This book has more plot holes than a sieve – and it meant that all the best bits fell out.
Name: Kingdom Of Flesh And Fire
Author: Jennifer Armentrout
Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.
Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants—to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself—about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation.
But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late.
That’s one chunky blurb! As I’m sure you’ve realised, Kingdom Of Flesh And Fire is the much anticipated sequel to From Blood And Ash – you can find my thoughts on FBAA here. It picks up from the very end of From Blood And Ash (quite literally the last line) which I always like in sequels. It means that you can get back into the action without a disortientating time-jump; or the struggle of figuring out what happened in the time gap. Becuase I was struggling enough as it was!
This review contains mild spoilers, but nothing severe.
In the last quarter of From Blood And Ash
when everything went to pot, the truth about the Ascended was revealed. And even though I had a full 600+ pages to digest that, I still don’t really understand. It seems overly complicated? And that wasn’t helped by the introduction of a new subplot every 50 pages.
Ahhh the subplots (aka gaping plot holes). It felt like tropes were being introduced just for the sake of ticking off that trope. Heartmates? The Guard? These were some really interesting details, but that’s drained when you get next to no information about them. I think that Armentrout should have had a bigger focus on a few central themes – although it did make me smirk sometimes when I spotted the introduction of one and thought I know where this is going… Hopefully, it will all be cleared up in the third book, but I don’t think I’ll be sticking around to find out.
On the other hand, I can see why some people prefer Kingdom Of Flesh And Fire. I’d been so excited to read it (and slightly nervous of posting this) because of lovely comments on my last review saying that I’ll enjoy this sequel even more. But I much preferred FBAA – this felt like a massive tonal shift. There’s a lot less focus on the characters’ development and the world building to just their relationship. Which makes sense. But, I’m here for the long run and if they’re making out again… It was well written, but I did have a few moments of IT’S THE MIDDLE OF THE BATTLE, SURELY THIS CAN WAIT!
Leading on from that, I have a few thoughts for Casteel. Come on man, I feel like Poppy can button up her own clothes. And while it does mean you can do a sexy run of your arms down hers, don’t you have more important things to do? I swear the book would be 50 pages shorter if Poppy could dress herself. And this was something that came up more than once! My favourite part of Poppy from book one was her ability to hold her own, she certainly seemed less fiery when Casteel is doing everything for her?
Also, I kind of hate that the only reason Poppy and the female soldiers were good at fighting was because of their heritage and DNA. You don’t see that happening to the men – why do the women need to have an exuse for their skills? Why can’t they just be good warriors? Leading on from that, Poppy always seemed really jealous of Hawke’s ex Shea – I didn’t need her to be like #girlboss (for want of better expression) but the girl was dead! Maybe I’ve read too many books recently with painful portrays of jelousy, but I felt like Poppy had no reason to be worrying about how Hawke was with Shea.
However, there was some good monents with Poppy. I appreciate that the female warriors’ biggest trait wasn’t that they wore skin tight suits but were actually decent fighters. Also, I liked that Poppy acknowledged that Casteel wasn’t the one to change her life. She changed her own: it’s an important and interesting thing to acknowledge and one that I wasn’t really expecting with the tone of the book!
The lack of diversity isn’t great. I don’t think that any of the main characters are explicitly people of colour. I always like seeing how fantasy worlds treat LGBTQ charatacters (although I personally prefer the Six Of Crows approach of It’s not a big deal – do whatever you want as long as you’re making money!). But, there are no explicitly LGBTQ characters in the series so far.
My next note was literally Poppy gasps too much, people don’t actually do that as a natural reaction, this is not a pantomime. But on a more important note, I wanted… softer moments? I want bits where Poppy can be vulnerable and hurt without Casteel being like wow that’s hot. Because this girl has gone through a LOT. Being angry is a very valid response, but I feel like it was her only emotion? I want her to be more hurt (which would be realistic because her life is not great) and Casteel to suport her.
Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood for gore, but I was oftenstruck by how incredibly VIOLENT this series is. It’s quite juxtaposing to go straight from a bloodthirsty battle to the bedroom. (While we’re here, is it sexy to be called a murderous little creature? Are we taking that as a compliment? Albeit stunning was before murderous, but I don’t think I’d want to be called a little creature, especially by my future spouse.)
My last point (I hear you take a breath of relief) was that I found Kingdom Of Flesh And Fire quite static to read. The main reason it didn’t feel fluid was due to the big information dumps. The pace seemed so much slower than From Blood And Ash and that paired with odd dialogue structure made 600 pages… feel like 600 pages. There was too much talking in the battle scenes; then too much room between talking; and then a full page of dialogue. Poppy had so many inner monologues when she could have been doing something more interesting (*winks*).
To sum up, it wasn’t a super enjoyable read but I’m glad I tried it. The end quarter is amazing. Despite my flaws with Casteel and Poppy’s relationsip, they seem to have respect and consent? I think? But I think the page count could have been cut down significantly. Most importantly: IT’S NOT FOR YOUNGER READERS. THERE SHOULD BE A MASSIVE STICKER ON THIS THING! Don’t be fooled by the pretty covers – even if they are gorgeous. Have you seen the Fairyloot ones? I love them more than Casteel loves doing up Poppy’s clothes. Which must be a lot.