Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

My Review: The War of Two Queens (From Blood and Ash #4): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: March 15th, 2022
Number of Pages: 628 Pages
Publisher: Evil Eye Concepts, Inc.
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

***Warning! This review contains spoilers from the previous books in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – From Blood and Ash – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – The Crown of Gilded Bones – Click HERE

To see my review of the prequel book #1 – A Shadow in the Ember – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

We’re two hearts … one soul. We’ll find each other again. We always will.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “The War of Two Queens”

What It’s About:

the official synopsis:

From the desperation of golden crowns…

Casteel Da’Neer knows all too well that very few are as cunning or vicious as the Blood Queen, but no one, not even him, could’ve prepared for the staggering revelations. The magnitude of what the Blood Queen has done is almost unthinkable.

And born of mortal flesh…

Nothing will stop Poppy from freeing her King and destroying everything the Blood Crown stands for. With the strength of the Primal of Life’s guards behind her, and the support of the wolven, Poppy must convince the Atlantian generals to make war her way—because there can be no retreat this time. Not if she has any hope of building a future where both kingdoms can reside in peace.

A great primal power rises…

Together, Poppy and Casteel must embrace traditions old and new to safeguard those they hold dear—to protect those who cannot defend themselves. But war is only the beginning. Ancient primal powers have already stirred, revealing the horror of what began eons ago. To end what the Blood Queen has begun, Poppy might have to become what she has been prophesied to be—what she fears the most.

As the Harbinger of Death and Destruction.

~~~

Ugh, I’m sorry folks, I don’t know whats wrong with me lately, it’s like I can’t find the motivation to do anything right now…like all my energy is purely for my job and anything else just keeps getting pushed back because I have no energy or motivation…maybe my depression is getting bad again? I don’t feel that way, but I’m just tired a lot lately and overwhelmed.

Anyways, this review…where do you really start? Ever since the day this book released there was some major controversy about it that left quite an impression on the bookish community who were aware of what was happening. I remember I was so incredibly excited to start this next installment and read to see what possibly was going to happen next with that epic ending TCOGB gave us…what I didn’t expect was the fandom to be in it’s own sort of civil war! Suddenly on March 15th, there was all sorts of negative reviews that were trashing the books, trashing the characters, and possible the most surprising of all, trashing Jennifer L. Armentrout herself as the author. I was shocked, upset, and incredibly disappointed to see all the negativity about this book. It felt like a bitter betrayal and it even made me question if I wanted to read this book myself…

But then I look at some of the negativity and thought to myself if some of these people actually read the book, or if they were simply reacting to what someone else may have said and blown it out of context and proportion. This is becoming a regular thing where the crowds overly react to something on the internet and express anger without even knowing all the facts and the full story. Unfortunately, this is pretty typical internet culture and what some may even consider “cancel culture” that people love to find something to be angry about in order to win themselves some “woke” points to ease some sort of internal guilt they may feel and can or can’t talk about quite yet…

Anyways, I’ve finished the book and can say that all the drama and negativity was so not deserved, not that any author should be attacked the way JLA was, and honestly the people who thought that was okay can honestly go f**k off and shut up for the rest of their lives for all I care…this is my blog and I can say that if I want to. There’s nothing wrong with not liking the book or having a different opinion because reading is so subjective and opinion based on what people’s preferences are, but personally going after someone and showing bullying behavior is ugly and toxic and there’s no way to justify it… Don’t join in the anger and hatred and negativity in a situation like this without actually reading the material and seeing for yourself what you honestly think and come to your own consensus on the subject, not just ride the coattails of whatever people on the internet are angry about today…instead of spending so much time and energy bashing something or someone for liking it, simply go out and find something to love and praise instead. it’s not that hard…

Now as for my thoughts for this book, I can admit that it wasn’t the strongest book in the series. As far as content goes, this book feels more like set up for what else is possibly to come down the road. The story has gone in a direction that I hadn’t expected from the beginning, and while I’m not 100% behind it, I’m still definitely a fan of the book series and it’s characters and will continue to read.

The writing stays consistently great, the characters in my opinion remain true to themselves, even as they’ve grown throughout the books, and this book really ties into what happened in A Shadow in the Ember and how it goes into what the major conflict in these books are…all I can say is we thought the Ascended were the biggest issue in this world, but as ASITE and this book reveal, that’s just the surface of how deep this truly goes. And yes, this is also me confirming it’s incredibly important to read ASITE before reading this book too!

Like I said earlier, this may be what I now consider the weakest book of the series, but that in no way means I think it was a bad book. There were many positives about it that I really enjoyed that I get into more later on, but I can’t help but feel like this was also just pure setup to what will most likely be an absolutely explosive conclusion! It’s a bit like Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 or Harry Potter/Deathly Hallows Part 1 in movie form if that helps you visual learners like myself.

