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

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2): by Holly Black

Publish Date: January 8th, 2019
Number of Pages: 322 Pages
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

***Warning!!! This review may contain spoilers from the previous title, The Cruel Prince! Continue reading at your own risk, you’ve officially been warned!***

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

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the whole series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

After reading this little number, I have a few questions for our devious author, Holly Black… First one: How dare you? Second one: why are you doing this to us? why must you torture us with this book? this series? Seriously…this book is why I have trust issues!

If you loved the first title of this highly entertaining YA Fantasy trilogy, you’re in for a quite a surprise with this next title; you’ll somehow grow even more addicted to it because…oh my lord, the twists, the turns, the betrayals…oh, the betrayals! It might be too much for some of you more sensitive readers, I don’t know…maybe you won’t be as much of a mess as I was as I finished it, or maybe you’ll be worse off, who knows?

If you couldn’t guess by now, I seriously enjoyed this book, but not for the best of reasons…It’s just so wicked, so twisty, so addicting, so dangerous, so untrustworthy, so heart-wrenching, so diabolical, so steamy, and also so beautifully written; I am quickly becoming a huge fan of Holly Black, even as it becomes painfully more and more obvious and that she’s sadistic and loves to torture us all!

His mouth curls into a smile. His eyes shine with wicked intent. “Look at them all, your subjects. A shame not a one knows who their true ruler is.”

– Holly Black, “The Wicked King”

What It’s About:

This sequel starts five months after the events that took place in the previous title, The Cruel Prince, and here’s the quick recap of what’s all going down: Cardan had become King of Elfhame, but secretly has Jude controlling him behind the scenes until the one year and one day time limit ends. Jude also is on rocky terms with Madoc, Taryn is set to marry Locke (which is fine, they deserve each other *barf*), Oak is in hiding with Vivi after the shocking reveal that he was actually the true heir to the throne, Balekin is locked away for being a psychotic drama queen (or king?) for trying to steal the crown. Yep, so a lot happened, and it all will come into play as the story continues to develop.

There is a new threat to worry about: Orlagh, the Queen of the Undersea (And Nicasia’s mother), has decided to end her treaty with the fae folk and rule them all since she’s not too convinced about Cardan on the throne, and plans on a hostile takeover. All the other courts are coming together, also questioning Cardan and whether he’s a worthy king to follow.

What I Liked:

Our eyes meet, and something dangerous sparks.

He hates you, I remind myself.

“Kiss me again,” he says, drunk and foolish. “Kiss me until I am sick of it.”

I feel those words, feel them like a kick to the stomach. He sees my expression and laughs, a sound full of mockery. I can’t tell which of us he’s laughing at.

He hates you. Even if he wants you, he hates you.

Maybe he hates you the more for it.

After a moment, his eyes flutter closed. His voice falls to a whisper, as though he’s talking to himself. “If you’re the sickness, I suppose you can’t also be the cure.”

He drifts off to sleep, but I am wide awake.”

– Holly Black, “The Wicked King”
  1. The Banter and Sexual Tension Between Cardan & Jude! Easily my favorite part of this whole series. There’s never been quite a relationship in a book series like the one these two have, whether it’s YA Fantasy, Adult Fantasy, Romance, you name it. Both are anti-heroes, both morally-questionable, and both have done some less-than-stellar things towards each other and those around them. It’s obvious that they don’t want to trust each other, but as they are literally betrayed by everyone else as the story progresses, they slowly start to realize how they need to try with each other if they want be able to get what they both want. What is also so enthralling is how they both still refuse to admit or even accept their feelings for each other. They hate the other one for making them love each other; it’s so complex, unique, and so entertaining! Their dynamic was seriously so sexy to read, I couldn’t get enough! It’s weird, but I actually really like that both of them are willing to exploit each other, despite it being so flippin’ obvious that they’re both falling hardcore for each other, but neither wants to admit to themselves, and especially not to each other because nobody wants to give that sort of power over to the other. It’s so much fun to see how they play around each other like it’s some sort of chess game, but I’m not sure if they know what they want more: power or each other. Can they have both? It’s hard to say… Things get pretty intense and heated (AKA steamy) between them, and with how the book ends in such a dramatic cliffhanger, it makes for the third book to be all that much more anticipated to finally give us readers the final outcome of this magnificent enemies-to-lovers relationship comes to be. I absolutely have no idea, and I cannot wait!
  2. You Can’t Trust Anybody! Literally everyone is plotting behind each other’s back in this story, absolutely NO ONE is innocent. I swear, no book has ever matched up to the term “twists and turns” more than this title! Throughout the story, Jude is warned that someone close to her will betray her, and she slowly goes absolutely crazy trying to find out who it is. Mild Spoiler Alert but not really*** It’s actually, like, everyone. Everyone has ulterior motives, everyone has secrets, and everyone is willing to pull a Brutus and totally stab Caesar in order to get what they want…AND I absolutely love it! It’s so unpredictable and is like a literary thorn bush that protrudes everywhere and leaves you in so much pain wherever you go! Don’t even try and attempt to figure what may happen next, you won’t.
  3. That Cliffhanger Ending! It was something to behold…I can’t give too much away, but I can say that it makes you want to get that third book in your hands. ASAP. It’s pretty brutal to be honest, and I’m loving the theories I’m reading about it and whether people are justifying it or condemning it. I was shook, snatched bald, not okay after it, you name it! Oh Cardan Greenbriar…I don’t even know where to start!
  4. Continues to Have Dark/Morally Grey Characters! Besides the romance, another thing this book is about is power, much like a lot of Fantasy novels. It’s about power, and the vile things people will do in order to gain it. It makes this book stand out to look back and think about all the characters you meet in this series, and marvel at how morally gray they all are. Some are obviously more vile than others, but one thing Holly Black does so well is give us a glimpse of how their actions are justified. Maybe we don’t agree with them, but we can see where the character’s mind went in order for us to maybe understand where they are coming from…except maybe Taryn and Locke. They can choke.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. How Short This Book Felt…I honestly don’t know if it’s because I cruised through this book in no time at all, or if it’s because it’s actually pretty short compared to other fantasy novels, but I wanted more! It felt like the story was over so much quicker, and it was shorter than the previous title (The Cruel Prince: 370 Pages, The Wicked King: 322 Pages), and I’m just a pouting, spoiled brat because I WANT MORE!!!

Conclusion:

The Folk in the Air series continues in the most devious, enchanting, and twisted of ways! Fans of the first book in the series will be absolutely ADDICTED when they read what goes on in this sequel; and while they may want to chuck this book across the room and scream at the frustration and angst that it causes, it also drives their need to keep reading and see what happens next, and make it feel more important than breathing, than eating. It’s like a drug you can’t get enough of! With the author’s beautiful prose, captivating cast of characters, and steamy romance weaved between the intricate and compelling plots; all that equates to the work of an evil genius… Holly Black, you are just so deliciously evil!

I have heard that for mortals, the feeling of falling in love is very like like the feeling of fear. Your heart beats fast. Your senses are heightened. You grow light-headed, maybe even dizzy. Is that right?

‘Jude,’ he said, running a hand up my calf. ‘Are you afraid of me?'”

– Holly Black, “The Wicked King”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell