Kingdom of the Wicked Summary and Themes

 Kingdom of the Wicked Summary and Theme

Emilia and Vittoria di Carlo are 18-year-old twin sisters living in Palermo, Sicily in the late 19th century. They are both witches and part of a matrilineal heritage dating back to La Prima Strega, the first witch. Their powers draw on the natural elements of the earth and are shaped by intention to incur outcomes in the real world. Emilia and Vittoria are both powerful witches like their Nonna Maria, who teaches them much of her knowledge. Unbeknownst to the twins, they are components of a prophecy that states they must stop the gates of Hell from opening or the world as they know it will end.

Emilia and Vittoria grow up hearing stories from Nonna Maria about a race of detestable devil rulers called the Insidious. The Underhanded each represent one of the seven dangerous sins (rage, envy, eagerness, pride, desire, greedy, and sloth) and rule part of Agony. Pride is lord among his siblings — Satan himself. The Mischievous mysteriously will undoubtedly stay in Damnation by La Prima, who reviled Pride quite a while in the past after he and La Prima's little girl fell head over heels. During Emilia and Vittoria's time, Pride looks for a witch lady of the hour who will assist him with loosening up the revile and let the evil presences kept in paradise. Emilia and Vittoria should utilize the Horn of Abbadon — Satan's horns that were molded into two talismans by La Prima and are the way in to the entryways of Agony — to prevent this from occurring before the human and witch universes are demolished.

Soon after their eighteenth birthday celebration, Vittoria is killed, flagging the start of the prescience. Emilia commitments to settle Vittoria's homicide and rebuff her executioner. She before long finds that besides the fact that Vittoria managing in was the dim expressions before her passing, however that every one of the narratives Nonna Maria told them are valid. Vittoria found out about the revile and prescience and attempted to stop it without educating her sister concerning her hazardous activities. As Emilia attempts to reproduce her sister's last activities to find the killer, Emilia likewise calls a devil: the Sovereign of Rage. Emilia unwittingly utilizes a marriage cling to call Fury so both of them — bound in the commitment of marriage — cooperate to reveal reality with regards to Vittoria's demise.

Emilia and Anger discover that Vittoria chose to wed Pride to attempt to stop the apocalypse as anticipated in the prescience. Another devil ruler, Jealousy, found these plans and had Vittoria killed to keep Pride from terminating the revile on the grounds that Jealousy wishes to take the realm of the Fiendish for himself. Envy and Antonio, a Catholic priest and cherished companion of Emilia and Vittoria, cooperate to offer every one of Pride's marriage competitors. As Emilia finds the reality of her bond with Anger and becomes persuaded of his misdirection, she should confront the prediction alone. Like Vittoria, Emilia chooses to wed Pride to obliterate his domain. Having finished her marriage bond with Anger, Emilia consents to offer her spirit to Satan, disregarding all that Nonna instructed her.

Emilia and Vittoria di Carlo are twin sisters and streghe (the Italian word for "witches") living in Palermo, Sicily during the last part of the 1800s. The evening of their eighth birthday celebration, a tempest is seething. Their grandma, Nonnr Maria, directs the twins in projecting assurance charms against the Malvagi, or the Underhanded, who are "the seven decision rulers of Agony" (2). The Evil practice the dim expressions, mystical practices that cause negative powers. As indicated by Nonna Maria, the Underhanded were expelled to Damnation by La Prima Strega (Italian for "the Main Witch") some time in the past, and on the off chance that the Fiendish at any point return to the human domain, an old prescience including Emilia and Vittoria will unfurl.

Emilia and Vittoria each wear cornicello security special necklaces that are molded like little horns. Despite the fact that Nonna demands that the special necklaces never interact with one another, the twins subtly break Nonna's directions a month after their eighth birthday celebration. However the special necklaces don't truly contact, Emilia starts to see lucciare (Italian for "gleam"), or qualitys.

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Kingdom of the Wicked Character Analysis


Emilia di Carlo is the main protagonist and narrator of the novel. She is a Shadow Witch, a descendant from an ancient line of witches who share a heritage with the Wicked. At the beginning of the book, she is 18 years old, and she lives with her twin sister and their family in Palermo, Sicily in the late 19th century. Emilia practices light magic, taught to her extensively by her grandmother, Nonna Maria, who emphasizes the importance of acting for good in her lessons. As the book progresses, Emilia must learn to find her place in a world that is more complicated than she believed. 

Emilia is characterized by her strong morals and fierce loyalty, though she learns to appreciate more nuances as her character develops over the course of the novel. Emilia intends to follow through on her vow to “make whoever [murdered Vittoria] pay” (44), yet when she captures Antonio in Chapter 48, she considers her newly learned sense of mercy. Emilia’s ability to adapt is essential to her character development and indicative of her witch heritage, as witches seek balance in all their rituals. Emilia’s primary foil in the novel is the Prince of Wrath: He represents all the bad intentions and deception Nonna Maria warns of in her tales of the Wicked. Emilia’s ultimate denial of her bond with Wrath indicates Emilia’s deep sense of independence and refusal to sacrifice herself at the loss of her identity.

Many of Emilia’s character traits are echoed in the food she prepares. As an adept chef, Emilia finds magic in cuisine. Her attention to detail in preparing food in the restaurant or at the brotherhood is reflective of her attention to detail in practicing magic. The descriptions of food (such as the one in Chapter 30 at the seaside restaurant) link Emilia’s character to the symbolic representation of food as a mode of communication and form of expression. Food is an important cultural trait for the Sicilian culture represented in this book, and the author uses this as a way to reveal Emilia’s values and characteristics.


The Prince of Wrath is one of seven of the princes of Hell, who each personify one of the seven deadly sins according to Catholic tradition. He is the ruler of the House of Wrath, the representation of the sin wrath. He is characterized by the traits associated with this sin, including anger, violence, and desire for retribution; however, he also displays opposite characteristics, such as mercy and compassion. He is a complex character and is Emilia’s foil, emphasizing her steadfastness and naïveté through his deceptive tactics and more experienced outlook. His character is both a support to Emilia and her antagonist: He saves Emilia several times but ultimately acts according to his own selfishness. While Wrath and Emilia work together in the middle of the book, he ultimately fails to win her trust and happily leads her to marry his brother, Pride.

Wrath appears unexpectedly in the plot, which foreshadows his character’s unpredictability. His actions as interpreted by Emilia indicate wavering values: He saves Emilia from the Viperidae, the Aper demon, and the Umbra demons in the tunnel, yet he often misleads her and hides information. His inconsistencies culminate when Wrath does not deny that he “needs to deliver one more soul to gain [his] freedom” (309). This opposes Emilia’s strong commitment to her own values, and her sense of their budding relationship and mutual romantic feelings. The unresolved tension between them at the end of the book is indicative of their status as foils and suggests this dynamic will persist in the sequel.


Fratello Antonio Vicenzu Bernardo is a local human and monk in Palermo, and he is revealed to be the primary antagonist at the end of the book. He grew up with Emilia and Vittoria, joining the brotherhood after his mother died. At first, he is characterized as a gracious, placid servant of god without any conflict with others. The reveal in the final chapters that he is the murderer subverts his prior characterization, though it explains his sometimes convenient appearances, such as when he discovers Wrath and Emilia in Chapter 23.

Much of Antonio’s characterization in the book is limited by Emilia’s first-person narration. As Emilia transfers her attentions from Antonio to Wrath after she is bonded with the demon, very little is revealed about Antonio’s true character. He appears to be a caring but platonic friend. When he reveals that he is the murderer, his character is subverted as he reveals his true scheming and self-righteous intentions. The obfuscation of Antonio’s true nature helps to preserve the mystery of the murderer’s identity throughout the novel and contributes to a sense of surprise when the truth is revealed. Antonio’s hatred of witches symbolizes Christianity’s rejection of witchcraft, and his justification of the murders as necessary to religious purification alludes to historical violence against women accused of witchcraft, as led by various religious groups. Antonio is ultimately portrayed as weak when Emilia uses her magic on him in Chapter 48, easily overpowering him.


Nonna Maria is Emilia and Vittoria’s maternal grandmother. She is also a shadow witch and was a guardian of the Horn of Hades until Emilia and Vittoria were born. She has strong magical abilities and a wealth of knowledge that she teaches to her granddaughters, and her character serves as a mentor figure for Emilia. Her decision to hide the prophecy from Emilia until the gates of Hell had already started breaking open indicates that Nonna Maria may be protective over Emilia and Vittoria to a fault, inhibiting their ability to make their own decisions. Because she withheld pertinent knowledge and imparted an overly simplified notion of the Wicked to her granddaughters, Nonna Maria has left them to find the truth on their own.

Nonna Maria is characterized by her frantic warnings of bad omens. This renders her character flat at first, appearing to warn Emilia against an imagined evil. Once Emilia is threatened by Envy, Nonna Maria’s character adapts. The cimaruta spell she casts in Chapter 41 illustrates that regardless of Nonna’s opinions of how Emilia should act, she will always protect her family. This image of a strong, protective matriarch harkens to symbolism associating witches and women with agency.