~~~

Whether she ruled over all the lands and seas or was the Queen of nothing but a pile of ashes and bones she would – will – always be my Queen. Love is too weak an emotion to describe how she consumes me and what I feel for her. She is my everything.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “The War of Two Queens”

What I Liked:

  1. Reaver! Awesome new character alert!!! Just like I suspected, I absolutely loved his addition to the story. I was surprised he was more aloof and stoic and quiet instead of loud, proud, and cocky like I pictured he was going to be, but either way he had some hilarious zingers in the dialogue department! I’d say he was more like Azriel when I thought he was going to be more like Cassian for any ACOTAR fans out there…
  2. The Blood Queen Is Actually A Good Villain! JLA said this in an instagram live with Jillian Stein, but the best villains are the ones who believe they are the hero of their story. The Blood Queen has done nothing but shock and absolutely deliver whenever she makes an appearance, and even though she is multi-levels of messed up in the head, its certain that she behaves a certain way because of her origin story, to which I can respect!
  3. Kieran Gets More Attention! I felt like Kieran was definitely continuing to become a bigger character with each and every book, and with how the previous book ended with Casteel being taken by the Blood Queen, Kieran had to step up and he was very successful in doing so.
  4. That Thing Happens! That thing that the fandom was so torn about? …lets just say things happen and its so well done in my opinion, so pure, and there’s consent up the wazoo about all this!
  5. Casteel Continues To Be An Excellent Book Boyfriend! I love how much he loves Poppy and how devoted he is. Now, I can say his character felt a little cheapened in this book because it felt like he was just the love interest and everything involving him revolved around his feelings for her, and I feel like at this point there wasn’t as much depth to him like there was in the first two books!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. This Book Felt Like Pure Setup For The Next Installment…I can agree this is the weakest book in the series, but ONLY because it feels like setup for what will be the final battle with the final boss villain in the next book possibly!
  2. Secondary Characters Pushed To Back…While Kieran and even Reaver step forward and become more prominent characters, others like Vonetta, Tawny, Emil, Naill and Delano either weren’t in the book as much as they have in the past, or they were just stagnant and didn’t really do as much. there wasn’t a whole lot with any of them or anything really going on in this sense…

Conclusion:

Overall, The War of Two Queens is another great installment for the Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and even though I feel like this is the weakest book of the series, I still feel like it was still an enjoyable book to read! Things do somehow continue to get bigger and bigger, and this is no longer simply a “Vampires and Werewolves” type of series either.

Again, I urge anyone reading this to read the book and come to your own conclusions and not just follow in what a lot of other people are saying online. Obviously I’ve drawn my line in the sand and say where I stand in terms of this argument, so take that as you will…All I can say is I’ll definitely be keeping up with this series and am looking forward to the next Flesh and Fire book with Sera and Nyktos, and then the next FBAA book too!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh & Fire #1): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: October 19th, 2021
Number of Pages: 647 Pages

Publisher: Blue Box Press
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers as this book is a spin-off out of the “From Blood and Ash” series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

It is far easier to be lied to than it is to acknowledge that you have been lied to.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “A Shadow in the Ember”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.

However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then… end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot.

Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.

~~~

Instead of moving forward with the story of the “Blood and Ash” series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, we kind of go backwards in time to go and meet an incredibly important character that we met in “The Crown of Gilded Bone:” The Primal of Death, Nyktos. We go back approximately 200 years before FBAA starts and meet Nyktos and his Consort, Sera, who we know are actually Poppy’s grandparents.

It’s the beginning of a spin-off series set in the same world, you definitely get to see some Easter eggs of what is to eventually come with the Ascended and everything Poppy, Cas, and Kieran are dealing with in more current times.

I was a little bummed going in because personally, I am not the biggest fan of prequels. You already know to some degree what’s going to happen, so the fact that the story is somewhat predictable to that degree makes me not as interested. In a way, you’re already spoiled how it ends. I told myself to keep my criticism and weariness to a minimum because if I learned anything from TCOGB, I can trust the author to satisfy me with her storytelling skills. For the most part, this book didn’t disappoint, but I can also say that it didn’t feel as good as it could’ve been.

For most of the beginning towards the middle of the book, it felt like I was just reading a version of “From Blood and Ash” all over again with similar character archetypes and relationships, and maybe that was something the author wanted to do with showing so many parallels between Sera’s story and Poppy’s, but personally I got incredibly bored with the book for this reason. It didn’t feel like it’s own story, just a remixed version of a story the author already gave me.

I’m definitely not saying this isn’t worth the read though! The last chunk of the book is where this book truly starts to feel like it’s own entity and starts to veer away from the many comparisons of FBAA with epic battles of gods vs. gods and many twists revealed to thicken the already intricately drawn out plot.

Also, there was some incredible sexual tension between Sera and the Primal himself as they can’t deny the mutual attraction they feel towards each other. There wasn’t as many sex scenes as I was hoping, but we got some incredible spice from what we were given!

Of course, JLA leaves us bewildered with a crazy reveal at the very end of the book that even I can admit, it’s making me really excited for the next book to see how exactly all this information comes into play! It seemed to definitely get a great reaction out of the fandom, at least those who’ve posted about it on the FBAA World Spoiler Group on Facebook!

What I Liked:

  1. I Love A Good “They’re Sent To Kill Them, But End Up Falling For Them Instead” Trope! I really discovered I loved this when I read “The Bridge Kingdom” by Danielle Jensen, but it was also just so spectacular in this book too! Sera has been trained pretty much since she was a child on how to seduce the Primal of Death and then kill him when he’s at his most vulnerable, but of course those dang feelings get in the way and complicate everything! I’m personally here for it, and the angst and drama when the other finds out about it…
  2. Sera Is Even MORE Badass Than Poppy! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I liked Sera even more than I did Poppy at the beginning of FBAA! She’s more badass with a weapon in hand, she doesn’t ask as many questions, and she and Nyktos have some hot AF chemistry too!
  3. The Twist With The History Of The Primals! I feel like I should have seen of this coming with how “Crown of Gilded Bone” turned out. But seriously, WHO could possibly guess the twists with the crazy family trees that the author reveals to us as the plot thickens, and even what happens at the very end of this book too….bravo Jennifer 👏🏼👏🏼

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There’s Not As Much Spice As I Was Hoping…so I’m not saying there isn’t some very well written smut in this book, because there is, but I was hoping for more than what we actually got. I figured if Sera was sent to seduce the Primal of death, she’d really put that training into…ummm…action if you know what I mean.
  2. Maybe A Few Too Many Parallels To Blood And Ash?…I was very bored with this book for a large part of the beginning because it felt like I was reading “From Blood and Ash” all over again. There were so many similarities…the maiden and her elder knight mentor and guardian, douchey royals, and mysterious, snarky, dark, and sexy brooding man for the love interest…it just felt like the same book rewritten with minor changes to keep it somewhat new

Conclusion:

Overall, “A Shadow in the Ember” was a good book that I’d hoped would be great, but unfortunately some of my weariness with prequels came to be as this book just felt like recycled material with the same archetypes and type-cast of characters all like characters from FBAA that we’re familiar with.

HOWEVER, like I said, as you get to the last chunk of this book it really begins to feel like it’s own original story with a lot more excitement and plethora of twists and reveals that even though it’s a prequel, I’m very curious to see what happens further with Sera and Nyktos and everyone else!

NOW. as I’m typing this review, it’s around three months until the next installment of the FBAA series, “The War of Two Queens.” Now THAT is what I’m very excited to read! I need to know what happens to Cas, all the Draken who’ve woken up to join the battle, and possibly find yet another book boyfriend in Reaver! I can’t wait, and I can already tell it’s going to be a top book of 2022 for me!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: The Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash #3): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: April 20th, 2021
Number of Pages: 600 Pages
Publisher: Blue Box Press
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers for this book plus others in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – From Blood And Ash – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.75 Stars

‘You need to understand that I will do anything and everything for my wife.’ Casteel’s gaze latched on to his father‘s. ‘No risk is too great, nor is anything too sacred. Because she is my everything. There is nothing greater than her, and I do mean nothing.'”

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “The Crown of Gilded Bones”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes book three in her Blood and Ash series…

She’s been the victim and the survivor…

Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.

The enemy and the warrior…

Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.

A lover and heartmate…

But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.

~~~

Wow wow wow wow wow was what I kept repeating to myself as I finished this book a couple days ago as I’m typing this review up. The third book in Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Blood and Ash was an absolute tornado that hit me right in the chest more than any other book in quite some time, and it took me a couple days to allow myself to soak it all in and collect my thoughts as I make sense of the pure craziness that happens in the last chunk of this book. I mean, the Admin of the Facebook group for these books said this one was going to absolutely wreck us as a fandom, and while I wasn’t on the floor weeping my eyes out or throwing my book across the room in a fit of heartbroken rage, I can say that yeah…that sequence really left an impression on me as a reader. I am filled with wonder, with shock, and most of all I get chills running down my arms because I have to say to the author: BRAVO!

The world and the story that this author has created somehow just continues to get bigger and bigger with every book, and JLA reached heights that I honestly didn’t even know it’d get to with all the information I now know surrounding Poppy, The Ascended, Queen Ileana, Queen Eloana, and even the gods that are now starting to wake back up on the brink of war! I remember thinking back when the first book came out and how maybe it was going to be a really good knight/princess centric romance, but OHHHHHHHH am I wrong and so happy to be so! It’s reached Sarah J. Maas level of amazingness with all the worldbuilding, the shocking twists, the bitter betrayals, the many different kinds of magical beings, and of course the steamy and heartwarming romance.

Whenever I get these books in my hands, and I do the more expensive hardcover versions from Barnes & Noble because I try to purchase anything off Amazon as a last resort after working there, I really take my time and slowly read so that I can savor all of it. Too many times in the past have I completely binge-read a book in two days and then I stare blankly at the wall as I realize I have to wait a whole other year until the next one releases. I guess it helps a little, but in reality I also already finished it and it still feels like it will be forever until I find out what happens next in this series. The next book will be a prequel, which is going to be released later in fall 2021.

There’s also so much growth that happens in this book in multiple ways: both Poppy and Cas as individuals and as husband and wife. Poppy continues to change even this far into the series, and she gains more and more confidence in her abilities, both normal and magical. As she discovers more and more about her past, she she also learns whose in her corner and who will betray her all the same. She becomes so much stronger and badass too; that ending gave me some series Daenerys Targaryen Khaleesi vibes that felt so powerful considering she started off as the pure and demure maiden at the very beginning. Casteel slowly learns to open up and let himself be vulnerable in front of her too, he admits/confesses things that he’s told no one else, and shows pure emotion when Poppy hears it all yet continues to stay by his side. His past is so dark and tragic, and you can tell it means more to him than he says when Poppy reassures him and reveals her true feelings to him as well. The softer moments when these two are alone and continue to just talk and get to know each other as a normal couple are some very low-key amazing moments that helps elevate their status as one of the best couples in Fantasy literature. While becoming more intimate in more ways than one (both smutty and intellectually), they also quickly learn to take on the hard task of learning to rule a kingdom while everything is going on with the Ascended and the possibility of war on the horizon. They have to become ruthless and make a lot of hard decisions in order to help keep their land and their people safe, and it was fun to see them as they held their own against players of the game of thrones who’ve been around for centuries when compared to themselves.

