall in love with it after reading the second title, A Court of Mist and Fury (SJM’s best book written to this time, don’t even try and fight me on it!), so I thought to myself, why not?, and gave it a shot.

What It’s About:

At the young age of seven, Jude Duarte witnessed her parents get murdered. She and her two sisters, Taryn and Vivienne, lived peacefully in our world until one day when a magical being arrives and completely changes their lives. General Madoc, who it turned out was actually Vivienne’s biological father, kills their parents and frisks them all away to live with him in the secret, magical realm of Faerie. 10 years later, twin sisters Jude and Taryn have grown to love their new home despite being mortal, and obediently follow the rules in order to stay. Vivi, who is actually half-fae, is the total opposite and doesn’t want to a part of this world.

Elfhame, the setting of Holly Black’s “The Folk of the Air” Series, Image courtesy of the fandom’s wiki page

Being Mortal, the twins are seen as lower-born, or less desirable amongst some of the fae, and the only way they (or any human) can stay in the realm into adulthood is if they marry someone fae, or be able to show a truly impressive skill. Taryn chooses the marriage option, but Jude decides to enter a tournament to show off her skill in combat in order to become a become a knight for the royal family.

I want to win. I do not yearn to be their equal. In my heart, I yearn to best them.”

– Holly Black, “The Cruel Prince”

The three sisters attend a ball at the Palace for the King, who has announced that he will soon appoint a successor amongst his six sons for the crown. It is there that you meet another VERY interesting character, Prince Cardan Greenbriar, the youngest but most vicious of the royals. Along with his little posse of noble-born fae, their goal seems to be to torment the twins during their schooling lessons. Jude and Cardan go back and forth in their torture; he even tries to drown her in order to get her to not compete in the tournament, but is saved by her sister. Jude and Cardan’s hatred for each other is a strong driving point of the story, that also takes a twist that no one would wholly see coming.

One night, Jude returns home to be told that theres a prince waiting for her in the parlor. It’s not Prince Cardan, but one of his older brothers, Prince Dain, much to her surprise. They cut a deal, and from there on, Jude becomes a part of all the palace intrigue and learns more about the lies and deception that go on behind closed doors, and discovers a shocking secret, along with a plot, that could change everything. She must be able to stand amongst those most dangerous in order to not only save herself, or her sisters, but all of Faerie itself.

Instead of being afraid, I will become something to fear.”

– Holly Black, “The Cruel Prince”

What I Liked:

  1. The Complexity of the Characters! In this story, there’s no line of good versus evil; it’s not black and white and easy to distinguish. Every character is not entirely likeable or unlikeable, and they all have a dark side and does things that are below the belt, despicable, whatever nasty word you can use to describe it. It was refreshing to see a heroine in Jude, who wasn’t afraid to lie, cheat and steal in order to gain an advantage; even better was when she found herself enjoying it. This world doesn’t create Disney Princesses darling; you’ve got to have some claws in order to gain power and influence.
  2. Fae Mythology! I am by no means an expert when it comes to Faerie folklore, but according to others, Holly Black really did her research on the matter and successfully integrated a lot of myth and legends into her story in order for it be considered an accurate portrayal. The Fae are supernatural beings that can come in all shapes and sizes and is the broad term to tie together many species: Elves, Pixies, Leprechauns, Dwarves, Gnomes, Dryads, etc. Basically, imagine every fairytale you’ve ever read from your childhood to now, and any magical being that appears is considered fae. They’ve been around for such a long time (Even Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream had them), and lived in harmony amongst mortals until Christianity drove a wedge between them (first of all, hmmm……second of all, thats what I think I read…experts can feel free to call me out if that’s inaccurate). They are more in tune with nature, they cannot tell a lie, they are more malevolent than humans, are tricksters, and for some reason have a weakness to iron.
  3. The Climax! Yowza…what a way to wrap it all together, not to mention, what a creative way to integrate this story into the next. Holly Black knows how to torture her readers!
  4. Holly Black’s Prose! Her writing style is simply gorgeous; it seams effortlessly together, and the way she can form words…it all just comes together so magnificently. It’s just perfect. I want to know her secrets.
  5. The Tiny sprinkle of Romance! Yes fam, amongst all the lies, the deceit, the bitter betrayals, the side-changing, there is a little bit of romance alongside all the rest of the story, much to my satisfaction. The only question is: Is it genuine, or is it simply manipulated in order to gain an edge? And by edge, yes, I mean the edge of a sharp knife against a delicate throat, ready to test a theory (*wink*wink*) to those that read have already it), or ready to slash at any second, sending blood spraying like a popped open bottle of champagne.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Beginning Felt Rushed and Undervalued…To me, the beginning of the story went by so fast with its initial set up, it almost feels like it was pointless to include it if it meant so little to the overall story. It’s something that’s supposed to be an incredibly traumatic & grieving experience, something that changes a being (magical or mortal), and it felt like it was over before we knew it without any of the characters actually being all that affected by it. Even more strange, there was absolutely no need for revenge or justice amongst them because of it; it simply happened, and everyone moved on (except for me, I guess…)

Conclusion:

This book overall is nothing thats too new or innovative when it comes to what we’ve seen in YA Fantasy before, but that doesn’t make it any less of an entertaining read. It’s addicting because of the author’s beautiful prose, her characterization and their development, and the many twists and turns you take within the pages as the reader; it’s like being caught in a web of vines deep in the forest, and no one is around to hear you scream. It leaves you with excitement, it leaves you in torment, but ultimately it leaves you wanting more, which is what any author should want.

There are some similarities to the popular “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series by my queen Sarah J. Maas that I mentioned earlier, but that’s purely from looking at it from it’s initial aesthetic before actually reading what Holly Black has created for us. Both are great additions to the YA Fantasy genre, and it can go down as me saying that it’s guaranteed that this series will go down as one of the Greats.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell