Alright folks… We finally gave into the amount of love that people have for From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L Armentrout. However… Neither of us really fell in love. You’ll see with our thoughts once you click that read more button at the end of the upcoming description of the book in question which starts… Now!
“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.”
E: Okay, here we are hella late to the game, but we made it nonetheless. Just a quick warning to those who adored this book, I did not. My feelings on this book were like a roller coaster. I feel like this is split between Twilight and A Court of Thorns and Roses. You guys know Ashli and I carry a torch for Maas books, and it felt sort of wrong to compare this series to hers. Where Maas will take the time (aka a bucketload of pages) to lay out her character’s mental health, none of that happens here. And if you think about everything Poppy goes through, she should be fucking traumatized. Another comparison I’m hesitant to make is that Poppy reminded me of Cress from Marissa Meyer’s “Cinder” series. However, Meyer does a way better job at having Cress- who lived alone on a satellite, seem sheltered. I never really felt like Poppy was sheltered or didn’t know the ways of the world. She uses slang, can fight, has good social skills for someone who isn't supposed to engage or talk to anyone. I know her identity is wrapped up in the fact that she is the Maiden, the Chosen but I swear to god I needed to stop being reminded every second paragraph.
A: And I will admit that I ended up not finishing this book. Literally. I got to the scene under the willow tree (which fyi sounds like a lovely place but also really bad for the poor tree itself) and I just had to quit reading. While Erin compares Poppy to Cress… I am going to compare her to Bella Swan from Twilight. Yes she could fight… but man was she annoyingly naive and self centered like Bella. Even the relationship with Hawke was a bit like Bella and Edward. It felt toxic and like he was a predator (which I did look at spoilers and know all about who he actually is). But it wasn’t just the characters that turned me off but the writing. So much stuff was getting repeated as Erin said and it just felt… juvenile? Like how Twilight was written? Maas has a great way with words and keeps us on the hook throughout. This felt like writing for the sake of writing and I got bored.
E: I don’t quite understand the hype surrounding this series. And the fact that this was voted the Best Romance of 2020 on GoodReads is beyond me. It's a decent book of smut but.. there’s not actually a ton that goes on whereas some of the other nominees like “Beach Read” and “Take a Hint Dani Brown” will make you blush in public.
A: The scene in the tavern or whatever it was (gambling hall? I couldn’t tell at all what the purpose of the building was) made me go “oh… what is going to come up if this is the start? And then it just went on and on and on and nothing was happening for way too long for me to consider it romance. At least with Crescent City, while there was no full sex scene, there was a beautiful slow build on both ends of the relationship. This just felt like Hawke trying to get the Maiden in bed in which… Why the heck did Poppy not question her guard acting the way he does like A LOT more??? I’d be sooo suspicious and cautious that this seemed way too unrealistic.
E: So we have Poppy, a girl who is the “Maiden” and damn she will not let you forget it. She’s due to Ascend soon, whatever that means, and she's desperate to experience life before she's handed over to the gods (whatever that means). She sneaks out to a brothel/gambling den and finds herself face to face with our MC bad boy, Hawke. Later on, she’s forced to trust him as he becomes part of her Royal Guard. I couldn't find anything I particularly liked about her aside from her bloodlust. Cuz holy Hannah, when she ignites she is ruthless and I am here for it. I wish we got to know her in a more interesting way. I feel like we learned about her and the way we should feel about her through Hawke’s monologues and descriptions of her. He notes how she's deadly, smart, intriguing, selfless etc etc but we don’t really get that from her internal dialogue and actions.
A: Her internal monologue was so weak which is understandable from the way the Duke and Lord treated her but then she has that fire which I feel would have evened her out a little bit more? I’m still unsure of why she didn’t come clean to Hawke about her “lessons” in the first place when he would have defended her so hard and it was so clear he would have gotten her out of a place she really didn’t want to be in.
E: Now we come to Hawke. I am so torn when it comes to him. If I don’t look too closely and squint at him, I like him. If I use my brain to analyze the things he says and does, he is the absolute worst. What I cannot stand is he shauvenistic tendencies and his complete lack of respect for Poppy, guised as love or whatever he wants to call it. Does this sound like a man worthy of a woman’s trust and affection?
“This is inappropriate.”
“Why? Because I wanted to.”
I blinked once and then twice. “And what if I didn’t want to?”
Ugh. I just don't get why we need to have this kind of nonconsent nonsense at the stage in life. I don’t care if he has magical amber eyes, he comes off as a predator. He constantly tells her what he wants to do to her, making jokes that are “inappropriate” (her words) but insists that she likes it. I know what the author was aiming for when she wrote Hawke-- a hot, sexy, morally gray, rebellious character. But what I feel we ended up with was a horny asshole who insists he knows what Poppy wants physically, despite her protests. You would think if he was hundreds of years old, he would act better than a teenager. But I guess that's not the world we’re in. I should honestly have taken a break at that point but there is something that makes this book highly readable. Despite me wanting to gag at Hawke, Poppy’s lack of common sense and the whole mess of a plot.
A: There’s some gaslighting in here and a lot of potential/ evident abuse from the men in general. Especially with Hawke taking advantage of Poppy and how naive she is about sex and what she has been taught to be taboo. It got too close to home for me which I am just realizing probably didn’t help convince me to keep going. But Hawke was sort of right… Poppy can defend herself against Craven and has proved to be pretty deadly. If she didn’t want things, she had the internal power to speak up. But the Duke and the Lord squashed that with their lessons. I blame them for her being naive but I blame Hawke for exploiting it and pushing her.
E: Getting to the world building and plot, I first have to point out how weird the dialogue was. Where are we that Poppy drops words like “whatever”, and “freaking”? It made her feel more juvenile to me. While I appreciated the way the info dumps were handled- so that it wasn't a huge bore and I actually wanted to know, it still left so many unanswered questions and didn’t make sense. I couldn’t grasp much of what the culture was like other than shrouded in secrecy about the Ascended and the gods. Even the landscape was hard to picture. The gardens she loved so much had me thinking France Versailles. But then there’s the low ward area that sounds like 1800s Cheapside.
A: Yeah I had no idea where we were or what the time period was. The dialogue was modern but the dress and ideals were ancient. I was wondering about some sort of Greece/ Rome base because of the whole thing with the Gods but I literally couldn’t place myself anywhere or anytime which threw me off completely.
E: The magic was vague and I had no idea what was going on. It was Twilight on steroids in terms of two sets of vampires, the Craven and the Vamprys -- don't ask me the difference I haven't figured that out. And then the Wolven are the werewolves. It's a fantasy world but we have Macedonia and Atlantia adding to my confusion. This book seems like it would have done much better as an Urban fantasy.
A: I wanted the Wolven because when I was snooping on spoilers they seemed so cool. But the vampire races… all I can say is that at least they don’t sparkle?
E: They don’t sparkle but for the love of all that is holy what was with the paragraphs and paragraphs about Hawke’s eyes ?
“The hue of his eyes seemed to deepen to a striking amber color.”
“Those amber eyes turned luminous, filling with a golden fire”.
“He was staring down at me with eyes so bright, they looked like the gods had polished the amber themselves and placed them there”.
E: I will be reading Kingdom of Flesh and Fire since I bought them together but I’m really not sure I’ll buy or read the rest. Please comment your thoughts and if you think the series picks up from the first book!