Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Title: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Publication date: October 27, 2020
Pages: 448
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

From the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series comes a new blockbuster series…

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 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…

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Nonna Maria has warned Emilia and Vittoria about the seven ruling princes of Hell and how they must stay away from the Malvagi's followers. Descended from a Goddess, through the di Carlos maternal line, Emilia and Vittoria are witches. They are known as the Daughters of the Moon. Their family is one out of 13 witch families in Palermo.

Although Emilia and Vittoria love listening to the stories of Nonna Maria, they don't take her seriously when she tells them not to go out or to be careful. The clashing of two cornicello necklaces long ago has been kept a secret between the twins for about ten years and Nonna tells the girls they must keep the amulets separate at all costs. 

Most of the novel occurs when the twins are 18-years-old. The prologue occurs when they are eight. As the Gates of Hell weaken over time, a prince of Hell emerges when he is summoned through a spell. The seven sins become the seven princes of Hell, each able to travel through different realms. It happens that Wrath travels to Palermo and Emilia becomes bond to him via a crescent moon/snake tattoo. Readers also learn more of the other princes of Hell has Emilia encounters them. 

The Kingdom of the Wicked is written in first person through Emilia's point-of-view. As Nonna tells Emilia to find forgiveness and acceptance into her her heart, Emilia wants to avenge what happened to her sister. Extroverted Vittoria has been hiding secrets from introverted Emilia and Emilia does whatever it takes to find out the truth. 

Kerri Maniscalco transports readers to an enchanting world in Palermo, Italy where witches hide in secret and dangerous demons roam. Maniscalco's intriguing and atmospheric descriptions tantalizes all the senses. Not only is there mystery in the air but I enjoy reading about Emilia's love for food and the family's trattoria, Sea and Vine. If you love fantasy books with descriptions of food, this is the one to pick up. Not only is Kingdom of the Wicked full of magic, witches, demons and food, but a strong family bond is vital.

I find the notion of turning each of the seven sins into a prince of Hell fascinating and creative. The way Maniscalco describes each prince physical descriptions and their actions is perfect! She captured each sin within an entity. However, the dialogue between Wrath and Emilia seems forced at times and sometimes unrealistic.

Although Kingdom of the Wicked is a fantasy novel, Maniscalco infused her Italian heritage and a family restaurant into this novel. It's great to see how her family lives within the pages of the Kingdom of the Wicked and how her family is an inspiration for the creation of the book. I cannot wait to pick up the next book in the series. I highly suggest this novel to readers who enjoy the Caraval trilogy by Stephanie Garber and All that Glitters (Enchantée) by Gita Trelease.

"Magic is a living, breathing entity; it thrives on the energy you give it. Like all forces of nature, it is neither good nor bad - it simply becomes based on the user's intent. Feed it love and it blossoms and grows. Nourish it with hate and it will deliver hate back to you tenfold." - Notes from the di Carlo grimoire

"Nightmares didn't last forever. I just had to make it through the night."

Monday, October 5, 2020

Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

 Magic Lessons
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: October 6, 2020
Pages: 416
Source/format: e-ARC//Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Synopsis (from goodreads.com):

In an unforgettable novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.

Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Unnamed Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.

When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.

Magic Lessons is a celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.

M Y  T H O U G H T S

Magic Lessons is the prequel we have all been waiting for! Readers finally get a glimpse of Maria Owens's story and how the Owens's curse began. For those who are familiar with Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic, you are in for a treat.

Maria Owens was abandoned as a baby in front of Hannah Owens's home. Hannah is gifted at the Nameless Art and acted as a mentor for Maria as Maria grew during childhood. However, Maria did have a chance to find out who her birth mother and birth father are. Unfortunately, they were not all about raising Maria as a family unit due to a complex situation back in the 1600's. Maria eventually sees the harrowing death of someone she looks up to, gets sold in servitude on a boat to Curaçao, works hard to pay off her debt for freedom as a child, falls in love with a man who lives in Salem, gives birth to a child from said man, tries to locate this man in Salem, only to find out he was using her.

What Maria didn't know was that her daughter's father is actually a well-known man in Salem, MA who is married and has a child. Her heartbreak grows while a curse is a-brewing, as readers are immersed in the world of chaos. When I was reading this novel, I was silently rooting for Maria and Samuel Dias even though I know Maria steadfast in finding Faith's father.

Alice Hoffman has a gift in storytelling. She is able to narrate such a wonderful novel. Hoffman weaves historical fiction and magical realism within Magic Lessons. The pacing is steady and spans many years from when Maria was a baby to her adult years. I did enjoy reading sections where we see Faith's perspective when she flourishes helping others with the Nameless Art. Through hard work, love, regret, revenge and heartbreak, Maria lived a difficult life but she always tried to find the light beneath the darkness. She has escaped death several times. Unfortunately, her curse lives among the Owens's women for centuries to come.