Monday, August 23, 2021

ARC Review: Kingdom of the Cursed by Kerri Maniscalco

Title: Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2)
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Pages: 448
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Review for book 1

One sister.

Two sinful princes.

Infinite deception with a side of revenge…Welcome to Hell.

After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.

She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria...even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world...or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?

Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves...

Hold onto your butts! Unpopular opinion incoming. Kingdom of the Wicked was one of my absolute favorite reads of 2020. I was obsessed and had to acquire every edition I could find. Needless to say, I was SO excited to get access to an ARC of Kingdom of the Cursed and jumped in as soon as my brain would allow (mood reading sucks). Based on other reviews I expected a lot of spice and, coming off of a spicy book binge, I was definitely here for it. 

Kingdom of the Cursed picks up immediately after book one with Emilia traveling to the Seven Circles with Wrath. Upon arriving at his palace she begins to search for clues about her sister's murder while resisting the sinful influence of the realm. Honestly, the plot of this book is a bit all over the place and a little confusing at times.  

Kingdom of the Wicked set up a mystery that I was eager to figure out. There are multiple new mysteries on top of the ones that are ongoing from that book and, where book one had a clear focus and goal, this one tried to do too much at once. Emilia seemed to jump around constantly to new theories, mysteries, and plans and I struggled to understand what she was even trying to do. There were some interesting reveals in the last 10%, but I wish there had been more clear plot earlier on. 

Truly though, I'm just here for the romance between Wrath and Emilia. This book has been marketed as New Adult (or at least the word of mouth has implied that it is) and the spice was really not what I expected. While there are certainly spicy scenes, Kerri's way of writing sexuality has always been off to me and it's no different here. Emilia constantly talks about how empowered and sexual she is, but there is always a sense of shame surrounding sex in this world. This was also an aspect of Kerri's previous series that made me uncomfortable.

Mild spoilers to further my thoughts about the weird handling of sexuality:
Two things in particular really make me question what Kerri's feelings towards sex before marriage are: First, the actual act of sex between Wrath and Emilia has massive, life changing consequences. Second, when Emilia actually sees other people having sex, it's at a party thrown by one of the princes and is written as one of many sinful indulgences put on display by Gluttony.

The world itself is fascinating. We only visit three of the Seven Circles, but each one is unique and well written. The brothers Emilia meets are a bit one dimensional and perfectly fit their sins, but I did really enjoy Pride and Envy. All that said, I wish that Kerri spent significantly less time on her descriptions. I frequently found myself skimming multi-page long descriptions of rooms, clothes, gardens, etc. I understand world building, but her overly descriptive style is not for me. 

I definitely plan to continue with book three because the end of this one does feel like it's leading to something better. In the meantime, I think this series will be moving off my favorites shelf.