Claudia is a witch and friend of Emilia and Vittoria. She is a secondary character who helps Emilia throughout the book. Because she practices the dark arts, her character offers different insight into the world of witches portrayed in this book. Claudia illustrates the principles of dark magic, another type of magical practice that relies on paying a price, and in doing so, she shows its potential dangers. When she loses her connection with reality, her character acts as a warning for what can happen when a witch travels between realms. Both Claudia’s knowledge and the mistake that leads to her downfall are instrumental in helping Emilia learn the truth about the curse and the Horn of Hades.


Three of Wrath’s brothers play crucial roles in the novel as secondary characters: the Prince of Pride, the Prince of Envy, and the Prince of Greed.

The Prince of Pride is both a prince of Hell and the devil himself who represents the sin of pride. He and his seven brothers each control one house in Hell, but Pride is the highest ranking among them, rendering him the ruler of Hell. His character primarily appears in this book in mentions made by others, as he is never physically present in the same realm as Emilia. This casts a sense of mystery around his character, which both distances him from readers who are uncertain as to his true characteristics and makes him appear scarier because he is unknown. By choosing Pride as the ruler among the other six sins, the author covertly argues that prideful actions are the most sinful compared to actions motivated by the other sins.

The Prince of Envy is a prince of Hell who represents the sin of envy. His primary goal is to prevent Pride from breaking the curse so he can take the kingdom of the Wicked for himself. He is one of the primary antagonists who harasses Emilia throughout the book. Envy’s constant treachery illustrates his selfishly desirous nature. His character often wears green, symbolizing the idiomatic phrase green with envy. Because envy is his motivation, he quickly resorts to brutal tactics to get what he wants, harming anyone who gets in his way without hesitation.

The Prince of Greed is a prince of Hell who represents the sin of greed. His ownership of the gambling house is symbolic of the common traits associated with greed, such as seeking money, reputation, or sex—all of which transpire there. Greed’s character is stereotypically evil according to these traits. He, like the other princes of Hell, is deceptive and wishes to bait Emilia into a bargain tilted in his own favor. This deception is consistent between the princes of Hell, emphasizing the importance of this trait for the Wicked.


Vittoria di Carlo is Emilia’s twin sister who is murdered at the beginning of the book. Like her twin, she is a talented young witch with strong magical abilities. Her characterization occurs through the many flashbacks and thoughts Emilia has after Vittoria is dead and Emilia’s constant considerations of Vittoria allow Vittoria’s character to influence the events of the novel even after the murder. Emilia’s use of Vittoria’s hidden objects to investigate the murders represents the sisterly bond the two girls share—a bond Emilia relies on to discover the truth. Vittoria helps Emilia even from death, which thematically relates to the notion of a shared heritage celebrated by witches.

Kingdom of the Wicked Themes


One of the most salient themes of Kingdom of the Wicked is conveyed through the phrase “as above, so below” that is repeated several times throughout the work (320). Emilia first encounters the phrase in Latin while she is under Lust’s influence in Chapter 34: “Inferus sicut superus” (265); though it is referenced in the Prologue first to foreshadow the prophecy. The phrase refers to balance between the human and demon realms, suggesting that what is incurred in the human realm (above) will be reflected in the demon realm (below). Its meaning has broader implications, however, and refers also to the idea that one’s choices made in the physical world reflect personal development within. Stated more simply, the phrase signifies the importance and inevitably of balance. 

As soon as signs of the Wicked show in Sicily, Emilia feels trapped by the limits of the dichotomous worldview Nonna Maria has taught her. Emilia’s worldview is at odds with both her heritage as a Shadow Witch and her experiences with Wrath: If the Wicked and their associates are evil and harm others, then Emilia’s positive perception of her ancestral heritage and interactions with Wrath are both invalidated. As she negotiates the situations around her, Emilia enacts a greater sense of balance and understands that not only do her actions have consequences, but that no ideal outcomes exist. When she acts foolishly, such as engaging with Lust on the beach, Emilia learns that she must bear the outcome brought about by these actions, even though she did not have bad intentions. At the end of the book, Emilia has modified her worldview to understand greater nuances and to account for gray areas between black-and-white divisions such as good or bad and has begun to find a balance that is more realistic. 

Emilia’s personal development of emotional and moral balance mirrors the balance indicated in the prophecy that she and Vittoria have a role to play in the fate of Hell. Because the twins must “make great sacrifices to keep the gates of Hell intact” (320), this implies that a new balance must be struck between witches and demons to ensure the security of the human realm. Vittoria’s murder is the first evidence of this stipulation of the prophecy, as she is cast “below” in death, leaving Emilia to come to the same conclusions her twin found in the human realm “above.” This stipulation also foreshadows Emilia’s choice to marry Pride at the conclusion of the work, symbolizing the marriage, or balance, of their respective realms.


