Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

My Review: Fire Heart (The Dragon of Umbra #1): by Emma Hamm

Publish Date: January 31st, 2022
Number of Pages: N/A
Publisher: N/A
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, New Adult, Young Adult

Total Star Rating: 2 Stars

‘Lady of Starlight,’ he murmured, then stepped so close she could count the gold flecks in his eyes. ‘My fire heart. Live for me, and I will lay a kingdom at your feet.’

– Emma Hamm, “Fire Heart”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

They handed her a sword and bid her to take a throne…

Lorelei is half elf in a kingdom where that bloodline is synonymous with “slave”. The Umbra King holds everyone captive with his pet dragon who knows no mercy. She hides in the shadows and steals to stay alive, until a rebel group gives her an offer she can’t refuse.

The King seeks a bride. If she can get close enough, she could drive a dagger into that wicked man’s heart. But the bridal games are more difficult than most. Lorelei must prove herself not only beautiful, but talented, poised, and deadly as the king. However, the closer she gets to saving her kingdom, the more she realizes a singular problem stands in her way.

The dragon.

The King’s bodyguard is more than a slathering beast. He’s a man. And the longer she’s near him, the more she realizes that perhaps the king isn’t the most dangerous person in the kingdom. Perhaps she had to guard not only her body, but her heart. For a dragon mates for life, and they’re hard pressed to give up their treasures.

~~~

It’s always disappointing when a book that has all the variables, all the tools, all the story aspects, or whatever you want to call them…it’s disappointing when a book has all these that you love in a book, but it doesn’t end up being as good as you’d hope it to be.

I was made aware of this book when it was chosen as the adult book for Bookish Box–a monthly subscription box for fantasy and paranormal romance genres–under their adult box from earlier in 2022. The premise drew me in, and it sounded like a good enemies-to-lovers fantasy-romance title from an indie author who upon doing a little research, had quite a following!

I eventually got my own copy with the hopes of reading it ASAP because I was really drawn to this story by the premise that had me excited because it sounds right up my alley, and the gorgeous cover to boast too! It was giving me Throne of Glass vibes with the badass blonde heroine on the cover with a ferocious dragon just behind her.

I’m not saying this is a bad book by any means, I never say a book is outright bad unless the author does something that is so tone deaf that I wonder how their book ever got published…but that isn’t the case here. The author knows how to write and she obviously knows her craft; her following especially on Amazon reviews show for it, but I just didn’t connect with this book anywhere close to what I was hoping I would. The story just had too many clichés that I couldn’t look past, the characters felt so stiff and wooden to me that I didn’t connect with them either, the villain was very one-dimensional, and there just didn’t really feel like there was a sense of urgency in this story at all either.

I go more into these reasons why later on in my review.

I’m also trying to not judge the book too harshly…it is the first book in a series, and as a fan of many YA Fantasy title, I have seen many times before where the first book is usually the weakest book in a series because it’s merely setting the scene and then the series grows and becomes its own thing as you keep reading. Case in point, the Throne of Glass series. I can see readers not wanting to read on because of that book and the many things that are considered cliché in that book, and those of us who have read that series know that SO SO SO much happens after that, so here I am hoping that this may be the case for this series as well too.

~~~

You are a thousand questions and a million truths just out of my reach.

– Emma Hamm, “Fire Heart”

~~~

What I Liked:

  1. An Interesting Premise! The synopsis gave me much hope I’d really like this book! I mean, an enemies-to-lovers fantasy romance book with elves and dragons?! Yes please!
  2. A Twist I Did NOT See Coming! I’ll admit the author added in one twist that I didn’t see coming at all, and I’ll happily point it out whenever an author manages to do this! I won’t give any spoilers, but just remember that not everyone is as they seem…

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. A LOT of YA Fantasy Clichés…nameless mean girls, the competition to win the heart of the king, the one-dimensional villain king, the “I’m not like most girls” mentality of the main character, instalove…I don’t know, but the clichés definitely overtake any original ideas this book had, I think this is why I found myself so bored with this book.
  2. Characters Felt Very Stiff and Wooden…I really did not connect with anyone at all. They all felt so one-dimensional and stuck within the familiar character archetypes that I’ve seen before. There was hardly any personality shown, or really any slower scenes to merely show them as actual people. the plot merely drove them forward without really giving them a chance to really breathe and show them as actual people in my opinion.
  3. The Enemies-to-Lovers Could’ve Been Stronger…The fact that instalove happened between Lore and Abraxas made it feel like a very weak Enemies-to-Lovers storyline…this could’ve been drawn out for their romantic feelings to happen later, and maybe not feel so forced…
  4. The Stakes Could’ve Been Raised…I didn’t really feel a sense of urgency with this book as Lore infiltrates the castle and tries to kill the king. Very little consequences happen with what happens in the book, and I think this also adds to why I struggled with this book.

Conclusion:

Overall, Fire Heart was an underwhelming book that I didn’t connect with, much to my disappointment. It had all the things I love in my favorite books, but just didn’t deliver as strongly as I was hoping it would. I was just bored a lot of the time, and the list of clichés with a lack of adding much of anything new to the table made me not excited to keep going with the book.

As for right now, I recommend this book for someone who’s maybe not as familiar with fantasy genre books and wants something to ease into it before diving into much heavier, and more dense material. It’s a good beginner level fantasy read for someone just starting out in this genre.

However, I want to take all this negativity towards the book with a grain of salt and keep going because I’ve seen several instances where the first book in a series is the weakest, and the story gets much more engaging as it develops with each and every book. Plus, I already preordered the next book because I’m a sucker for pretty book covers, so I’ll at least give book 2 a try before I decide to bench this book series.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal, Romance

My Review: Tricky Magic (Tricky Magic #1): by L.L. Campbell

Publish Date: December 18th, 2021
Number of Pages: 445 Pages
Publisher: Self Published
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Erotica

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

Fears evolve and grow, welcoming another. One whose power will balance yours in destruction. You feed his fire as he feeds your chaos. You will turn worlds upside down,

– L.L. Campbell, “Tricky Magic”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Ellea is a Witch, a mix of both the respected Seers and the feared Tricksters. On top of that, she has also spent her whole life in the shadows of her parents’ infamous attempted destruction.

After Ellea’s frequent and feared vision of the future shifts into something darker and more terrifying than before, she runs to a town that used to be a haven for her as a child.

But things are no longer as they seem. The world of supernaturals is so much more than she thought and after a run in with a mysterious hunter, she finds her and her powers spiraling.

Will the town of Glenover be the place she finally leaves her fears behind and embraces a new future? Or will her powers become destructive and result in her own destruction by the frustratingly handsome hunter?

~~~

This book had been calling to me for some time…

There was like this gut feeling or calling or siren’s song that had me drawn to it that I can’t entirely explain…all I can explain about it is that it was telling me to read this book for some reason.

Before doing so, I’d heard several mixed reviews about the book from my reading inner circle and a few others, but anything negative didn’t fully deter me, and I’m glad it didn’t because for the most part I did end up enjoying this book!

For some reason I was expecting this to be a medieval fantasy setting with the talk of witches, demons, and other paranormal creatures, but I was a little surprised to see that this actually takes place in modern, contemporary times. Not that this detracted me from the story at all, it gave me Vampire Diaries and/or True Blood kind vibes, which I love, so it works!

The story is definitely more character driven, so the plot will be slow at times, but theres plenty of spice throughout, and the slow burn between Ros and Ellea really drives the story forward, plus interactions with the rest of the cast make it actually kinda fun too! There’s Billy, who’s Ellea’s familiar in the form of a black dog and has a few zinger one liners and is supposed to be this ancient being with a lot of mystery surrounding her history, so color me intrigued…theres Belias, who’s Ros’s cousin who’s definitely got something wicked planned, watch out for him… there’s Sybil, an ancient witch who’s only in one scene, but leaves quite an impression…

Actually there’s quite a bit of characters who are only in a handful of scenes, and I have no idea if they’ll be important players later on in the series or if they’re just done now? It’s really hard to say right now, and hopefully reading book two answers that for me and–possibly–other readers.

And I’d actually add onto that saying that there’s actually A LOT that gets left up in the air that you may want answers to but you won’t get, all that is determined by whatever direction the author wants to take this story in, but consider me curious to see what happens next!

~~~

My life has been spent looking for ways to change, ways to control this monster that I am destined to become. And I am getting tired of it.

– L.L. Campbell, “Tricky Magic”

What I Liked:

  1. The Spice! Okay, there is a decent amount of spice in this book including a four way like right away kinda to my surprise, and another good thing about all of it is that it doesn’t feel like it overtakes the plot at all! Like, sometimes you can tell when an author makes a story total PWP (Porn Without Plot), but the author kept a decent balance here with it!……and the shadow play!!! Azriel fans will appreciate that part a whole lot!
  2. Rosier! Hello new book boyfriend addition! Ros is absolutely a new favorite of mine who I can’t wait to see more of his perspective in the next book! He’s grumpy, swoon-worthy, protective, cheeky, and isn’t afraid to get down and dirty in more ways than one!
  3. There’s LGBT Side Characters! Sam and Devon are a gay couple in this story, and their relationship seems so easy going and calming, aka the complete opposite of Ellea and Ros, so I’m here for them! I have no idea how important they’ll be in the series, but if anything happens to them…..oooooooooo we don’t want to go there!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Not Clear Magic System…With witchcraft and demon summoning and other supernatural creatures in the vicinity, obviously theres going to be a magic system involved right?…well technically there is, but it’s not really developed as much as some of you readers may like, and I felt like it wasn’t explored enough in the story. HOWEVER, for a large part of this book it also wasn’t completely necessary to use it, so maybe it’ll be more fleshed out in book 2!
  2. Pacing Can Be Slow…This story is character driven with mostly the development/growth of Ellea, so yes, the pacing is a bit slower in some beats. It’s not as action packed as some of us would perhaps like, so I can see some of you getting bored with it in this regards.
  3. The Unexpected Ending…This kind of continues off the pacing issue, but the shocking ending felt like it kind of came out of nowhere and I wasn’t expecting it, but only because I also felt like there wasn’t really the proper build up to it? It felt like it was slapped right into the end of the story and yeah, it did raise the stakes and make things harder for Ros and Ellea, but I felt it wasn’t the best approach…

Conclusion:

Overall, I did for the most part enjoy this book! It’s not heavy or dense, and it’s perfect for anyone looking for some spicy paranormal romance with a witchy aesthetic and a hot hot hot slow burn! The pacing was fairly slow, but the characters keep you interested, and the author certainly puts a few questions in your head about them and the plot of the story and where everything is going, so now it’s up to L.L Campbell to keep the ball rolling.

The series has some potential to get better with each and every book, for me it really depends on where the author plans to go with this series as you don’t get a lot of answers for those questions that pop up, so I’m definitely putting some pressure on the sequel coming out in Fall 2022 to pass the baton and keep things moving!

We Shall See!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: Glint (The Plated Prisoner #2): by Raven Kennedy

Publish Date: January 3rd, 2021
Number of Pages: 470 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers for the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!***

To see my review of book #1 – Gild – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

‘Sometimes,’ he murmurs, ‘things need first to be ruined in order to then be remade.’

– Raven Kennedy, “Glint”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

For ten years, I’ve lived in a gilded cage inside King Midas’s golden castle. But one night changed everything.

Now I’m here, a prisoner of Fourth Kingdom’s army, and I’m not sure if I’m going to make it out of this in one piece. They’re marching to battle, and I’m the bargaining chip that will either douse the fire or spark a war.

At the heart of my fear, my worry, there’s him—Commander Rip.

Known for his brutality on the battlefield, his viciousness is unsurpassed. But I know the truth about what he is.

Fae.

The betrayers. The murderers. The ones who nearly destroyed Orea, wiping out Seventh Kingdom in the process. Rip has power sizzling beneath this skin and glinting spikes down his spine. But his eyes—his eyes are the most compelling of all.

When he turns those black eyes on me, I feel captive for an entirely different reason.

I may be out of my cage, but I’m not free, not even close. In the game of kings and armies, I’m the gilded pawn. The question is, can I out maneuver them?

This is the captivating second book of The Plated Prisoner series. It’s an adult epic fantasy story blending romance, intrigue, and beautiful imagery. Return to the seductive story of magic inspired by the myth of King Midas, and get caught up in the world of Orea.

Please note: There is explicit language and romance in this book, not suitable for those under the age of 18.

