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Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars
The global pandemic has affected us all in different ways, that much is certain. There are plenty of things that I could say on the matter, but one thing I’ve noticed how it’s affected me is my lack of ability to focus or concentrate. It’s affected me on my writing, and has especially affected my reading. All of a sudden, the act of reading is twice as hard to do and I can hardly even find the energy to finish a book; I’ve even dropped multiple titles like Morning Star by Pierce Brown, Vengeful by V.E. Schwab, and really struggled to even finish Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. The point I’m trying to make about all this is how it felt like I’d fallen into a deep reading slump, and From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout absolutely saved me!
Like it’s advertised, this book is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, and it was an incredible story filled with everything that makes a fantasy story great: quests for vengeance, mythical creatures, bravery, friendship, love, betrayal, loyalty, mystique, forgotten civilizations, and even some suspense. Don’t forget the romance, there was definitely some romance! It was a definite highlight of the whole story, which isn’t exactly shocking for a Jennifer L. Armentrout novel based on what I’ve noticed of her work over the years.
Some of the storyline was fairly predictable, but a lot of it was also not, and I was surprised at how many twists I actually did not see coming, even as I thought back and realized all the little hints that the author placed throughout, and what they eventually meant. The ending was especially surprising, but I gather that anyone who enjoys the author’s other books will totally expect it from her, and will enjoy it just as much. I’m just personally glad it wasn’t a total cliffhanger of an ending; it has quite a final sentence to end it with, but it’s not like I’m totally unsatisfied with it either.
While nothing was too incredibly mind-blowing or greatly original about the story, I still found myself really enjoying this book way more than others right now, and even stayed up all night reading it to see what happened next. I still am not 100% on the worldbuilding, along with its history with the different kingdoms and the wars that are mentioned in the narration, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the story either way.
While it may seem like a perfect addition to the YA Fantasy genre, I can say it definitely belongs more in the New Adult category similarly to how A Court of Thorns and Roses is actually NA too. With how the main heroine develops and with how far the romance goes, while I’d never tell someone what they can and can’t read, others may want to reconsider this for the younger and more impressionable readers. I’d say this book is safe for anyone 16+ in age, but then again, I was reading books with sex scenes when I was just in 8th grade, and I turned out fine!
What It’s About:
The Official Blurb:
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.
Some truths do nothing but destroy and decay what they do not obliterate. Truths do not always set one free. Only a fool who has spent their entire life being fed lies believes that.”— Jennifer L. Armentrout, “From Blood and Ash”
What I Liked:
- Hawke Flynn! He becomes Poppy’s personal royal guard when it seems like someone or something is targeting her as being the Maiden, and I can honestly say he’s a perfect addition to any book boyfriends list that anyone possibly has. He’s the perfect mix of charming, cocky, witty, cheeky, and he has an edge that shrouds him with an air of mystery that makes your heart beat just a little faster whenever him and Poppy are near each other. He’s a great love interest because he challenges Poppy both mentally and physically, and he’s protective but never forces her to do anything she doesn’t want to do, and he also doesn’t treat her like some defenseless damsel. He really likes the word intriguing to describe her, and has strange golden eyes and dimples that she (and most of us who’ve read it) are absolutely obsessed with!
- Poppy’s Character Development! As the important role of the Maiden amongst the people, Poppy has had an incredibly sheltered life for as long as she remembers. Secretly being trained to defend herself in combat, she also defies the pressure and expectations placed on her by socializing with her small inner circle, and I thought the author wrote her resentment and the coming-of-age growing need for freedom perfectly. She’s had everything figured out for her, scheduled for her, and she has so many limits to being the Maiden: a holy-like figure required to wear a veil at all times in public, that it makes total sense that she wants everything that life has kept from her, which leads me to the next number on the list…
- The Romance! With her growing need for freedom and choice, Poppy also falls for her new personal royal guard, Hawke Flynn. He teaches her that it’s not only normal to want the things she wants out of life but isn’t allowed to have, but he even encourages her to go and seize them for herself. He doesn’t hide the fact that he’s attracted to her, so he constantly flirts with her, and they exchange some sexy banter as well. She eventually can no longer deny she feels the same way, and the romance developed just so wonderfully…there was such a great balance of sweet and steamy moments, plenty of great banter, and was just electric to read about Poppy learning to embrace her sexuality. I think many impressionable female readers will especially appreciate this character trait of hers.
What I Didn’t Like:
- There’s Quite a Lot of Slower Pacing…While there are (surprisingly) a lot of death scenes like Game of Thrones, but From Blood and Ash also has a lot of slower moments in the story, and a lot of that has to do with what felt like a lot of repetitive inner monologues from Poppy, and plenty of worldbuilding info dumps of this realm. There’s a lot of buildup for about 60% of this book, but then the author answers a lot of the questions she raised in the final part with a string of reveals, but with how much emphasis she constantly put on a lot of it, most of the reveals weren’t as shocking or mind-blowing as they could’ve been, at least in my opinion.
- A Lot of Info Dumps…I’ve already kind of mentioned it, and the title pretty much tells you what I mean. It’s not that I didn’t find all of the information boring, there was just too much of it and it felt like the author often repeated herself several times in case the reader forgot about something in particular, which sometimes lead me to skim over certain passages. It wasn’t like she didn’t remind us enough when Poppy had one of her many inner monologues…
- There’s No Map…This is such a smaller, more particular critique from me, but with how much emphasis is put on the history of the world with the other kingdoms and noteworthy geographical aspects, a map would’ve maybe helped for this book. Personally, I just feel like any map of some sort should be a requirement for any Fantasy genre title, especially for books like this one where the worldbuilding is so integral to the development of the story.
Overall, From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout was an exhilarating romantic New Adult Fantasy novel with paranormal aspects that helped me crawl out of a reading slump during this crazy time in the world! While nothing was too original or absolutely shocking, it was still very much an enjoyable story to read late into the night.
I really recommend this to anyone who loves books by Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo, Susan Dennard, and Stephanie Garber. This book has fantasy aspects with a heavy influence on the romance factor, but luckily is more of a subplot that only enhances the overall story.
This book was indie published, so it seems like it’s not exactly easy to find except on Amazon in paperback unless you have an e-reader, like how I read it. It seems like maybe the author wanted more freedom with the story, plus NA books are more likely to be indie published anyways, so not much of a surprise there. Even though this book just came out shortly before I’d read it, I already can’t wait to get the next one and see what happens next!
Thanks for Reading!
— Nick Goodsell