I had been trying to read this book for months. Every time I thought I would be able to sit down and read it, something came up. And it didn’t matter that it was staring at me on my shelf, patiently waiting for me to pick it up and read, oh no. None of that mattered.
But, finally – FINALLY! I had some free time to really sit down and devour this book. I read this in less than 48 hours and I probably could have finished it in a day if I didn’t have to work. I had some doubts going into this book, but after reading it, all I can say is wow.
From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published: March 30, 2020
Publisher: Blue Box Press
Genre: Fantasy Romance
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.
First off, I need to come clean. I was scared to read this book. Like, actually scared of what I was going to read. I had tried to read Storm and Fury by JLA before and it wasn’t my vibe so I put it down. While I will try to read that one again, I did worry that I wasn’t going to like this book. I had seen TikToks and reviews about how smutty it was and very, very spicy! And while I don’t read a lot of smut now, nor do I review it, I have read smut before and this – this wasn’t smut. Spicy? Yes. Smutty? Hell no!
But I was concerned I wasn’t going to like the plot or the writing. But when I picked up this book and started reading, all my fears faded away, because this book is fantastic. The world, the characters, the action, the spice – it was actually perfect. It’s very hard for me to find a book that I vibe with so well, but this book was exactly what I wanted to read in that moment and I loved it!
Starting off, Poppy – miss Penellaphe, which is a very interesting name, is such a fun character to read. She acts demure in order to trick people into thinking she’s weak, but she is so strong! When we first meet her, she is sneaking out of her room, out of the castle that houses her, to go to a naughty bar and live a little. As The Maiden, Poppy is the saviour to her nation, including mortals, The Ascended, and anyone else who inhabits the land (though they really don’t want anyone else there). She must stay pure, which means she cannot speak to anyone not approved, they cannot see her face, she wears only white with a veil, she cannot do anything unladylike, like fighting, and most importantly – she cannot be involved with anyone sexually. In any capacity.
But Poppy doesn’t care about being The Maiden, not really. She cares about not disappointing the people she knows and cares about, but if she could enjoy life and shake off her shackles, she absolutely would. She defies it as much as she can, like learning how to fight even though she’s not supposed to, and sneaking out of the castle to experience new things and have fun. But in the end, she will always end up the prisoner in her own home. And I feel bad for her. I mean, the poor girl can’t even converse with anyone! She can’t wear any other color than white or have someone see her face – it’s so sad.
And she can’t have any relationships with anyone. Her guard, and basically her adoptive father, Viktor, and her maid, are the only people she has as a “friend” and even that’s on a thin line. If they’re too close, she risks losing them because they cannot fraternize with her. It’s really depressing.
But when she accidentally enters a room with Hawke, a transferred guard who has everyone’s attention, trying to hide from Viktor at the naughty bar, she lets him touch her. Kiss her. And when he’s assigned to her as her personal bodyguard, she can’t help but want more. And again – I DON’T BLAME HER. Poppy isn’t allowed to do anything. She has to take the abuse from the Duke and his buddy, who can hurt her, touch her, and speak to her however they want, but if she breaks any of these rules, suddenly it’s disgraceful and not allowed. It’s hypocritical and I hate it.
When Hawke enters the scene, and her prioritizes her, and her needs, ahead of what other people want, I was so happy for her. Even though doing so could risk his life, or hers, she at least was given the choice that had been denied for so long. And while I loved Hawke as a match for Poppy, his character was kind of flat. I mean he literally serves as a wet dream for Poppy – being there to tempt her at every chance. And while we know that he has troubles of his own, we don’t really get to know him much as a person. His only role is to push Poppy to break free from her chains, until the ending.
Honestly, that ending was so wild. The whole storyline was wild. From the middle on was constant twist and turns – the path got so tangled I couldn’t see ahead of me anymore and I had no idea where the story was going. When I finished it, I screamed, and immediately wanted to grab the next book so I could keep reading. I don’t know what I was so afraid of, because I literally adored this book. Even though Hawke was a bit two dimensional for most of the book (only really getting fleshed out by the ending), the characters and this book is freaking amazing!
I hate rambling, but I really could go on.
I will say that there are a lot of trigger warnings for this book. It’s an adult novel and it is filled with violence, gore, sex, and other explicit scenes. It’s not for children or any person who has trouble with more adult themes. But while there is sex and explicit sexual scenes, I wouldn’t call this smut. I don’t understand when anyone labels a book with sex “smut” when it’s not, but this one has ended up with that label. There are two sex scenes and two explicit sexual scenes in the entire book, not counting the brief sexual assault scene. And while they are more detailed, even they had “fade to black” moments and didn’t go into vivid detail. So if you’re worried about that, I wouldn’t be.
Overall, I’m obsessed with this book and I’m probably going to start reading book 2, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, like right now! And I’m probably going to have to order book 3 immediately, because I already know I’m going to want to know what happens next. This book has so much action, a detailed fantasy world, twist and turns like no other, and sexual tension up the wazoo! I couldn’t put it down and I can’t stop rambling about it (sorry, not sorry) – I apologize to all my friends who begged me to read this book for months and I put it off. I was wrong, you were right, and I’m going to go in my hole of shame while I read A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire.
If this book sounds interesting, check out any of Sarah J Maas’ books or really anything else by Jennifer Armentrout!