~~~

Well folks, I can definitely say that Glint is a definite improvement from its predecessor for multiple reasons: the momentum of the story has really picked up from where you were last left off with the ending of book #1, the character development with Auren is finally happening, and there’s finally some hints to some actual romance and not some powdered over Stockholm syndrome-esque love that the character Auren believes is true…it’s something that is actually real—thank god…

The story picks up almost immediately with how Gild ended: Auren, along with the small chunk of Midas’s soldiers and the saddles, have been taken in by Commander Rip, general to King Ravinger’s army. They’re traveling across the land back to where Midas is also traveling to in order to make a trade or make some sort of deal while political intrigue is well under way outside of what you glimpse in the actual story.

Auren faces multiple journeys, one of course being physical with the army traveling across the frozen tundra of the land, the journey of gaining her sense of confidence and freedom, her slowly developing feelings for Commander Rip as he shows her respect and allows her to grow at her own pace and slowly reveals to her the manipulation that Midas had infected her mind with over the last decade she’s been the golden kings beloved.

While the stakes have been risen and more and more happens in terms of the conflict ascending, the pace of the story continues its rather slow pace which can make it a harder book to stay focused on! You just want more to happen, you want more answers, and for the love of god, you just want Auren and Commander Rip to tear each other to threads and bang each other’s brains out while they’re in the same tent together! The anticipation is truly what keeps you going.

Much like the last book, the last bit of Glint is where all the tension reaches its boiling point and the excitement finally makes its appearance! The final scene is that special moment where you could be like “Holy shit…..now this story is getting good!” The reveal was something I truly didn’t see coming, so the fact that the author continues to throw twists into her story that truly surprise me is also a nice treat to make me see why so many of my bookish friends keep recommending these books to me…

He shakes his head. ‘No, Auren. You’re the one that needs to burn. You need to spark to life and fight. Stop letting him dull you, stop letting the whole fucking world trample you,’ he shouts, making me flinch from the vehement demand. ‘If you tried, you could shine brighter than the fucking sun. Instead, you’ve chosen to sit back and wither.’

– Raven Kennedy, “Glint”

What I Liked:

  1. Auren Finally Sees The Truth! As Auren and the saddles are taken by Commander Rip and his army, she slowly starts to see how bad her situation with Midas truly was…like seriously, it’s like she’s woken up from a trance and finally see what a douche-canoe the king with the golden touch really is! That’s the other thing too: it’s not actually him with the power, and Auren realizes how much he needs her so much more than vice versa.
  2. Queen Malina Strikes Back! While Midas is away and the saddles are commandeered, Queen Malina is taking some action of her own! Obviously she despises her husband, King Midas, and hates what he’s done to her kingdom during his reign. She wants to take it back over while their land is vulnerable, and while she’s a detestable character, I could get behind her not just laying around and isn’t afraid to be the change.
  3. The Shocking Ending! Let’s just say when you meet King Ravinger finally face-to-face, you’re going to be shown something you definitely did not see coming, honestly the moment was when I whispered “holy shit” out loud to myself and seriously get excited about where these books were going!
  4. There’s More Romance! The sexual tension between Rip and Auren is so spectacularly done, it’s such a big improvement to finally see some actual romantic promise in this series because there was absolutely NOTHING romantic about King Midas and his relationship with Auren…Rip is ready for something to happen, but it’s still clear that Auren has a ways to go in terms of growth before anything happens there, but let’s definitely agree when I say that some seeds are planted!
  5. I’m Not Sure Who’s Really An Ally! The story by this point really branches off and becomes it’s own thing from the original tale of Midas and his power, and with that comes a more interesting and unpredictable story to keep you guessing as to what could possibly happen next! Like “Game of Thrones” more people in positions of power rise up and become major players on the chess board, more characters become involved and of course, more and more tension rises to make everything eventually come to even bigger blows when the big confrontation and battle inevitably takes place!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Pacing Is Still Very Slow…While there are some major high points in the story that really add some excitement and unpredictability in the story, it takes you a bit longer than you’d maybe like to admit….almost like a journey across a harsh and cold tundra in itself. Sorry if that seems mean, but with how character driven this story is, the pacing is definitely on the longer and slower and more methodical side.
  2. King Midas Is Still A Threat…King Midas in this story is actually worse than Tamlin in A Court of Thorns and Roses series, like seriously, this dude doesn’t even try to hide how awful he is at this point…I thought the story was going to go a different direction and that Midas was going to be stopped by now, but he’s still very much at large and also very much trying to take over all the kingdoms. Part of me wishes he had some redeeming qualities in order to give him more depth as a villain, but so far I haven’t seen it.

Conclusion:

Overall, Glint by Raven Kennedy was a major step up from the previous book in The Plated Prisoner series! It was a little more of the same we saw in the first book, but enhanced and improved upon everything like the danger, the romance, and the surprises that the author comes up with to throw you off your tracks! Maybe some of you readers may catch them better than I did, but I was personally surprised at how the author snuck those past me…

The next book in this series is Gleam, and all my bookish friends who’ve read these books all say this one is the best; its like The Court of Mist and Fury of the popular series by Sarah J. Maas. I’m definitely going to read on with these books, because even though the pacing of this story is much slower than I’d like, I’m going to say it’s more on the slow but methodical path, because that final scene in the book really had me going “Oh shit….this is about to get good!”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Gild (The Plated Prisoner #1): by Raven Kennedy

Publish Date: October 1st, 2020
Number of Pages: 289 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars

Does it really matter if your cage is solid gold when you aren’t allowed to leave it? A cage is a cage, no matter how gilded.

– Raven Kennedy, “Gild”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

The fae abandoned this world to us. And the ones with power rule.

Gold.

Gold floors, gold walls, gold furniture, gold clothes. In Highbell, in the castle built into the frozen mountains, everything is made of gold.

Even me.

King Midas rescued me. Dug me out of the slums and placed me on a pedestal. I’m called his precious. His favored. I’m the woman he Gold-Touched to show everyone that I belong to him. To show how powerful he is. He gave me protection, and I gave him my heart. And even though I don’t leave the confines of the palace, I’m safe.

Until war comes to the kingdom and a deal is struck.

Suddenly, my trust is broken. My love is challenged. And I realize that everything I thought I knew about Midas might be wrong.

Because these bars I’m kept in, no matter how gilded, are still just a cage. But the monsters on the other side might make me wish I’d never left.