‘You will bow before your Queen.’ Casteel eyed the Atlantian coolly. ‘Or you will bleed before her. It is your choice.'”

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “The Crown of Gilded Bones”

What I Liked:

  1. Poppy Continues to Grow/Develop As A Character! Like I said, her growth is seriously so amazing to read in this whole series. She becomes more confident in herself and her love for Casteel, and even grows quite a backbone when dealing with royals, nobility, and even celestial beings from another realm!
  2. SO MANY NEW CHARACTERS! But actually though…it’s crazy all the new faces we see in this third book, some are names we’ve been hearing about for quite some time now, while others are names you never thought you’d actually meet up with. First, there’s Casteel’s parents, King Valyn and Queen Eloana. Second, there’s Ian and Malec, both are brothers of our two main characters. There’s the infamous Miss Willa Colyns, who was such a total delight to finally meet! There’s a little reveal about her that I cheered with glee for that was absolutely hilarious! There’s Nyktos, the king of the Gods, who was also kind of an obvious addition considering the next book will be a prequel starring him. Then there’s Queen Ileana, the Blood Queen whose in charge of all the vamprys of the Ascended. She’s a real piece of work, that’s for sure!
  3. The Revenants! This was a very interesting concept that was introduced in this book, and while I guess it includes new characters, I wanted this to have its own part on the list. Let’s just say for now that the Blood Queen has a lot tricks and twists up her sleeves.
  4. Poppy’s Mysterious Backstory Finally Explained! This part was the big climax, and wow oh wow was it done in spectacular dramatics! There was so many twisting reveals, it’s no surprise that no one correctly guessed it on the FB group in the months leading up to this book’s arrival! I mean, with how complicated it all gets, who could’ve possibly gotten even close to how complex this whole family tree gets?!
  5. Casteel Continues To Be Book Husband GOALS! Rhysand who? But seriously, Casteel Da’Neer continues to raise the bar for ALL men who love that special someone in their lives. Like I mentioned before, he grows a lot too in this book and allows himself to show vulnerability and raw emotions when it comes to Poppy, and even better how he doesn’t get his masculinity called into question when Poppy becomes so much more powerful than him. He actually gets turned on by it, which for him is totally normal.
  6. Dragons! Yessssssssss Dragons…well Drakens to be more specific, but basically the same thing! Going to the lands of the gods, Poppy learns that Nyktos had his own group of warriors who could transform into Drakens at will and protect their land. You don’t see as much of them as you’d probably like if I’m being honest, but the set up with them for sure gets you excited for the later books down the road.
  7. There’s Set Up For The Prequel Coming Out Later! For those not in this FB group (The Blood and Ash Spoiler Group), it’s obvious that the next book out will not be the next book in this series, but actually will be a prequel that starts a new side series, and stars the King of the Gods, Nyktos. A Shadow In the Ember will come out October 19th, 2021 according to Goodreads, and there is a ton of set up for it for when it comes out. This just all adds to how much bigger and grander this whole story has become thanks to Jennifer L. Armentrout’s brilliant creative writing skills, like it makes me want to get back into my writing even more!
  8. The Smut! Oh yeah, those of us in the fandom are always looking for the steamy scenes that Poppy and Cas have in these books, and they didn’t disappoint in any way! Their passion continues to heat up the pages, and even get to try some new things out *wink*wink*

