From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published March 30th 2020
Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.
The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.
Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.
Ok well, I wasn’t expecting to start my year off with a read like this, but I did. I decided I wanted to get myself to try and read one book a week. And damn it, I read this book like I was getting paid to do it. I finished it SO QUICKLY. I couldn’t put it down. I have been asked to read Jennifer L. Armentrout books for a while, and none of them really spoke to me (SORRY JLA!) but this one, after reading this I would roam the earth recommending this author to people.
I felt like this book was like seeing an old friend after being apart for a long time. It just felt like the right read, and it was somehow reading a favorite book I had set aside for a very long time. The writing was so smooth, approachable, and just the flow of everything worked and felt familiar, it made it so easy for me to get lost in this book for hours on end. And I know sometimes reading a book you have to read it at the right time to really strike a good rapport with a book, let alone a 600+ page book that’s you’re first read of 2021 coming out of a slump.
There are a few small things I have to get off my chest though…as much as I’d hate to. I was getting a bit antsy at the beginning of this book to really get moving with some sort of catalyst. It took a while to really get things moving plot wise, and as much as I love how strong Poppy is, witty Hawke is, loving Tawny and protective Vikter are, there’s only so much of that content I could absorb. I also felt like it got a bit repetitive with all the Maiden stuff and what it was like being the Maiden day to day and the sneaking out. I was beginning to get bored, and then BAM! COMING IN WWITH THE SECOND ACT. The book really rose to the occasion of a stellar read at about 25% I’d say. So if you’re struggling with this read I BEG YOU to tough it out and wait because it’s so worth it.
My small tiny other piece that kind of made me go “oh bummer” was, I’m not sure if I just have really good deduction skills or figuring out plot twists, but I knew it all along. I won’t spoil, but I knew the twist the whole time. Not sure if it was supposed to be that obvious, but I figured it out and it made the reveal really anti-climactic for me. But that’s not to say that it wasn’t a great plot twist. But it just was a bummer that I had already put the clues together to figure it out so early on.
Everything else in this book really worked for me. The romance was steamy and amazing (probably some of my favorite steamy scenes I’ve read from an author) and I just loved the progression of Poppy and Hawke’s relationship through the book. I loved Poppy as a main character. A strong-willed, strong bodied, smart woman suppressed to be this quiet, submissive “chosen one”, and as much as that can sometimes be a trope, I feel like JLA wrote Poppy so wonderfully that it didn’t feel like an over done trope or that I’ve read about this character a million times. And I loved that. Poppy felt like such a unique character to me (and I might have some bias towards the name as I’ve always wanted to name a daughter, if I have one Penelope).
I also feel like I’ve never read anything like Armentrout’s writing before. It felt lyrical, heart-felt, and just some overall strong writing. I literally would feel my heart clench or my stomach drop, and just FELT while reading this which is the best sign of great writing, truly, and the fact that I haven’t had a book do that in a while, I appreciate it so much. This book had almost everything I’ve been looking for in a book and I’m so glad I picked it up. And I want to thank JLA for taking the time to really make an amazing book, I wasn’t expecting it at all.
On to “A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire”!