Kingdom of the Cursed
by Kerri Maniscalco
Published by Jimmy Patterson Books
Book 2 in the Kingdom of the Wicked series
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...
Two sinful princes.
Infinite deception with a side of revenge… Welcome to Hell.
Kingdom of the Cursed is the second book in Kerri Maniscalco's Kingdom of the Wicked trilogy. It centers on Emilia, immediately following the events of the conclusion of the first book. After selling her soul to become the Queen of the Wicked, she travels to Hell with Wrath, the prince she feels has deceived her. While she never thought she would be in this position, she plans to use her newfound position to suit her needs, and find out who murdered her sister, and why. In hell, she is tested with every sin, and she needs to learn to control her emotions to get what she wants - the truth. But with secretive demon princes, a curse Emilia isn't fully versed on, and unknown forces out to prevent her from the truth, can Emilia gain the power and control she needs to get justice, and can she trust Wraith once again?
I won't lie - I had trouble getting through this book. For very much the same reason I had trouble with the first - reader whiplash. Emilia's emotions and inner thoughts are all over the place, and its frustrating. The decisions she makes doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and I find she inner dialogue - planning to turn everyone plans and vices against them - is just empty words. We get a lot of telling and not showing with her character, so when it comes to our main character I find myself ... blah. It sucks, because I like everything else about the book. The world, the plot, the very sexy Wrath ... I enjoy. But since this book is through Emilia's eyes, I found myself dragging my feet to finish. I want to love it, but I can't! And I'm still wondering if I am reading young or new adult! Emilia's steamy inner thoughts about Wrath seem very adult, but their relationship falls into the upper young adult trap of teasing it's readers with the outcome of their relationship.
Before I get into what I like, I will list one more thing I don't like, and its the multiple - and I mean MULTIPLE - outfit changes and the whole "my dress is hot, I'm hot, I'm going to destroy the world thing". If it happens once in a book, I'm fine with that. But EVERY day the detail that goes into describing her outfit, and what the outfit represents is boring and irritating, and lazy writing, a way to add more words to a book that have no weight on the outcome. Sigh.
Don't get me wrong. I want to love these books. I will repeat over and over again, I like the story idea, and Wrath, and the budding romance between the two (even if I feel the tension has been drawn out too long now) and the banter, again, is great. But the writing of Emilia's character ruins it.
Honestly, while this series isn't working out the way I thought it would for me, I do know it is a much loved series. While it isn't going to be an all time favorite read for me, it may be for you.
Emilia: "I need your help. I can't undo it myself."
The infernal prince inspected my corset with the same level of enthusiasm as if I'd asked him to recite a sonnet by light of a full moon, but he didn't deny my request.
Wrath: "Turn around."
Emilia: "Try not to look too thrilled, or I might think you like me."
Wrath: "Count your blessings. My liking you would be a dangerous thing."
Emilia: "Why? Would you ruin me for all other demon princes?"
Wrath: "Something close."
Wrath: "Tell me."
he whispered, his voice sliding like silk over my flushed skin.
My own voice came out breathless.
Wrath: "I am your favorite sin."
One of his hands remained locked on my hip and the other went under my skirts, sliding up my ankle, past my calf, then traveled between my thighs as his kiss deepened and his tongue claimed mine. His fingers were almost to the slick, aching center.
I needed him there. I groaned his name as he finally -
Wrath: 'While your current illusion sounds wildly interesting,"
Wrath's silky voice came from across the small enclosure,
Wrath: "You might want to put your clothes on. The temperature is well below freezing now."
Emilia: "That wasn't real ... any of it?"
Wrath: "One thing I can promise, is you won't ever doubt it's real when I touch you."
Emilia: "Someone's cocky."
Wrath: "Says the person rubbing up against my c-"
Emilia: "Finish that sentence and I'll smother you in your cursed sleep, demon."
Wrath: "Keep it. It's wrinkled and ruined. I refuse to be seen like that."
Emilia: "Your thoughtfulness is overwhelming. I might swoon."
Emilia: "It would be so tempting to place a wager, but I refuse to sink to your level."
His gaze smoldered, reminding me of a banked fire on the verge of igniting again.
Wrath: "Oh, I believe you'd enjoy every second of descending to my level. Every slip and plunge of your fall will make your pulse pound and your knees quake. Care to know why?"
Emilia: "Not at all."
An annoying half smiled ghosted across his face. He leaned in close, his voice dropping impossibly low.
Wrath: "Love and hate are both rooted in passion."
His lips whispered across my jaw as he slowly brought them to my ear. My breath caught from his nearness, his heat. He drew back enough to meet my gaze, his attention falling to my mouth. For a moment, I thought he was going to tip my face up to his, run his tongue over the seam of my lips and taste my lies.
Wrath: "Strange how that line becomes blurred over time."
Wrath: "What are you smirking at?"
Emilia: "I'm fantasizing about painting the world with your blood."
Wrath: "Explains the overly indulgent look. Have I ever told you your anger is like my own personal aphrodisiac?"
Emilia: "If you wish to keep your favorite appendage intact, I suggest not speaking."
Wrath: "Once you finish thinking about my impressive appendage, I suggest moving faster. We've got a long way to travel. And you look half dead as it stands."
Emilia: "Your talent for making a woman swoon is second only to your charm, Prince Wrath."
Wrath: "If you're finished playing with the puppy, I'd like to continue our journey."
Emilia: "Puppy? That was the size of a small horse!"
Wrath: "Refrain from saddling it up like one. Unlike my brothers, they don't enjoy being ridden."
Emilia: "You said you wouldn't."
Wrath: "Wouldn't what?"
Emilia: "Take care of me. You said you wouldn't ..."
From somewhere far away, I could have sworn he whispered
Wrath: "I lied."
Emilia: "Why are you really telling me this? Do each of the princes of Hell turn into giant wolves and howl under a full moon? Perhaps I should be worried about you panting at my bedroom door before the feast."
Wrath: "We do wear wolf masks, but there will be no panting from me. Unless you ask nicely."
Wrath: "Then tell me you hate me, that I am your worst enemy. Better yet, tell me you don't want to kiss me."
Emilia: "I'm not interested in playing this game."
He arched a brow, waiting, and I fought the urge to rolls my eyes at his smugness.
Emilia: "Fine. I don't want to kiss you. Satisfied."
A spark of understanding flared in his gaze. I realized a second too late what I'd done; what he'd known the moment the words left my traitorous lips. He stepped forward and I quickly stepped back, bumping against the wall.
He leaned in, bracing himself on either side of me, his expression smoldering enough to start a fire.
Then I remembered: he was no angel. And I was suddenly all too willing to be damned.
Emilia: "So I appear that nervous?"
Wrath: "I'm fairly confidant what I'm sensing has nothing to do with nerves."
I placed my lips to his ear
Emilia: "Are you sensing the knife I'm now considering stabbing you with, your highness?"
Wrath: "If this is an attempt to change the topic, you're failing miserably. I am even more interested in where this may lead, my lady. You forget what sin I rule over. I am rather fond of a bit of knife-play."
Wrath: "You seek the truth? Allow me to give it freely. Pride has not summoned you to his court, nor will he ever attempt to. At least not for the reason you believe."
Emilia: "Because ..."
I knew, oh goddess, I knew. Still, I needed him to say the words.
Wrath: "You are not his intended, Emilia. You are mine."
Envy: "You certainly know how to stir up trouble, pet."
I remained in the shadows.
Emilia: "I may have claws, your highness, but I assure you I am no one's pet. Least of all yours."
Envy: "The witches who raised you kept many secrets, I see. It's utterly delightful."
Emilia: "What is?"
Envy: "Watching as your perfect world crumbles."
Emilia: "You're an awful person."
Envy: "My dear, you keep forgetting. I've never been afflicted with humanity. Besides, I meant it in a good way. A phoenix rises from the ashes for a reason. Your world must be destroyed for you to rise anew. And rise you shall. Just as they always feared you would."
Envy: "Not all stories end happily, Emilia."
Staff: "His highness also said if you wish to make Prince Wrath jealous, you may sleep in his highness's bed tonight. He suggests doing so in the nude. And ... I quote, 'think filthy thoughts regarding the most well-endowed prince in this realm', while tending to yourself. There is a life sized painting of Prince Envy on the ceiling, should you require a stimulating visual."
Wrath: "Careful. Or I might think you'd actually like to marry me."
Wrath: "If I wanted you on your knees, bare before me, without a thought of your own in your head, I would will it. If I desired to fuck you into our marriage, you'd do exactly as I said. And you'd beg for me. Neither attracts, nor pleases me. I long for an equal."
Wrath leaned in, his voice low and seductive.
Wrath: "This is what you dream of. Blood and revenge. Take your vengeance, witch. Recall what I just made you do. How you fell to your knees, begging to please me. Let hatred and your favorite sin consume you."
Emilia: "Shut up."
Wrath: "Perhaps you liked it when I made you strip. When I bent you to my will."
Emilia: "I said shut up!"
Wrath: "Maybe I should show you how very wicked I can be."
I was tempted to stride back to my bedroom suite in my underwear, or strip down to nothing. Let his court see me in all my glory.
Wrath: "Be my guest. If you'd prefer to walk around without the robe, I certainly won't object."
Wrath: "I offered you an outlet. Vengeance is poison, a low death of self. Seek justice. Seek truth. But if you choose revenge over all else, you will lose more than your soul."
Emilia: "If I master tonight's lesson, I think you should agree to grovel before me. In fact, I'd love to see you on your hands and knees, begging."
Wrath: "Greed is interested in wagers. I am not."
Emilia: "Yet it sounds like your pride will take a blow if I win. Which is why you won't kneel before me. Perhaps you cannot stomach the idea of surrendering to anyone, Even your potential future wife."
Wrath: "Make no mistake, Emilia. When I got to my knees before you, it will be to conquer, not surrender. If you harbor any doubts, I shall enjoy proving you wrong. Now unbuckle my armor."
Wrath: "I find it fascinating that you continue to lie to my face, knowing full well I can sense each untruth. Rage makes for messy battle strategies. If you cannot control your fury, you risk getting hurt."
Emilia: "Fine. I'm calmer. Though not for long if you keep poking at me."
Wrath: "That creates quite the mental imagery."
Emilia: "You're wholly inappropriate."
Wrath moved slowly, placing his body flush against mine. The physical contact was a welcome distraction from the anger still simmering inside me. I focused on the demon, on the heat not originating in fury.
Wrath: "I am your intended. And a living embodiment of sin, as you once called me. A certain amount of inappropriate behavior should be expected. Especially when the future princess of House Wrath is so appealing."
Emilia: "You're getting me drunk on purpose. Naughty demon."
He paused with the fork to my mouth.
Wrath: "If you so much as breath one word of this, I vow revenge, my lady."
Emilia: "Very well. Though I doubt I'll even remember this extreme act of chivalry in the morning."
Emilia: "I do not press or pry into your plans. I expect the same courtesy."
Wrath: "Even if I've come to offer assistance."
Emilia: "After our last 'lesson', I was under the impression you wished for me to take matters into my own hands from now on. Quite literally."
Emilia: "There is nothing more dangerous than a woman who owns who she is and apologizes to no one. I believe I am powerful, therefore I am. Isn't that the principle you live by? Well, I know I'm powerful. I know power comes from many sources and I now have many weapons in my arsenal, your highness. In fact, I can own you right now if I chose to. And you would be powerless for a change."
Wrath: "Cocksure. Boastful. An inflated sense of self-image."
Wrath checked each one off his fingers.
Wrath: "You're right. It doesn't sound like you're under any prideful influence at all."
Emilia: "You know what else I believe? I believe you'd secretly like me to own you. At least in certain ... areas."
Wrath: "No harm will befall you. I will not allow it."
Emilia: "Perhaps it's your brothers you should be concerned for."
Wrath: "If they are stupid enough to ignite your fury, they deserve to feel the burn."
I smiled at him.
Emilia: "And yet you still toss matches onto the kerosene all the time."
Wrath: "Wrath and fury are my sins of choice. I like your temper."
Gluttony: "This" -
he plucked a flower out and held it up, the silver roots sparkling as they twisted in the light breeze -
Gluttony: "is slumber root. Capable of knocking out even the most powerful royal. What sort of nefarious plans do you have for this evening?"
Gluttony: "Really? You have in your possession a plant most princes fear, and you have no cunning designs on using them against us?"
He tossed the pouch of slumber root to me.
Gluttony: "Scheme bigger, my friend. Let your inner deviant free."
Emilia: "Now that I know what it does, I'll be sure to put it to use."
Gluttony: "Good. Now let's get ready for some debauchery."
The Crone: 'You do know who he is, but you choose to remain in the shadows, comfortable in the dark. Maybe it's not his truth you fear, but your own. Perhaps you refuse to look too closely at him because of what it reveals about you. He is your mirror. And rarely to we appreciate what stares back at us. That, my child, is where the true test comes in. Are you brave enough to confront your demons? Not many are."
Emilia: "Pretend there's no curse. No magical betrothal. Or romantic urges created by our bond. Would you choose me? To reign beside you. To be your queen. Your friend. Your confidant. Your lover."
Wrath: "Emilia ..."
Emilia: "You tricked me into a blood bargain with you before I crossed into the underworld. Do you recall what you said?"
I swore his heart stuttered a beat before furiously picking up its pace.
Emilia: "You told me never make a bargain with the devil. 'What's his is his.'"
Wrath: "It was a figure of speech. A blood bargain does not equate possession."
Emilia: "Perhaps not technically. You did it as another means of protecting me. In case I didn't want to accept our bond. You claimed no other prince of Hell would be stupid enough to challenge you. It was your secret way of offering me a way out of any contract with another demon House. The blood pact I made with Pride included. Am I wrong?"
Emilia: "Don't answer now, but I want to know if what you said then stands."
Wrath: 'You'll have to be more specific. I said a great many things."
Emilia: "If I am still yours."
He stilled. My words hung between us, heavy and lingering. Like his gaze.
Emilia: "If I am, I would tell you that you are mine. That I am choosing you as my husband. There is no one I'd rather confront my demons with, no soul I'd travel through Hell with. And no one else I want standing beside me when I go to the Shifting Isles tomorrow."
Wrath: "And it I don't require time to think it over?"
Thank the goddess.
I exhaled quietly and moved from the balcony into his bedchamber, tugging the strings of my tunic loose as I passed by him. I glanced over my shoulder, nothing with satisfaction the desire darkening his gaze as I slipped the shirt from my body and let it drop to the floor.
Emilia: 'Then I suggest coming to bed, your majesty."