Well I finally did it! I have had this book on my TBR forEVER. I love me some Kerri Maniscalco books, with the Jack the Ripper series being one of my most reread series. I hesitated to start this book, because I know the sequel doesn’t come out until October and I really don’t have the patience to wait 6 whole months for it. But… I broke and read it and absolutely loved it. And am so frustrated I have to wait 6 months to read the sequel!
Here is a little spoiler free synopsis for you guys.
Emilia and her twin, Vittoria, are Streghe- witches who practice magic in secret to avoid detection. Their grandmother has taught them everything they know about the rules of magic, and has always warned them about dealing with the demon Princes of Hell known for their cruel tricks. These rules fly out the window when Emilia comes across the body of her murdered twin sister, and is desperate to find the killer and enact vengeance. In order to find the murderer, she finds herself having to work with one of the Princes of Hell, Wrath, and over time she comes to question everything she knows; about her family, about her magic, and about the stories she’s been told all her life.
Disclaimer: There will be spoilers ahead so tread carefully!!
Our main character Emilia, is a quiet, book loving, rule following young woman (hello she could be my twin) who day dreams of having her own restaurant, and creating new recipes. Her life is simple and straightforward until her twin’s murder. Emilia then struggles with losing her twin because her whole world has been torn apart, her plans with her twin for the future and everything she has imagined her life becoming are now gone. She has always been the less bold twin, but her love for her sister guides her into growing into this cunning and bold young woman who will do whatever it takes for justice. It was a true pleasure watching her learn to trust herself and her powers. On the other hand, she is definitely a little slow to put the pieces of the mystery together to the point I just wanted to jump into the book and shake her!
Wrath is the love interest/partner in crime in this novel. He is a very typical morally gray character, the reader is never really sure of his motivations and in any given moment we are never sure if he is about to betray our lovely MC or save her. He was a hilarious character though, with some of the best one liners. Although I am having a hard time with his name Wrath, I wish there was something else we could call him lol. Even though I really liked him, in the last chapter he almost simultaneously sacrifices himself and then betrays Emilia… and I am honestly perplexed by his actions, but seeing as I have read a multitude of novels with morally grey love interests I am almost certain in the sequel we will find out he had good reason for his betrayal and he was trying to help Emilia after all. Or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking, because the chemistry between these two characters was off the charts! Kerri Maniscalco did a remarkable job with the Enemies to Lovers trope that we all know and love and this is certainly going to the top of my list for Enemies to lovers recs. She did it in a way that didn’t cross any lines, like many Enemies to lovers books do. These two bicker adorably throughout the whole novel and claim to hate each other, but there is a slow burn of attraction and feelings building in the background. I really am rooting for them, but I guess we will see what happens in Kingdom of the Cursed in October!
I am grouping these together because they are all background characters that we only see snippets of. Her grandmother is so FRUSTRATING. She told the twins these stories their whole life, and left them completely in the dark about vital information involving their future. I was infuriated to learn there is a prophecy about the twins that they are never told! It’s like the Dumbledore thing all over again lol. Also, they were left completely unprepared for any real danger, despite the grandmother being sooo incredibly overprotective. Like Grandma, this is no time to be acting mysterious, people are dying!! I have a feeling we are not done with revelations from grandma, and expect more to come in the sequel. Emilia’s mom and dad aren’t really mentioned, except to say that they are taking Vittoria’s murder hard, as any parents would. That being said, the food descriptions when they are all cooking together had me snacking throughout this entire read.
Plot & World Building
I thought the fantasy element of this novel was flawless. The Streghe thing was very fleshed out in a way that was easy to understand but did not get boring. It was also a very interesting take on a subject that has been done about a million times (witches). The Kingdom of the Wicked part was also well done, and it was a nice touch to explain the Kingdom of the Wicked’s world by having Wrath correct Emilia’s assumptions about the Princes of Hell. Although I still don’t completely understand why Pride is cursed, and why its Wrath’s job to help him? Or why Wrath needs one more soul to be able to stay in the mortal world without an anchor? Hopefully these questions are answered in the sequel. The mystery element was okay. It kept me enthralled and I was so into it, but in the end I feel like discovering the mystery of who is killing young witches took a backseat to the world building in this novel. We do find out who is be
The plot starts off at a good fast pace, I thought it was a good idea to put Vittoria’s death so early. It kind of acted like a plot detonator to kick off all of the action. But I did find it was often slowed down by Emilia struggling to put all the pieces of the mystery together. There were a few times when she had all the information she needed and it took her a few chapters to come to any kind of realization. And because of the previously mentioned fast pace of the novel those slow chapters really stood out in a bad way. The mystery element was okay. It kept me enthralled and I was so into it, but in the end I feel like discovering the mystery of who is killing young witches took a backseat to the world building in this novel. We do find out who is partly behind the murders, and it turns out being pretty obvious! But I think we will learn more details about the motive and who else was behind them in the sequel.
Things I liked vs. Things I disliked
- Maniscalco is really good at creating a dark gothic atmosphere for her books
- Her descriptions are so easy to imagine it feels more like your watching a movie than reading a book
- Emilia’s evolution from wallflower to confident badass is so authentically created and easy to believe. She is a character that is easy to love and root for.
- Wrath and Emilia’s banter is A++. Hilarious and adorable.
- Such an interesting world where witches and demons fight, and a few other supernatural beings pop up too!
- Fast paced and easy to read!
- Murder mystery plot line should have been more developed
- At times the plot was roadblocked by Emilia’s needless recklessness and inability to see what was right in front of her
- I just learned that this novel is supposed to be set in the 19th century, and lets just say I had no idea! There are basically no details in the book supporting this.
Overall thoughts and rating
Overall, I really did love this novel! I think I actually liked it better than Stalking Jack the Ripper. My main takeaway was this:
I am so into this magical world Emilia lives in. I love the character’s and the way Emilia grows some guts. The romance was perfect! The ending was slightly confusing.
Because of all of this I give the book a 4/5 stars.
Mostly taking off points for the murder mystery plot line, and the slightly confusing ending. I highly recommend this book to any YA, mystery, or fantasy readers! IT has some dark academia vibes, and a heart stopping enemies to lovers romance. If you are a fan of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, Chain of Gold series, Queen’s Rising series, you will love this book!
Let me know what you thought of this book in the comments!!