Today I am reviewing the second book in the From Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. If you haven’t read From Blood and Ash, this review may contain spoilers for the first book, and I highly recommend you check out my spoiler free review of book one instead.
If you have read From Blood and Ash, this review will be spoiler free for the second book, so buckle up. I have some thoughts.
A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published: September 1, 2020
Publisher: Blue Box Press
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.
After promptly finishing the second book, I went into a little bit of a spiral, because this book was a conundrum for me. On one hand, the story line is going to places I never expected and, especially after the ending, I’m so excited but scared but excited…. I have a lot of feelings. I was so shocked by the ending that I quickly ordered the next book in the series and it arrived Monday! So now, when I’m ready, I can start reading and possibly be hurt again.
Now, if this had been a trilogy, as most people thought it would be, I would say this book suffered from middle book syndrome. Because while I loved where the book ended, the whole first half was – well, boring. Nothing happened. It wasn’t until 150-200 pages in that the plot really started moving and in that time, it was basically nothing. I love the banter between Poppy and Cas, I love the set up that she feels trapped, but in reality she’s not. I love the little hints at weird things happening that come back later in the book. It’s all great. But for the most part, Poppy sits in a room or walks around talking to Cas. Not much is happening.
Finally, the plot progresses and we start moving somewhere. And for the most part, I wasn’t a fan of some of the plot points. Moving Poppy from one location to another was just a way to have the same things happen twice, just in a different spot. I will say though, that I loved how Poppy and Cas’ relationship progresses in this book. Poppy, who’s rightfully mad that Cas lied to her and feels betrayed, has to work past her feelings in order to work together with him. Especially if they’re going to pretend that they’re married. Meanwhile, she knows that her feelings are still there and it’s hard to separate Hawke from Cas.
Jennifer is great at building and portraying relationships. She makes it clear what the characters are thinking and how they feel, so we can see how that changes over time. And if what they feel it’s wrong, they will tell us! I can understand Poppy’s confusion as she works through her feelings for Hawke and this new person in front of her with the same face. One thing that made me a little uncomfortable is sometimes the sex scenes between Poppy and Cas blur a line. Sometimes, Poppy doesn’t make it clear she wants it or kind of doesn’t want it, but let’s Cas go with it or just gives in and it made me feel uncomfortable. Not that Poppy doesn’t relay that she enjoys it, but the initiation was a bit unclear whether or not Poppy wanted it at first. But, for the most part, she wants it.
And speaking of sex scenes, this book is definitely more spicy than the first one. It was like any time something big or emotional happened, these two had to get it out physically! It was kind of funny how frequently things turned from angry or heartfelt to intense sex scenes, but that’s just how some people do it lol
Moving back to plot though, once I was halfway through the book, we started to pick up the pace. And by the ending, it was chaos. I originally was going to give this book a 3.5/4 because of the drawn out and slow beginning, but I think the second half of this book really makes up for it. Especially as things are building up with Poppy’s powers and we are being introduced to more and more characters. By the ending, I couldn’t help but bump it up to 4.5 – it was a great ending!
I’m excited to read the next book in the series, but I really hope these long, drawn out beginnings lessen, because it just felt too long. Let me know if you felt the same way.
If you like fantasy books with spice, the only other one I know of is Sarah J. Maas’ books – A Court of Thorns and Roses or Crescent City: House of Blood and Earth! But if you have recommendations for similar books, leave them in the comments and I’ll check them out!