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. A Slower Midpoint In This Book…The beginning started off on such a strong note, but once it got itself all sorted out and things slowed down for a bit of the middle of the book, I found myself a little bored in all honesty. Sure, we got to see moments where Cas and Poppy get closer than ever, but my boredom was also beginning to make me worry; Was I losing interest in this book? Was I losing interest in this series? What’s going on with the Ascended? Are we just going to be forgetting about them for awhile? Luckily, my faith was restored later on in the book when the tornado hit when we finally meet the Queen. I’ll try to remember to keep my faith in JLA as an author after that!
  2. No Joining Scene…Yep, I’m on that side of the fandom. It’s been so funny to see how torn all of us fans are when it comes to all this, which is a threeway by the way. I’m all for supporting polyamorous relationships, and while maybe I can agree that maybe for this particular story it’s not as important of needing to happen, I wouldn’t mind if we got at least one scene where this goes down. So I was disappointed that it didn’t happen, BUT there was a scene with some interesting voyeurism going on that continues my hope that maybe it’ll happen! There are plenty of more books set to come out for this series, so that also means plenty of more opportunities to make it happen!
  3. The Repetitive Worldbuilding Formula…There were some major info-dumps in this book, and the way it’s all told to us as an audience has just gotten a little old for me. Basically with how Poppy has so many questions—much to Keiran’s dismay—and then either Kieran or Jasper are the human encyclopedias who have all the information she needs. It’s a formula that’s been used several times now, and maybe it didn’t matter as much to other readers, but I personally am getting a little bored with it by this point because it’s happened so many times already. I don’t know, maybe there just needs to be new ways JLA can give us this information if there still is by this point in the series.
  4. The Too Close To Matching Names of Big Characters…Malik and Malec, Eloana and Ileana…I know in a lot of Fantasy novels/series that sometimes people just have similar names, but it was getting a little annoying how close these names were, sometimes I got them mixed up. Is it Mal-Lick and Mal-leek? Il-ianna and El-oh-ana? that’s how I’ve been pronouncing them so far up to this point!

~~~

The dimple in his right cheek appeared, and he dipped his head, kissing just above my brow and then lower, over the scar. ‘Princess?

My lips curved up. What had started as a nickname had become a reality. ‘Yes?

His mouth moved over mine. ‘I love you.

The smile on my face grew as my heart did a little skip in my chest. ‘I love you.‘”

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “The Crown of Gilded Bones”

Conclusion:

What a wild ride filled with just about everything you need to have an epic fantasy adventure: danger, drama, suspense, romance, humor, friendship, history, so many amazing characters, and shocking twists that take your breath away! This Blood and Ash series is literally EVERYTHING and was so enjoyable of a book for me. It would have been absolutely perfect if not for the slow midpoint for me, but with all that happens in the last chunk of it, it almost makes up for any boredom or concern I had at that point in my time reading this book.

I’ve never been a big fan of prequels, I always feel like they’re so limited in how far they can go as a story because they’re literally just set up for something you’ve already seen or read. In a way, you already know whats going to end up happening in the end, and the predictability factor of that isn’t all that interesting to me, so while I’m still looking forward to A Shadow in the Embers coming out this October that will shed some light on Nyktos and the Gods and all the rich history there, I’m not nearly as excited as I would be if book #4 of Blood and Ash was being released instead. Still, I trust JLA as an author by this point, so I’ll keep my inner reservation and reluctance and negativity to a minimum and I give this prequel a chance.

Blood and Ash book #4 is set to release March 2022 with the title and exact date to come at a later time than as I’m typing this review, but I’m sure those who’ve also finished this book can agree with me when I say that March feels like such a long ass time away!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

List of Book Boyfriends: Part 2

Image made with canva.com

Click HERE to see Part 1 of my Book Boyfriends List!

Hello Readers!

It’s been awhile since I made my last list, and I’ve met plenty more since then of some seriously eligible male characters who I absolutely loved to read and kept me entertained in multiple ways. I decided to make a Part 2 because there’s so many more to add, maybe this is partly why I’m single because I could never make a decision to narrow it down if I had to pick just one!

Hope you enjoy the list and maybe get some ideas of some new books to read because of it, and let’s talk if you (yes, YOU the reader) think I’m missing someone who belongs amongst all these other men too!

This list is in no particular order.

***Please note: I own no rights to any of these images, if any of the owners see this article and wish for me to remove them, please contact me and I will gladly do so!***

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Casteel Da’Neer (Blood and Ash series)

Image courtesy of artist Dominique Wesson, Instagram: @dominiquewesson

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, the second book in this addicting series, was by far my favorite book of 2020, and Cas made it to the top of this newer list even before I finished the dang book! Jennifer L. Armentrout sure knows how to write an ahhhhmazing book boyfriend, and I only hope I help introduce more readers to him and these books that I’m obsessed with lately. He’s got the charm, the dimples, the body, the teeth; he’s pretty much perfect!

Matthias Helvar (The Grishaverse)

Image courtesy of artist Coralie Jubenot, Instagram: @merwildandco

Matthias was one who I may or may not have liked at first, but he definitely grew on me as I read the Six of Crows books by Leigh Bardugo that are a part of her multi-series Grishaverse. He was a more stoic, big-blond-brute character but was a total cinnamon roll when he could no longer deny his feelings for Nina. I love their whole dynamic so much; how romantic is it when a witch hunter ends up falling in love with the very thing he’s been trained to hate?

Jericho Barrons (Fever series)

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

