When readers fell in love with the first book in Kerri Maniscalco’s darkly romantic and deliciously sinful fantasy series, Kingdom of the Wicked, they couldn’t have possibly anticipated all that was to come. The second book in the trilogy, Kingdom of the Cursed, held all the passion, danger and thrills of the first book but there was a marked change in tone and spice, shifting the series from its original YA category to New Adult. If you needed any more persuading that this series has well and truly waved goodbye to its initial younger audience, Kingdom of the Feared will convince you with just a few chapters. But what gloriously sizzling chapters they are.
At the end of Cursed, Emilia had just found out that her twin sister Vittoria, who she’d long thought murdered, was still alive. And not only was she alive, but she was set on a path of destruction that threatened all Emilia held dear. When Feared begins, Emilia is reeling from the discovery but she’s on the cusp of completing her marriage to the seductive Prince of Wrath (cue the sizzles) and Vittoria seems hell bent on ruining the union. When a high-ranking member of House Greed is assassinated, damning evidence points to Emilia’s twin as the murderer. But the circumstances are suspicious and Emilia, whilst hurt and betrayed by her sister, will do anything to get to the bottom of the accusations, for good or bad.
To solve the murder, Emilia and Wrath embark on a sin-fuelled game of deception where everyone has their own objective. But as war brews between the witches, demons, shapeshifters and the Feared, Emilia realises that everything she thought she knew about her family’s history and the world she exists in might have been the greatest deceit of all. And the true villains of the story aren’t the ones she was brought up to fear. They’re closer than she could ever have imagined…
My smile was a beautiful nightmare. For the first time, Vittoria’s brow creased as if she’d just realized there was one fatal flaw in her plan. Monsters could be created but never tamed.”
Whilst Kingdom of the Feared feels like a very different book to the first in Maniscalco’s series, the one constant thing about the continuing story is just how addictive it is. This is one of those fantasy novels that you can pick up with the intention of reading just a few chapters and end up inhaling the whole thing in a single sitting. The reason can easily be attributed to Maniscalco’s imaginative storytelling and the captivating, richly detailed Italian world she’s created. It’s filled with murder, blood, vengeance and betrayal, but the crux of the story has always been love. The love between sisters, brothers and, as this story makes clear, soulmates too.
Reuniting with Emilia and Wrath is always a genuine delight. They’re such sparky characters, so vibrant and full of life, that you can’t help but smile whenever they’re working together. Their hateful back-and-forth at the beginning of the series was what made readers love them, but it’s their devoted romance in this book that ensures they’ll go down as a favourite fictional couple for years to come. Emilia spends a lot of this book asserting herself, in more ways than one, and with that assertion comes an internal monologue that does feel a little repetitive at times, particularly in the first half of the book. Thankfully, once the story reaches its mid-point, Emilia settles into her true role, becoming so much more than readers would have expected at the start of the series. Her story arc is fraught and not without sacrifice but it’s immensely satisfying too.
As thrilling as the action and romance of this book is, the real enjoyment comes from its characters, both main and peripheral. There’s not a character that feels surplus to the story and it’s a testament to Maniscalco that she’s created six charismatic brothers for Wrath who could all have their own spinoff books (please let there be an Envy book!). Even Vittoria, who veered towards the side of crazy for a while, is humanised in this novel, allowing readers to really invest in the twins’ shared story.
This might not be the end all readers would have envisioned for this series but it wraps up the trilogy perfectly, offering up a hopeful – and oh so steamy – conclusion befitting the sinful world it revolves around. With this favourite fantasy series drawn to a close, all we can do now is patiently wait to see what fictional magic Kerri Maniscalco writes next.
Kingdom of the Feared is published by Hodder & Stoughton on 27 September 2022