Throughout the book, Maniscalco plays with various interpretations of magic. While magic in this work typically refers to the supernatural abilities of witches, demons, and other non-human beings, it also refers to the culmination of intentions. As stated in the di Carlo family grimoire, “Magic [...] thrives on the energy you give it” and “it is neither good nor bad—it simply becomes based on the user’s intent” (41). In this way, magic represents the notion that all actions have consequences and is itself an amoral force. Good magic is, therefore, magic borne of good intentions and does not take from other living forces to be carried out. Dark magic, on the other hand, requires a transfer of forces from a sacrifice to the spell and is often rooted in bad intent.

At the beginning of the book, Emilia believes in a clearly defined, dichotomous interpretation of good and evil as they relate to magic. The type of magic her Nonna teaches her is good, while the Wicked represent the worst type of dark magic. When Emilia meets Wrath, she finds his use of magic at odds with this interpretation: He uses his magic to save her life from the Viperidae, for example. Emilia’s conception of good and evil magic becomes further complicated when she uses dark magic to serve her search for justice, such as when she summons Wrath or uses the truth spells on Francesco and Alexei. As her interpretations of good and evil become more complex, so too do her interpretations of light and dark magic. This change of thought is indicated by the various lies and omissions Emilia learns about in regard to Pride’s curse. The demons and witches alike interpret the stories to fit their world view: Claudia views the Horn of Hades as a condition of the curse, while Greed views the Horn as a gift. Truth is always relative to an individual’s outlook or biases, and others may interpret a person’s “good” intentions as “evil” by their own standards.

Wrath is key in changing Emilia’s notion of the morality of magic. Emilia has a skewed view of Wrath from the beginning of their relationship, having heard him specifically called out in Nonna’s warnings: “There are seven demon princes, but only four di Carlos should fear: Wrath, Greed, Envy, and Pride” (5). When Emilia’s experiences with Greed and Envy prove to be as malicious as Nonna warned, she feels further conflicted about whether to trust Wrath or not. His good intentions make him appear somewhat trustworthy, indicating the same logic that governs magic can also apply to assessments of character: good intentions matter to produce good outcomes. Determining the nature of someone else’s intentions, however, proves more difficult than Emilia expects.


This book contains subtle feminist themes, expressed through its portrayal of witchcraft. In the novel, witches are matrilineal and inherit their abilities from their mothers. This represents the real-world association of witchcraft with women: Throughout history, women have disproportionately been persecuted for practicing “witchcraft,” a term that was often used to condemn women who did not fit into social expectations. In this work, witchcraft is implemented symbolically as an indication of women’s agency, even within patriarchal structures. The alignment of food preparation and magic, as Nonna uses fennel to cast a protection spell on Emilia, reframes domestic work, stereotypically the responsibility of women, as something with inherent value and power. The fear of being condemned by the Catholic church or ostracized by society draws on real-world dangers women historically faced. In this book, Maniscalco incorporates feminist themes into the practice of magic to establish a protagonist who is not bound by the sexist traditions of the late 19th century.

Emilia must leverage the agency her magic grants her to attain what she wants in the face of danger. As a young woman living in 19th-century Sicily, Emilia is at a disadvantaged social position compared to her male counterparts. She uses her magic to account for some of this disparity, such as when she uses containment spells to hold Wrath in the summoning circle. In manipulating the world around her, and especially in exercising resistance to male characters, Emilia illustrates how this greater agency offers her more opportunity for self-expression. At the end of the book, as she leaves to confront the demons, she expresses greater confidence and is “completely through with feeling sad” (341). This coincides with her rapidly increasing magical abilities: She casts spells of greater power than she has ever expressed before, uniting her identities as a witch and a woman. Magic enables Emilia to create her own plan in life, which is representative of the feminist idea that every person should be free to live their life as they choose.

Conversely to Emilia’s expression of agency, the violence against young women in this work represents the dangers women of the late 19th century faced. Because women are a marginalized group in society, they are at greater risk of being assaulted. When each witch agrees to the marriage bargain with Pride, they are killed to prevent the curse from being broken. Women are the key to ending the curse, indicating their inherent power, yet men like Antonio and Envy kill these powerful women to protect their own interests and maintain their own power. The brutal nature of the murders further highlights the power disparity between men and women. As Emilia investigates the murders, she makes herself more vulnerable to attack by attempting to challenge the existing power structure. Emilia’s increased powers equip her to confront these dangerous men, but the witches who were murdered were also talented and experienced. This illustrates that even with greater agency, danger exists for those who do not live according to the expectations of others.


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