Another (possibly) shocking choice to some, but Barrons is another one who really grows on you as you read on in the series. He’s tall, dark, and obscenely handsome, but he’s a big grump too and doesn’t change despite how crazy he is about Mackayla Lane. He’s a complex character as you get to know him more and more with each book, and the actor/model Marco Dapper is my personal fancast choice for him since there isn’t very much fanart out there of him.

Reid Diggory (Serpent & Dove series)

Image courtesy of Salome Totladze, Instagram: @morgana0anagrom

Reid Diggory was am incredibly likeable character who was also frustrating as hell because he had such a black and white way of looking at the world he lived in. He has a somewhat similar dynamic with Lou as Matthias and Nina did in Six of Crows: a witch hunter has been raised to believe witches are evil creatures and the hate them, but of course he ends up falling in love with one because love works in crazy ways like that. He’s a natural leader and a total Gryffindor and always shows massive bravery with a sense of doing the right thing and bringing justice.

Christian Mackeltar (Fever series)

Image courtesy of the actor/model’s IMDB profile

Who doesn’t like a sexy scot? Christian was someone I liked immediately in the series by Karen Marie Moning. As the series went on, I felt so bad for him as he really gets the short end of the stick in what felt like so many different situations, and he got even hotter when he almost went dark there for a little bit, but ultimately stays the same good guy that he is! Andrew Biernat is a model on Instagram and my fancast choice since there’s not really any fanart of anyone from these books unfortunately.

Kell Maresh (Shades of Magic series)

Image courtesy of artist Tara Spruit, Instagram: @taratjah

Kell reminded me a little bit of Newt Scamander from the Fantastic Beasts but less socially awkward…he’s got excellent taste in outer wear, and while I haven’t read the other books after the first one in this series, I can already tell that Kell will be a favorite of mine throughout the entirety of it all.

Jamie Canning and Ryan Wesley (Him duology)

Credit to owner

These two are a package deal because why not? I loved their friends-to-lovers, second chance love story; Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen write some adorable and equally steamy romance, even better for me personally when it’s between two hockey playing jocks!

Hunt Athalar (Crescent City series)

Image courtesy of artist Kris, Instagram: @faeriereverie

BIG shocker that yet another Sarah J. Maas male character makes the cut based off my last list, right? Hunt was an amazing character in House of Earth and Blood, and his slow burn with Bryce was incredible to read and I am so excited to see where this series goes. I think I fell for him in the scene when he’s in a backwards baseball cap and grey sweatpants (a gay man’s weakness) hanging out in Bryce’s apartment; there’s just something about that homey-domestic image, adding the fact that he has the reputation of being this deadly warrior, that really got my heart racing. He did have one major slip-up, but he definitely redeemed himself in my eyes, all in one book!

Nikolai Lantsov (The Grishaverse)

Image courtesy of artist Kevin Wade

Nikolai is someone I kinda hate to love, only because he’s one of those cocky, overly-confident guys who I know I would roll my eyes at every chance I get if he was a real person. He’s definitely not all bad, I especially enjoy his rebellious spirit and how he’s a wandering pirate captain while he’s also royalty! He was a major highlight of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and I plan to read King of Scars starring him very soon too as the Netflix show releases to the public.

Gideon Cross (Crossfire series)

Credit to owner

Gideon Cross is a much better written Christian Grey, there I said it…He’s an enigmatic billionaire who has a dark past that’s caused him to have a pretty depraved, private sex life, and it only takes meeting that special someone to change everything! Sure, I can admit he’s incredibly over protective and has some alpha hole tendencies that border on possessive maniac-like behavior, but I also see how in his mind it’s all to protect the woman he loves. Their relationship may or may not be toxic to some readers, but I will admit that I fell for him either way. Henry Cavill is my fancast pick for him as there isn’t really any fanart of him.

Tharion Ketos (Crescent City series)

Image courtesy of artist Salome Totladze, Instagram: @morgana0anagrom

I’ve always had a thing for mermaids, and Tharion is no different with that AND he’s written by Sarah J. Maas. He gives me Finnick Odair vibes a little bit with his obvious confidence, but he’s also got an otter that sends messages to people above land that I can’t help but fangirl over! I was happy to hear he becomes a bigger character in the second Crescent City book, I say give me as much of him as we can get!

Bennett Ryan (Beautiful Bastard series)

Credit to @Reading_Is_Sexyy

This was such a fun series, and it starts off strong with Bennett being featured in the first book. He’s definitely not perfect, and he perfectly fits the title “Beautiful Bastard” in some instances, but he does mature and grow up a bit to become a better man. Besides that, he does have his charming moments, looks great in a suit, has a killer business ethic, and knows how to have sex in tons of different public places!

Ruhn Danaan (Crescent City series)

Image courtesy of artist Kris, Instagram: @faeriereverie

I liked the idea of Ruhn being a character who rejects his whole “Chosen One” reputation he’s been given for as long as he can remember. Most of us are tired of that trope, Ruhn certainly isn’t a fan of it either, and it’s a fresh take on it at least! He’s a moody and broody character, like a lot of other SJM male characters are, but he grows a ton in the book and shows many hidden depths, he’s also incredibly courageous when he gets an extra push, even if he might disagree with my statement.

Cage York (Seabreeze Series)

Image courtesy of the model/athlete’s Instagram profile: @brian_pruett

Cage York actually stars in the third book in this New Adult romance series, but I read it before any of the others and I instantly fell for this cocky, charming, sexy college baseball player. He’s a total manwhore, as most male romance novel characters usually are, but he meets someone who changes everything, and he’s a total goner. He’s had a difficult upbringing, so the cockiness and attitude is all a front, and it’s endearing to see he’s just a guy who wants someone to love him!

Noel Kahn (Pretty Little Liars series)

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

Believe it or not, but the book version of Noel Kahn is actually a whole lot better of a guy than how he was portrayed in the TV show. He’s still a lacrosse playing high-school jock who’s “one of the bro’s,” but he’s actually a sweet guy despite all that and becomes a great boyfriend for Aria later on in the series. I still use Brant Daugherty as my image for him because look at him!

