Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Alexis:

How do I begin?

So, to no one’s surprise, I read this book in one night. I’m living for the dark, witchy aesthetic of this book! It’s set in 1800s Sicily, Italy. Historical fantasy is one of my favorite subgenres of fantasy, so I was pumped to read this one.

Kingdom of the Wicked follows Emilia, a witch who grew up hearing horror stories from her grandmother about the princes of Hell and dark magic alike. When her twin sister, Vittoria, dies a gruesome death, Emilia teams together with Wrath, one of the princes of Hell, in order to avenge her sister’s death. 

Emilia’s family works in a restaurant, and I loved reading about the food that she and her family cooks. It’s a great way to ground the story, since it’s otherwise heavy on fantasy elements, and it made me hungry!

The beginning was a little bit slow, but I liked how it built up the story. I think Maniscalco did a great job with the setting, and I really enjoyed following Emilia as she runs around the city trying to figure everything out. I also enjoyed the chemistry and bickering between Emilia and Wrath, as well as their tumultuous enemies to lovers kind of relationship. 

As for the genre, I felt like Kingdom of the Wicked bounced back and forth between YA and NA. Emilia, the main character, is 18. Sometimes, I really liked her character, and I felt like she was a good balance between a strong female character and a realistic, grieving character. Other times, however, she was very naive and made some dumb decisions, so if you’re not into naive characters, this might not be the book for you. However, I liked learning how the princes of Hell worked alongside Emilia as she tried to figure out what she’s been thrown into. 

Besides that, while I enjoyed the plot overall, there were some confusing bits. I found myself re-reading the ending because it was fairly vague, which might be the point, considering its leading into the next book. Either way, I’m looking forward to the sequel!  

Overall, if you’re into witchy vibes, historical fantasy, and morally gray characters, then give this one a try!

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐/5

Review: Nocturna by Maya Motayne

Alexis:

I hate to say this, but I didn’t love Nocturna by Maya Motayne. However, Nocturna gave me a great writing idea, and Motayne even responded to me on Twitter! She’s super sweet and I think she has a lot of promise.

Nocturna has a great set up: a prince and a girl who can steal faces team together in a Latin-inspired world.

But here’s the thing: I’ve read this book before. Maybe not specifically this book, but all of the elements that tie it together. I found the magic system to be pretty generic: a mix of bending from Avatar: The Last Airbender and the magic from Harry Potter, only with Spanish verbs instead of Latin.

I’ve also read this plot over and over. Alfie, the prince, releases a darkness in order to save his best friend and vows to fix his wrongdoing to save his kingdom from destruction. He and Finn, the face stealer, team up in order to break a girl out of prison to help them.

My other biggest issue with the book is that it’s too “tell-y.” You know, the “show don’t tell rule.” Well, unfortunately, the first half of the book tells way too much. The dialogue sounds stilted because every character talks in chunks of exposition. While the beginning of the book was promising, the book starts to drag pretty quickly. At least 100 pages could’ve been cut from the book to make the plot flow faster.

The dialogue got better as the book went on, but it still wasn’t great. I think “quipped” is now my least favorite dialogue tag.

I also think that “maldito,” or “damned” in Spanish, was really overused.

I liked Alfie as a character, but other than that, I had a really hard time caring about the characters. For that reason, I found myself skimming the last ¼ of the book.

Unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me. But I have high hopes for Motayne, and I hope she grows as a writer for the next book in the series.

VERDICT: 2 stars

 

Review: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Alexis:

I was a little hesitant to read The Star-Touched Queen. I had high hopes for Roshani Chokshi’s newest book, The Gilded Wolves, which came out earlier this year. And unfortunately, that book fell short for me.

The Star-Touched Queen takes place in two fantasy kingdoms called Bharata and Akaran. When main character Maya turns seventeen, her father, the Raja of Bharata, seeks to marry her off in her order to bring peace to his kingdom. The land of Bharata believes in horoscopes, and Maya’s horoscope speaks of death and a doomed marriage. When Maya is forced to choose a husband, she chooses a cloaked king named Amar who takes her to his strange and empty kingdom of Akaran.

The story that follows is a blend of Hades and Persephone and Beauty and the Beast.

This book claims to be YA fantasy, and despite the almost-insta-love, I found it to be so much more than that. Chokshi’s writing borders on magical realism. She blends reality with mythology in a way that might annoy or confuse some readers. But it is Neil Gaiman-esque in a way that I love. Chokshi’s writing shines in her worldbuilding, magical descriptions, and in her dialogue. Her writing is otherworldly and atmospheric.

This book is full of Indian mythology and folklore, including strange creatures and reincarnation. Chokshi weaves kingdoms together and writes dark, death-like imagery, with large sprinklings of magic throughout.

I want to give this book 5 stars, but it’s not quite there. While I was completely absorbed by the story and the world, Maya and Amar’s characters are lacking. Maya’s main characteristic is that she no longers wants to be shunned, and she wants freedom. While I like this about her, I never felt like I had a full grasp of her personality, not to mention what she wants or doesn’t want in life. While Amar is an interesting character, again, I feel like Chokshi never gives him enough of a personality.

However, this is the first book in a series, so I hope later books give Maya and Amar a chance to build into rounder characters. However, I noticed that the next books in the series don’t even focus on Maya and Amar.

I loved this book, I just wish Chokshi’s character development was better!

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VERDICT: 4 stars