Summary (from the publisher):
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.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
Since I am a huge fan of Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns & Roses series, many readers recommended that I check out one of her fellow fantasy authors, Jennifer L. Armentrout, & her high fantasy book, From Blood and Ash. I totally admit that I didn’t know much going into this one other than the ACOTAR comparison. In short, From Blood and Ash follows Poppy, a Maiden who has many restrictions placed upon her life by the King & Queen due to her abilities, and her budding romance with one of the guards, Hawke. As strange occurrences and deaths occur in the kingdom, Poppy questions if she even wants to face the mysterious Ascension, a ritual which would secure her place as one of the highest beings in the kingdom.
From Blood and Ash is super well loved in the high fantasy and fantasy romance community. I’ve recently been watching a few Book Tok videos on Tik Tok and From Blood and Ash is absolutely everywhere. It was the Goodreads Best Romance book for 2020, beating out so many of the contemporary romances I loved last year. I really only know of one book blogging friend who was ‘meh’ about this one, while all of my friends & book bloggers with similar reading tastes as me LOVEEE the series.
Before I really dive into my review, I’ll just put it out there now so while I did enjoy From Blood and Ash, I’m not sure if I’m super in loveeeee with it. I think it’s important to know if you are like pre-reading-From Blood & Ash-me and don’t know much about the book, it does fall into paranormal romance. Listen, although I wasn’t a huge Twilight fan, I imagine From Blood & Ash could be compared as an ACOTAR meets Twilight mash-up. The book also slightly gave me flashbacks to reading Amanda Hockings’ Trylle & Kanin Chronicles series and Maria V. Synder’s Poison Study series based on From Blood & Ash’s setting.
From Blood & Ash features a ton of world-building – I’d say at least the first 300 pages of this 600+ page read is dedicated to understanding Poppy’s life as Maiden, the conflicts in the kingdom, and the foundation of her relationship with Hawke. Even though the book is on the lengthier side, I found myself flying through the pages, especially the sequence from the Rite to another pivotal part of the book. Despite all the world-building, I do admit that I often had trouble understanding why Poppy is so special as the Maiden, even as we explore her abilities and learn about her family’s backstory. Maybe the reveals in the latter half of the book had something to do with it, but I often had trouble even understanding why becoming Ascended is such a big deal.
Regarding the romance, Hawke is definitely set-up as the dream fantasy romance lead, but his role in the last 150 pages of the book completely lost me. Without trying to be too spoilery, it was a significant change in character for him and I was honestly confused about Poppy’s feelings for him. I actually wasn’t a super fan of the change & conflict in their relationships (honestly, it might’ve been cool & different to see them turn into full-out enemies..). I had to reread his explanation of the rival kingdom to Poppy at least 3 times and even after I finished the book to fully understand his interpretation of the fantasy world. Maybe it’s because I have read romance quite a bit and some of the major fantasy books out there, but I didn’t think the ending of the book was too shocking considering Hawke’s hints throughout.
Overall, although I enjoyed From Blood & Ash, I don’t think it met the hype for me. I did enjoy exploring a new high fantasy world and I liked the balance between fantasy and romance, but I’m not sure I like the direction of the story, especially within its last 200 pages. Despite feeling ‘meh’ about the ending, I do admit I’m curious to see how it plays out in A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire, but I’m still determining if I want to invest in another 600+ page read.
Have you read From Blood & Ash or A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire? Should I give A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire a chance? What are some of your favorite Jennifer L. Armentrout books? Share in the comments!