Author’s Note: This is a fantasy romance m/f story. There will be monarchs and magic and fae and steam and violence and all the feels. This book contains explicit content and mature language not intended for anyone under 18 years of age. This is book one of three in the series, so that means it won’t be tied up in a bow at the end. In fact, the bow is probably going to be tossed right off a cliff. But it’ll be worth the fall.

~~~

Gild is the first installment of an adult fantasy series called The Plated Prisoner that revolves around a loose retelling of the mythological royal figure: King Midas. To be honest, I’m not too familiar with the whole story of him besides how the story is from ancient Greek origins and the obvious fact that whatever he touched with his hands turned to solid gold.

I picked this title up because there has been quite some hype as of late surrounding this series on social media like Bookstagram, BookTok, and in my personal reading circles, so when I saw the first two books at my local Barnes & Noble, I was happily surprised and immediately picked them up!

This story takes place in a realm called Orea, where there are six kingdoms, and King Midas rules over the sixth kingdom, Highbell. In his Golden Castle is the caged woman, Auren, who the story actually revolves around. She is Midas’s favored, his prized possession, his ring to rule all rings, his pet, so you get the picture…

Somehow, she’s able to live in her fully golden body and even has her own silken ribbons that go down her spine that can move on their own and can feel things like pain and touch. She was the victim of child trafficking and was homeless until Midas rescued her, and for ten years she lived in a golden, gilded cage in his castle and shows her joy and gratitude of being his even though her “savior” keeps her in a golden-caged prison.

King Midas is coming up with a plan to take over the fourth kingdom, the most powerful of them all, which is also ruled by a figure known as King Ravinger, or King Rot. There’s also hints tossed in about how long ago there was a seventh kingdom ruled by the Fae, and how Orea was actually co-founded by humans and Fae, but the Fae betrayed them about 300 years ago and cut the bridge between their worlds and disappeared…but perhaps some of their magic was left behind?….who knows!

Now, some of you might be wondering why I’ve given it a lower score out of 5 stars, and you better believe it that I’ll tell you why:

I had some pretty mixed feelings overall about the book, and not even because of the more darker themes and trigger-warning instances–no, that content actually kept me pretty interested–but merely because of how this book is extremely light in action and plot; it’s all set up to introduce the world, the characters, the main character’s current predicament, and give you the hint of magic that will hopefully come more into play later on.

Here’s my quick input on the trigger warnings: there is murder, there is sexual assault, there is rape, there is heavy misogyny and sexism, there is bargaining others for sexual favors without their consent…

Personally, I wasn’t triggered by these instances in the story…to be honest I thought it made the story more interesting, BUT I also understand that not everyone enjoys that sort of content or wants to read it, so it’s fair to give a warning to this sort of thing.

AND before cancel culture comes for my ass, just to clarify: just because I’m not triggered by this happening in the story doesn’t mean I’m okay with rape/sexual assault or condone it in anyway! Put your pitchforks and torches down and keep reading…

It’s funny because it’s not like this is the only book that has the sort of “setting the scene” formula in the books I’ve read…The Hunger Games had this too with Katniss Everdeen taking her sister’s place in the 74th annual games and being frisked off to the Capitol and seeing the corruption and greed and danger firsthand, A Court of Thorns and Roses with Feyre being introduced to the world of Prythian and the lord of the spring court, Tamlin….yeah, I’m sure most of us on here know how that turned out…but anyways you get my point! The first book is merely set-up for character intros and world-building, then the actual overall series plot doesn’t really come into play until the sequel.

Back to Gild, the beginning was actually pretty decent with it starting literally right in the middle of some action…and there were some unexpected twists thrown in too that impressed me, I felt a mix of reactions to Auren and how obviously brainwashed she was by King Midas, but the midpoint was the big slow drag for me. I was seriously wondering why people were hyping this book so much, but my bookish friends kept me going, and I did some research that suggested the author does this on purpose to show you how mundane Auren’s life is before the plot truly begins. The last 30 % of the book actually really saved it for me and definitely leaves off on a cliffhanger! A lot of danger, a lot of new characters, and a lot of twists!

Sure, there wasn’t really a plot to go off of, nor really a sense of resolution in any way, but it sure makes you curious to grab the next book like IMMEDIATELY because, seriously…with an ending like that, what could happen next?!

~~~

Men making deals on the behalf of women never seems to go very well for the women.

– Raven Kennedy, “Gild”

What I Liked:

  1. It Wasn’t Afraid to Get Dark! So this is the dark side of my Gemini coming out, but the trigger warning content actually was a highlight for me and raised my brows in curiosity and interest rather than dread or cringe. King Midas has a harem of “saddles” (or sex slaves in all honesty), and even Auren is considered one even if she is always kept separate from the others while in her cage. Since they’re still slaves, their bodies aren’t even their own and decisions get made without their consent, and this is reminded to you several times throughout the story. Like any popular dark fantasy show, there’s plenty of bloody betrayal and blood shed as well. There’s even a cruel death of a certain character that was cruel because of how the corpse is treated after their death…
  2. King Midas Story Gets Some Attention! I personally haven’t really heard of any King Midas retellings that have gotten attention like this book has, or if there are many others to compare to at all, so this fact makes the story actually stand out in this way alone. I like that its a more unique retelling of a classic story that hasn’t gotten as much attention as say…Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, or even Hades and Persephone.
  3. The Ending! Like I said earlier, the end of this book absolutely does a 180 and saves the whole story! As soon as a specific character and his soldiers make their first appearance, you know things are about to get a whole lot more interesting!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Very Lacking in Action and Plot…While I loved the other books that have the formula of being mostly set-up for the next books in the series, this book was a little weaker in that sense just because not as much happens to make it feel like a stronger book as a standalone. At least The Hunger Games and A Court of Thorns and Roses stood stronger on their own!
  2. Not A Whole Lot of Romance Either…There are some sex scenes that happen, but that doesn’t mean there’s a whole lot of actual romance happening in this book either. The only thing that even comes close to it is actually pretty toxic because Auren is brainwashed by King Midas and its all a textbook example of Stockholm Syndrome…I’m hoping the next books have more in this regard as the story continues.

Conclusion:

Overall, Gild by Raven Kennedy was a good but not great read, BUT from the urging of my bookish friends and from several other readers on social media AND reading the ending of this book as well, my interest to read on spikes up like I just chugged three Redbulls back-to-back!

Everyone says the next books, Glint and Gleam, are so much better and so much more happens, so with that in mind and how those sequels really do get much better in my experience, my final words are:

Lets see what happens!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, Paranormal, YA Fantasy

My Review: The Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2): by Kerri Maniscalco

Publish Date: October 5th, 2021
Number of Pages: 448 Pages
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Genre(s): Paranormal, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers from this book and the previous in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

‘Tell me,’ he whispered, his voice sliding like silk over my flushed skin.

‘What?’ My own voice came out breathless.

‘I am your favorite sin.’

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

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…

One sister.
Two sinful princes.
Infinite deception with a side of revenge… Welcome to Hell.

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I sincerely apologize readers, as I’m typing this review, I’m noticing how much longer it’s taking me to post more often here on my blog…all I can really say to explain myself is life is crazy, I’m really tired a lot, I’m trying to have a social life because sitting at home in bed with depression doesn’t help, I’ve gotten back into drawing. I’ve started a bookstagram account (@goodyreads) and actually because I’ve been reading up a storm for the last few months too! Like I can’t even keep up with typing up reviews with all I’ve read so far! But anyways, onto my review…

The Kingdom of the Cursed is the sequel in this series, but the second book syndrome is (thank god) NO WHERE to be found…in fact, it’s the total opposite because I loved this book way more than the first one! It’s so much deeper and richer and sexier, and I’m so glad that the author decided to go the more New Adult path for this story instead of keeping it in Young Adult. I think it serves the story so much better!

We start off immediately how book 1 ended, and that was such a big cliffhanger so you’re right back in the thick of it as Wrath and Emilia travel to Hell together. Emilia is still feeling the sting of betrayal at how Wrath seemingly tricked her and made her soul the one he needed to free himself from the Devil and give him a bride…BUT she can’t help but still feel very much attracted to him, even if she has to do all she can to hide that little tidbit for what it’s worth…

As they get into Hell, there’s the preparation of a celebration that they must attend at some point, and it’s not exactly confirmed right away, but Emilia will most likely be the guest of honor. In order to get into Pride’s manor and learn if he’s for sure who’s behind her sister’s murder, she reluctantly turns to Wrath to train her on all mind-games and mental/emotional abuse the other princes may take upon, but let’s just say things get pretty heated in more ways than one….

Everything about this book is just bigger when compared to the previous book…and no, it’s not just about what Wrath is packing underneath his breeches. The plot thickened so very much, as did the sexual tension between our two main characters, it was a surprisingly hot read! And there’s so much more mythology and lore explored this time around surrounding Emilia’s lineage to add as well!

The plot itself may feel slower at some points, especially with the training and Emilia’s repetitive inner monologues about either finding her sister’s killer or how much she either hates Wrath or wants to get naked with him, but it is more character-driven this time around, and I personally didn’t have a problem with it, but I can see others might. Either way, it was a perfect book for spooky season!

You see a shift in both characters and definitely some growth; Emilia has definitely grown some thicker skin and isn’t as naive and innocent; she’s kind of turned into a scheming Slytherin-esque heroine if I do say so myself. Wrath also shows a lot more emotion this time around as he fights his own urges and admits to his attraction at some point or another, but isn’t afraid to be a cold and ruthless ruler of his realm all the same!

There are lots of twists at the end of this book, some you may be able to guess, but some I honestly wasn’t expecting, so the surprise of it all definitely adds to my appreciation of this book. And of course, it ends on an even bigger cliffhanger in multiple ways that I won’t spoil (duh) and that you’ll have to read to find out for yourself!

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Your longings will taunt and tease you into oblivion if you can’t control them. This is a realm of sin and desire.

— Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What I Liked:

  1. The Mature NA Shift! I am sooooo glad that the author decided to up the maturity on this story and make it a more New Adult level of reading because, let’s be honest, Wrath is WAY too sexy to stuck in Young Adult, and this book DEFINITELY proves that! Sexy Demon Prince can freakin’ get. It!
  2. How Much Thicker The Plot Got! I was surprised at how much deeper this mystery goes and how the story went from being a simple murder mystery to what exactly are Emilia’s abilities, what do they mean, and raises plenty more questions about her lineage as a witch too! The author also helps this by diving deeper into the mythology and lore behind this world and the history of the seven realms of hell, the first witch, and the 7 princes of hell!
  3. Wrath & Emilia’s Sexual Tension! Holy….shit! This book was freakin’ hot! I mean, it wasn’t as smutty as a Sierra Simone or Lorelei James novel, but I wasn’t expecting the amount of spice this book had! Kudos to the author on upping the sex appeal in this regards! It makes me think how well other YA authors would do if they decided to write more mature content…
  4. All the Secrets and Mistrust! One thing that continues to drive this story is all the intrigue and all the omission of truths that Wrath and Emilia keep from each other…I mean, it makes sense since they’ve gone from enemies-to-lovers-andbackto-enemies in these books, and it is oh so juicy to see them at each other’s throats (and other body parts here and there 😉)

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Why Are The Demons So…Non-demonic?…So there’s a couple side characters in this book who are all demons of Hell, and part of me was a little turned off at how…civilized it all was! Call it cliché, but I was hoping for more chaos and monstrous creatures to fight against or outsmart. There weren’t even werewolves and vampires like in the previous book! Fauna is an excellent example; she seemed just way too sweet and innocent to be a demon in all honesty…she was pretty much just the voice in Emilia’s head to remind her of how good Wrath could be when she was particularly upset with him about something.

Conclusion:

Overall, I really enjoyed this sequel tremendously more than the previous book by a long shot! The romance was added much heavier and much more steamier too, which I am incredibly happy about, but even the plot got much deeper too and with an ending like this one, you can bet there are LOTS of questions I have for what can happen next! It showed how little we truly know as an audience, and I’m only sad I have to wait another year to get more answers!

If you love the romance dynamics of Poppy and Casteel in A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire, or Feyre and Rhysand in A Court of Mist and Fury, you’ll devour this book!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell