One good one thing came out of 2020… this book 😎
Name: From Blood And Ash
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Song: Ashes by Stellar
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.
Synopsis from Goodreads
I was so excited to read this. From its publish in late march, I’d heard so many raving reviews about ‘From Blood And Ash’ that I really wanted to try it – booktok does turn out some brilliant recommendations every so often. And it didn’t disappoint!
This fantasy romance follows Poppy, the ‘maiden’ in her deeply religious Kingdom. She’s received an increasing number of death threats leading up to her mysterious ‘Ascension’, so the Duke and Duchess hire a new Royal Guard to look after her. Who just so happens to be really fit – yes, it’s that type of book! But it also wasn’t? I don’t read that many princess-and-hot-guard books, but the first thing that set From Blood And Ash apart from them was the heroine, Poppy. And whilst I’m not saying that it wasn’t a princess-I-need-to-guard-you-even-when-you’re-in-the-bath novel (more on that later), Poppy was different.
One thing I wasn’t expecting: how the whole book was surprisingly feminist, Poppy included. What’s more, she could hold her own – both in a fight and when talking to people. Poppy didn’t make (that) many decisions that had me yelling at the pages which was refreshing for the heroine in a fantasy romance. There was no ‘I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding‘ moments. Hawke didn’t always have to rescue her! He respects Poppy! He had a fun, healthy relationship with her!
Or does he?
My first impression of the love interest: Hawke is a bit of a womanizer but I’ll let it go because, well, that’s his character. Plus, sometimes you need a bit of a one-track love interest – it makes for good dialogue 😉. And consistently, the dialogue was brilliant. But sometimes the bits between, the fighting and some of the world building, was a bit boring. Some scenes are flipping amazing but to make a good book great you need to have consistency with the great scenes. ‘From Blood And Ash’ was sooooo long that there were a few scenes I felt could be cut. But then again, I liked how much time was spent building up the side characters (Poppy’s maid Tawny was hilarious) and the relationship between Poppy and Hawke. Hawke… who is supposed to be the focus of this paragraph. Oops (I get side tracked so much when blogging 😬). Will now continue!
WARNING: This next paragraph contains spoilers for the end of the book. Just skip onto the next paragraph. You have been warned!
AGHSHHF: the plot twist. I just… I don’t think it was necessary. Whilst it was unwelcome, I saw it coming – their relationship was probably too good to be true and there needed to be some conflict to fill 100 pages. But Armentrout had put so much work into building Hawke (I’m gonna keep calling him that because I’m not sure what he’ll be called in the next book!) into this multi-layered character that the reader empathised with and liked… but then she was like SIKE! Possessive, aggressive and a bit rapey – he basically embodied the reason I don’t normally like these type of books. The love interests often make me uncomfortable with the explicit absence of consent because ‘they know better’ – all qualities I’d previously admired both the book and Hawke for not possessing. And it felt like such a shame because, so far, the book HAD BEEN SO DAMN GOOD! The reveal of Hawke’s ‘true self?’ was the single reason that my rating dropped from a five to four to four stars within a matter of pages. Maybe it’s too much to ask (who am I kidding, it’s the first book in a fantasy trilogy, of course it’s not going to end well) but I wanted them to stay in their fun happy relationship 😦
Also, Armentrout really wanted to squeeze in as many tropes as possible. The Ascension thing was really intriguing and different… but nO they’re all vampires. Of course. Why is it always vampires? Or uncomfortable power dynamics where one person is so much older and more experienced than the other. But, whilst I be get a bit too hung up on the political side of it all, I guess some readers might really enjoy the relationship change – I guess it mixed it all up a but for the second book. I’m so interested to hear what other people thought, let me know in the comments!
To be honest, I think the main reason I was so irritated by the plot twist was because I was absolutely loving the book and didn’t want any change. Don’t get me wrong: From Blood And Ash is really good.
Not just in a 😏😏 way (although there’s that too *winks*) but Poppy experienced REALISTIC HUMAN EMOTIONS which is all I ever want from a fantasy heroine. Plus, she’s not super annoying which is always a plus – and it’s humorous. Really funny and very enjoyable. I don’t know if it says something about the quality of the writing that the entire trilogy is coming out in little under a year, but I have A Kingdom Of Flesh And Fire on the way and am incredibly excited to read it. I’d love to hear your opinions on both that and this book in the comments!