Lor (Fever Series)

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile: @philippe_leblond

Lor was a pleasant surprise because when you first meet him in these books, he just seems like another handsome henchman who isn’t much more than that. Once I read chapters from his perspective in book #7, Burned, I can’t lie: I liked him! Sure, he’s yet another manwhore, alpha-hole character, but I liked some of his one-liners and his protectiveness for Dani on a purely platonic level shows he’s a decent guy no matter what. Model Philippe Leblond is my fancast pick since there isn’t any fanart of him anywhere.

Drew Baylor (Game On Series)

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile: @dennisboeer

I have a weak spot for college athletes in New Adult romance books/series, because Drew is another name to add to the list who falls in that category. His relationship with Anna in The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan was amazingly done, and his perseverance to show her how he was serious about his feelings for her and all he did to show his devotion was what made me fall for him. Their chemistry was electric and from the first time they hook up to all that they go through, Drew is for sure a keeper! Drew Boeer is a german model I found on Instagram whose also my fancast pick since there’s no fanart of Drew.

Wrath (Kingdom of the Wicked series)

Image courtesy of artist Coralie Jubenot, Instagram: @merwildandco

So in actuality the Prince from hell is maybe not a great option for an actual significant other, but I had to add him just purely for the hotness factor. He’s full of darkness and a secret yearning for cannolis once Emilia turns him onto them, but he was a fun character who added a lot of sex appeal to this first book in Kerri Maniscalco’s series. Sure, the ending may sway a few people in the opposite direction, but go read the From Blood and Ash and get back to me on whether a enemies-to-lovers-back-to-enemies romance can’t have its happily ever after!

“King” Aren Kertell (Bridge Kingdom series)

Image courtesy of artist Dominique Wesson, Instagram: @dominiquewesson

Aren is my last pick on this Part 2, and he definitely ends it on a strong note! He’s smart, strategic, loyal, brave, and has a great enemies-to-lovers romance dynamic with Lara in this New Adult Fantasy-Romance by Danielle Jensen. He goes above and beyond to ensure the safety of his people and kingdom and is so selfless in his actions to face his enemies and protect those who cares about.

Click HERE to see Part 1 of my Book Boyfriends List!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal, Romance

My Review: Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1): by Laura Thalassa

Publish Date: November 15th, 2016

Number of Pages: 326 Pages

Publisher: Lavabrook Publishing Group

Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

Having the Bargainer’s full attention is like catching a tiger’s eye. All you wanted to do was pet the creature, but as soon as it turns its gaze on you, you realize it’s simply going to tear you apart.”

– Laura Thalassa, “Rhapsodic”

If you’re someone who really enjoys the whole romantic dynamic of stories based on the classical Greek Mythology tale of Hades and Persephone, this is a series you may want to look into! It’s the story of a sweet, bright, innocent, pure young woman who finds herself in an unorthodox romantic story with the Lord/Ruler of a Dark Underworld. Opposites attract, and passions ignite when the lines are tested between what is right and wrong and the big questions are usually “Is the love for real? Will she allow this love to corrupt her and taint her?” It’s a romantic concept that I’ve seen in several other works of fiction:

  • Feyre Archeron & Rhysand in Sarah J Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series
  • Jenny & Julian in L.J. Smith’s The Forbidden Game series
  • Alina Starkov & The Darkling in Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow & Bone trilogy
  • Bella Swan & Edward Cullen in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series
  • Isobel & Prince Rook in Margaret Rogerson’s An Enchantment of Ravens (standalone)
  • Poppy Balfour & Casteel Da’Neer in Jennifer Armentrout’s From Blood and Ash series

Heck, you could even say Beauty and the Beast is a retelling of Hades and Persephone! It’s a dynamic a lot of readers like myself never get tired of; it may be done quite a bit, but I will never ever really consider it an annoying cliché.

This book was kind of a highly anticipated read for me after plowing through Jennifer Armentrout’s first two books in her From Blood and Ash series (seriously recommend it if you haven’t read it yet!), and this book was constantly being mentioned across the Facebook groups I’m a part of for JLA’s books, and also for a Sarah J. Maas group too. If two groups are telling me to read this book, odds are I better do it!

After completing this book, I can say I enjoyed it for the most part; it wasn’t as spectacular as I was hoping it’d be, but it was still quite enjoyable to say the least! The writing wasn’t the greatest, it felt very amateurish at times to be completely honest, but that didn’t detract from the story too much. I do wish the author gave other plot aspects other than just the romance more attention, like the world-building and the mystery that’s supposed to drive the plot. However, the romance has to be my favorite part of all, and I’d say Desmond Flynn, a.k.a. “The Bargainer,” is a great choice for you to add to your “Book Boyfriend” list.

The romance that built up between the Desmond and our other main character, Callypso Lillis (Callie for short), developed through two timelines that ran parallel most of the first half of the story, one being in present time while the other took place in the past and shows you key moments between them and their developing relationship. Callie isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind when she’s older, and isn’t afraid to use her sexuality to get what she wants. Desmond starts off arrogant, crude, cheeky and sarcastic, but as he reveals more and more to Callie as you read further on, you will definitely fall for him like any other tortured dark ruler character; his admission to Callie was by far the strongest scene in the whole book!

And the mountains may rise and fall, and the sun might wither away, and the sea may claim the land and swallow the sky. But you will always be mine. And the stars might fall from the heavens, and night might cloak the earth, but until darkness dies, I will always be yours.”

– Laura Thalassa, “Rhapsodic”

(Yes, slight spoiler, but it makes an even bigger impact when it’s read in full context in the story!)

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Callypso Lillis is a siren with a very big problem, one that stretches up her arm and far into her past. For the last seven years she’s been collecting a bracelet of black beads up her wrist, magical IOUs for favors she’s received. Only death or repayment will fulfill the obligations. Only then will the beads disappear.

Everyone knows that if you need a favor, you go to the Bargainer to make it happen. He’s a man who can get you anything you want… at a price. And everyone knows that sooner or later he always collects.

But for one of his clients, he’s never asked for repayment. Not until now. When Callie finds the fae king of the night in her room, a grin on his lips and a twinkle in his eye, she knows things are about to change. At first it’s just a chaste kiss—a single bead’s worth—and a promise for more.

For the Bargainer, it’s more than just a matter of rekindling an old romance. Something is happening in the Otherworld. Fae warriors are going missing one by one. Only the women are returned, each in a glass casket, a child clutched to their breast. And then there are the whispers among the slaves, whispers of an evil that’s been awoken.

If the Bargainer has any hope to save his people, he’ll need the help of the siren he spurned long ago. Only, his foe has a taste for exotic creatures, and Callie just happens to be one.

What I Liked:

  1. Callie and Des’s Dynamic! Throughout this story, the two main characters/love interests have a really well done relationship that goes through much development in both the scenes in the past and in present time, and it’s very similar to the dynamics of other relationships in literature like Feyre and Rhysand through most of A Court of Mist and Fury and even Poppy and Cas in A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire. There’s some initial distrust because the male has done wrong to the girl, but as they work together and travel together, they grow closer and eventually give into their feelings for each other, but (yay), there’s plenty of snappy and sexy banter along the way too!
  2. The Whole “Bargain” Concept! I did find this whole concept to be more interesting than a lot of the rest of it. Over time, Callie has an arm long bracelet that has over 300 beads of all the deals she owes The Bargainer at some point. The author could’ve played with the idea more and had more wicked fun with Des teasing her or making her do some pretty risque actions or even confess some more juicy secrets, but I feel like that would also reach into him compelling her against her will, which I bet wouldn’t sit well with a lot of readers, so there’s that…I’m not sure this concept will really carry over as much into the next books based on how this one developed, but we’ll see!
  3. The Romance Development! It’s what got the most attention from the author, so at least it’s safe to say that it was probably the best part of the whole book! It developed with The Bargainer being summoned by her when she’s a teenager, to when she’s a young woman in college, and to now when she’s a PI in Los Angeles. He sees her in all the biggest parts of her life: the young/naive victim, the angsty young woman, and the brash and courageous siren she becomes later on. As they grow closer, the chemistry boils over and they can’t help but act upon their hidden fantasies, and without spoiling it, the scene where they confess their true feelings will definitely tug at your heartstrings!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Writing Style…I’m not gonna lie, the writing felt quite amateurish throughout this book. A lot of adverbs were used that bothered even me, and that was the main thing that stuck out, but it felt like I was reading someone’s ACOTAR fanfic off AO3 that somehow got published.
  2. The Mystery Felt Underdeveloped…The big inciting incident is Callie discovering that in Des’s world, bodies of women are being returned in glass coffins and in comas with a child cuddled up next to them, and that there’s a mysterious, shadowy figure who may or may not be on the hunt for her, but I feel like this whole mystery was really not given all that much attention to the actual plot. The author made it way too easy to figure out and didn’t really excite me all that much or keep me guessing, too much focus was on the romance.
  3. The Worldbuilding Is Also Lacking…During one of Des’s and Callie’s conversations, he talks in detail about the world of the Fae, which to give the author credit, sounds actually pretty intriguing with some more original sounding courts! Unfortunately, That’s about it as far as how much you actually see of it. Take this with a grain of salt though, A Court of Thorns and Roses was the exact same way where there was a LOT more world-building in the second book!
  4. Where Did The Sidekick Go?…Callie has a BFF/business partner named Temper, who’s an incredibly powerful witch. First, she’s the typical POC sidekick we’ve seen so many times before. Second, she’s only in the book, like, twice it feels like and shows up more often in the form of a phone call whenever Callie needs advice or just to vent to someone. Third, the author constantly mentions how powerful and how dangerous she is, but we never actually see her doing anything! Wasted opportunity there, I seriously hope she becomes more prominent in the next books.

Conclusion:

Overall, I by no means think this is a perfect book, but it’s definitely a great addition for anyone to consider adding it to their “To Read” shelf if they love the concept of what I recognize as the Hades/Persephone love story dynamic. It’s seen in a lot of Fantasy and Paranormal Romance stories: my examples once again are Feyre and Rhysand from Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series, Casteel and Poppy from Jennifer L. Armentrout’s newest series, From Blood and Ash, and even a little similar to Mac and Barrons from Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series. If you’re a fan of any of those titles, this book will definitely appeal to you!

The romance is purely the only thing keeping me interested in going on with these books, so my fingers are crossed that the author gives more attention to OTHER aspects of her story that she didn’t this first time around: the world-building, her minor characters, and even adding more to the main conflict.

I for sure plan on reading the next books down the line, but I wouldn’t say I’m salivating over how soon I can get my hands on the next title either, I’d say I’m lukewarm-on-the-verge of being curious. There wasn’t too much of a cliffhanger ending—thank god—so I’ll probably be exploring other stories before I choose to get into the second book of The Bargainer series, but be on the lookout for my review of that to pop up on here soon!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell