Review of From Blood & Ash / Kingdom of Flesh & Fire…sit down, strap in, and prepare for me to SQUEEEEEEEEEE A LOT! I think this may be my favorite series I’ve read so far this year! I cannot say enough good things, but check out the blurb for book one below before I continue to flip out over Poppy & Hawke!
Blurb for From Blood & Ash:
Captivating and action-packed, From Blood and Ash is a sexy, addictive, and unexpected fantasy perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Laura Thalassa.
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.
^ This is me after FINALLY finishing both books in the From Blood & Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout!
Where do I even begin with these books? Poppy. I have to start with Poppy because she is a kickass character from beginning to end without being annoying. I have dived back into reading a lot and what I notice is strong female characters can fall into 2 categories – amazing or devastatingly annoying.
Poppy is the Maiden. What does this mean? If you believe the Ascended, she was chosen by the Gods. A symbol for her people. She is told where to go, what to eat, who she can and cannot speak to, she must constantly wear a veil so no one can ever see her face, and oh yeah – she is never to fight, which means guards 24/7.
What makes Poppy so wonderful is that throughout the first book she desperately wants the Duke and Duchess to be pleased with her, to do as she’s told, but her personality and zeal for life will never allow that. Which is why she knows how to defend herself better than most soldiers, she’s got more spunk than should be able to fit in her tiny body, and she ends up breaking every rule given to the Maiden.
I loved Poppy’s journey because she is strong from the start, but she struggles with this even until the end of book two. Breaking years of conditioning is difficult and Ms. Armentrout portrays this spectacularly with Poppy as she comes to realize that she is not the Maiden and trying to force herself into this box is killing her.
Poppy is a heroine anyone can get behind. She isn’t the false strong that we see with some female leads these days. She makes mistakes and owns up to them, she allows vulnerability for herself and others without judgment. She’s strong when she needs to be, but gentle too and caring beyond belief. She understands that courage is not the absence of fear, but overcoming that fear while still experiencing it.
She’s human. Beautifully so. And it’s refreshing.
Hawke similarly is larger than life as many YA/NA hero’s are, but despite putting on masks that make him out to be the sarcastic, macho hero there is a tenderness beneath that he displays when he can, when he doesn’t need to fool people. He and Poppy butt heads constantly between book one and two for very good reasons and when they finally explode and are actually honest with each other, the vulnerability and the beauty of their love for each other is EVERYTHING!
Moving on from just the wonderfulness that is Poppy and Hawke…not to mention the cast of side characters – Kieran I’m looking at you, you magnificent man – the story that Jennifer L. Armentrout created is:
I applaud her for bringing vampires back and making them INTERESTING! We all know what happened after Twilight. The influx of vampire stories was like a tsunami taking out the entire continental US. I swore of vampire books after Twilight and figured I’d never want to read another one, because, honestly, what else was there to do with them?
THIS! THERE WAS F-ING THIS!
I bow down to you, Jennifer Armentrout. From Blood & Ash introduces the Craven, bloodthirsty vampires who are just mindless killing machines. They’re rightfully terrifying and so poisonous/murderous that every city worth its salt in FBA has what she calls a ‘Rise,’ aka a giant wall, surrounding it.
Ah, but the genius, oh the genius, is that the Craven aren’t the only vampires in this story and the mythology as well as the lies delve so much deeper than simple bloodthirsty animals trying to rip peoples jugulars out.
I don’t want to spoil either book, so you need to go read them, but if you want a fresh take on vampires and vampire creation myths – THIS IS THE BOOK SERIES!
Between the story and the characters, Jennifer Armentrout also didn’t disappoint with the world building, clearly taking elements from our world to help ground the reader in her fantasy world, while creating amazing flora and fauna to help yank the reader under the books surface and drown them in the atmosphere of Poppy’s world!
I bought both these books on Kindle and I already plan to buy them in hardcover so I can put them on my shelves and return to Poppy & Hawke’s world whenever the fancy tickles me.
I will mention, these books are clearly more adult so there are sex scenes. If that’s not something you’re interested in, while I hate to say skip the books, well these books may not be for you.