Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance, Paranormal, Romance

My Review: A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash #2): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: September 1st, 2020

Number of Pages: 697 Pages

Publisher: Blue Box Press

Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers from this book/the previous book in this series, so read on at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***

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

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

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

I seriously love those moments when the sequel surpasses the first book!

From Blood and Ash, the first book of this series that only released earlier this year, was an amazing gem that I had no idea I was going to love so much when I’d ordered my copy on my Kindle, but here I am now in love with just about everything about it: Poppy, Hawke/Casteel, the entire kingdom, the romance, the smut, and I only have one other person to talk to it about in real life! This book somehow got even bigger and better with of all those aspects, and I had to make sure I went through at a slower pace than before to savor it all instead of blasting through it as quickly as possible.

But oh……My………Goodness! You guys, I seriously can’t recommend this book, no this series, enough!

I’m quickly becoming a huge fan of books that aren’t traditionally published because they are turning out to just be more impressive stories that really grab my attention nowadays. That, plus they don’t have to worry as much with the guidelines and restrictions that I’m sure those big publishers limit their works with. I could totally just be speculating on that, but that’s how it feels like!

I’m still just blown away by how the author was able to pound out these first two books all within the same year, because these books are thicccc! Like, both are over 600 pages but released only a few months away from each other! Either the author had this all written way before hand, or she’s one of those authors that really benefited from quarantine, and just locked herself away to write, write, write! I wish I was like that, but all the anxiety and depression that’s come from the disaster that is the year 2020 has made it seemingly impossible to be able to concentrate on my own WIP’s.

Okay, enough tangents, back to the story!

Like I was saying before, this sequel is even bigger and badder than the previous book, and overall it includes everything you loved about the previous book, but at an even more elevated level. More information gets revealed, more secrets get out, and the romance still develops at an oh-so-achingly delicious slow burn that readers love and hate at the same time. The story still has its slower moments, but this time there are a lot more bloody battles to make it have a much more exciting, roller-coaster type of pacing. Sure, it felt like the battles were over way too quickly and could’ve been more descriptive, but they were still quite exciting!

The story continues off immediately from the final line of the previous book, where Hawke/Casteel threw us all a wicked curveball of a marriage proposal. Poppy is still fresh off the epic betrayal she feels with him and his whole shocking reveal of being the Dark One/The Atlantian Prince.

Things are incredibly tense—understandably—but both have something to gain from this more…unorthodox of partnerships: both want their brothers back from the clutches of the Ascended Vamprys in their capital city. With the growing threat of those she used to live under the same roof with in danger, she also has to deal with being hated and unaccepted for being an outsider from the Atlantian people along with her incredibly conflicted feelings for Casteel. She doesn’t want to want him, but oh boy she is hooked whether she likes it or not!

The romance, of course, was a big highlight of the whole book! The banter, the admissions of feelings (eventually), the love scenes; pretty much almost everything about it was what had me glued to the pages whenever I picked it up. I dare anyone to not absolutely fall for Hawke/Casteel after reading these books and put him on all of your Book Boyfriends lists, I know he’s on mine! He just becomes so much more complex here, and is now such a much stronger character than just simply being the personal bodyguard who’s sworn to protect the Maiden. Know that he’s this dark prince with paranormal abilities, he’s just so much more interesting this time around. I never thought I’d fall for a vampire prince in 2020, and I usually avoid vampire/werewolf books like the plague, so that says a lot about how good these books are if I can so easily look past those paranormal clichés occurring here.

The beginning felt like it was getting close to info-dump territory, at least within the first 200 pages or so, but it wasn’t too bad as I’ve definitely dealt with worse in other books. After that, it’s not even noticeable and it’s all more about the worldbuilding that the author does to enrich us with the lay of the land and learn more about the history, which has a lot more depth than I gave it credit for in the previous book! This time around, the threat of ancient gods about to enter the battle certainly raises the stakes.

I don’t want to give too much else away because anyone who’s interested in this series absolutely NEEDS to go get a copy of this book and read it immediately, plus there’s still plenty of the rest of my review to read!

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

A Betrayal…

Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.

A Choice…

Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants—to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself—about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation.

A Secret…

But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late. 

What I Liked:

  1. Kieran Must Be Protected At All Costs! I’m not gonna lie, but I thought Kieran was a total creep in the first book, and felt like something was way off about him the entire time. Turns out I wasn’t completely wrong, but luckily he really grew on me in this book, and I believe the whole fandom can agree with me on that! I still believe there’s some social awkwardness there, but it’s also so hilarious how DONE he is with the angst between our two main characters that can’t admit their real feelings to each other. He’s incredibly sarcastic, bacon is his favorite food, and he loves to give Poppy a hard time about all the questions she likes to ask, but now he’s just one more thing to absolutely adore about this series! Plus, there’s the spirited debate amongst the fandom whether he should get involved with Cas and Poppy in some NSFW activities due to his Wolven bond with Casteel, plus the author totally played with the idea of it maybe happening…I for one am totally for polyamorous relationships. It’s 2020, so why not?
  2. Cas & Poppy’s Chemistry! This author knows how to write such good romance! Wowza! Literally everything pertaining to the romantic dynamic between Cas and Poppy was done to near perfection: from the beginning of the story with the betrayal and reveal of his true identity still cutting fresh wounds in Poppy’s heart, to their slow and steady reconciliation, then their absolutely scorching love scenes, to the heartfelt admissions…ugh….it was all just so good, for sure a gigantic highlight of the book! Casteel is definitely up there on the growing list of Book Boyfriends, and like my friend Erika—who’s also read these books—said, he may even be better than the famous Rhysand from Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series! That’s right, you just read that. With his demeanor, to how everyone acts towards him, to his obvious affection towards Poppy, plus his backstory that slowly gets revealed, I totally agree, and wonder how anyone could not absolutely fall for this lonely, dark prince! It’s just a shame that not as many readers will really read this series and get to know about him because it isn’t really published in the most mainstream way, and won’t have as much exposure because of it. The thing I will definitely give to the author that she does better than SJMaas is how the love scenes don’t fall short. Both authors are amazing at the sensuous buildup and tension between the two characters, but one thing I do sometimes notice with Maas is the eventual scene where the characters finally hookup just doesn’t live up to the hype. Whether it’s the word choice because she had to be careful not to get too graphic since her books are YA , or she’s just not good at that particular aspect of romance writing quite yet, but some fans just aren’t 100% about “velvet wrapped steel” or the claiming, marking, owning of SJMaas writing style with sex. Armentrout did an amazing job of both the buildup and the climax (side note: I can’t help but giggle at the usage of the word climax here). I mean, cue the gif of Santana Lopez from Glee fanning herself, Blanche from The Golden Girls spraying herself down; Poppy and Cas have some HAWT moments in this book for anyone who likes things more on the smutty side! ~ Have No Shame!
  3. More Worldbuilding! Instead of the whole story taking place in one town/kingdom/etc. like the previous book, this sequel has a much wider journey for our characters, and with the reveal in the last book of the kingdom of Atlantia not being just a total myth, the author really stepped up her wordbuilding craft here! I will still say that SJMaas still holds the title of best worldbuilder, but Armentrout really impressed me with all that she included in this book.
  4. There’s A Map Now! This kind of continues off my last point in terms of worldbuilding, but one thing I didn’t like in the previous book was how the author was constantly referencing other towns/cities/kingdoms/etc. and we didn’t have a map to go back and use as reference! One thing I feel like any Fantasy genre title is required to include is a map to show readers where exactly everything is! It’s very minor, I know, and I could just make it all up in my head, but doesn’t mean I have to, so I’m going to continue to pout about it when it doesn’t happen. Stay Mad, bro!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. “Heartmates”…I’m sorry, but when I first saw this specific term show up in the book, I was rolling my eyes with a massive scoff. It’s not that I’m against the whole “mate” concept—I mean c’mon, Sarah J. Maas is one of my favorite authors—but what kind of middle-grade, Sailor Moon cheesy name is that?!?! Poppy and Cass are endgame, that’s no question, and I’m even cool with them being mate’s if that dynamic even applies to this story, but just the term “heartmates” gets a big, fat NOPE from me.
  2. Alastir Is A Total Drama Starter…I really liked Alastir at first; he’s the fatherly figure for Cas who reminded Poppy of Viktor. He looks out for the wellbeing of Cas and the whole Kingdom of Atlantia, but as I read on and saw how he interacted with Poppy and pulled her aside…Oh. My. Goodness…This man is such a little instigator!! Like, he always hints at something big to Poppy, she of course asks for him to elaborate, then he’s all “Oh, Casteel didn’t tell you? Oh well, I really shouldn’t….” but then TELLS HER WHAT IT WAS LITERALLY EVERY TIME ANYWAYS! It usually was some sort of information or leading to something really important, but it always lead to another rift between Cas and Poppy, to which I wanted to yell to Alastir: “Stop blowing holes in my ship!” very much like Captain Jack Sparrow. Towards the end, I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about him; he reminds me of Varys from Game of Thrones a little bit. He means well, but I have a feeling he’s going to double-cross Cas in some major way later because it’s “for the good of Atlantia” or some BS like that. We’ll see, but I’ve got my eyes on him. (side note: not really a spoiler but more a theory: he was totally behind the final moments of the book with Poppy being drawn away, and with that group of people!)
  3. Poppy and Cas Both Seem Convinced That The Other Doesn’t Have Any Feelings…I mean, that pretty much sums it up to be honest. I guess it could sort of fall under the “fake dating” trope except that we know it’s actually a fake marriage based off how the previous book ended. Poppy doesn’t know what’s real or just pretend when it comes to Cas, especially with his feelings regarding her. He kisses her, is always touching her in some way and calls her beautiful, but part of her is always questioning if he’s sincere or totally faking it all for the sake of putting on a charade. I know I said the romance was absolutely amazing, but I admit I did get slightly annoyed by this after a while. I swear, Kieran was quoting me directly from my thoughts at how DONE he was with the two of them and probably heard their mutual love towards each other at separate times, but both were convinced the other felt absolutely nothing in return…the whole thing was one big angsty mess for a bit there! Add in the fact that he probably sits there as they both separately grovel to him with their woes about it all, and I pretty much picture Kieran looking like the disappointed man with hands on his hips meme…

Conclusion:

Overall, this series is quickly turning into a massive highlight of 2020, which has to be the worst year for literally everyone. These books are like a North Star shining through the smog and destruction, and gives me hope to get through all this crap that is pretty much this year in general, so I guess I owe Jennifer L. Armentrout a huge thanks for these absolute gems of books! I’m officially obsessed!

I still recommend these books to anyone who’s looking for a steamy Fantasy genre romance: much like authors like Sarah J. Maas, Stephanie Garber, Leigh Bardugo, Susan Dennard, Karen Marie Moning, and Laura Thalassa just to name a few! They’re all just great at writing romance stories with the brave, young woman with the morally grey, dark and brooding prince type of male with cheeky one-liners thrown in at almost every chance!

My mind wasn’t completely blown like most of the fandom when I finished this book, but I will say the ending definitely raises a few brows in an incredibly good way! I for one wasn’t fully expecting it to get to the level that it did, even if the author hasn’t been hinting at it throughout the entirety of this book. It also certainly raises even more questions, and I for one am already looking forward to when the next book gets released in early/mid 2021.

P.S: We’ve been told that there will two more books for the series, PLUS a bonus book told from Casteel’s perspective! I was hoping that’d be the case because spoiler: the end of this book includes a bonus chapter of his perspective of the night with Poppy at the Red Pearl!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

3 thoughts on “My Review: A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash #2): by Jennifer L. Armentrout”

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