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

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: From Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Credit to Owner

Hello Readers!

It’s been a joy to make yet another fancast for my blog for others to enjoy, and after I got caught up on this series in particular, it was a huge goal of mine to complete ASAP! The From and Ash series has very quickly become a huge favorite of mine this year, and has become almost like a beacon of light and hope over what has to be the crappiest year EVER with 2020!

Who knew I’d become absolutely obsessed with a book series about Vampires and Werewolves in 2020, but with how this year has been going, it feels like nothing can surprise me some days…

For those that aren’t aware, this is a book series that somehow got two books published this year from Jennifer L. Armentrout, who must be a writing machine because these books are thicccccccc! We’re talking 600+ pages for both of them, and it’s also 600+ pages of pure wicked entertainment!

If I had to describe this series in a couple words, they’d be the following: Enchanting, Dangerous, Ominous, Sultry, Seductive, Enthralling, hair-raising, spine-tingling, dangerous, and utterly romantic. Fans of authors like Sarah J. Maas, Holly Black, and Laura Thalassa just to name a few will absolutely devour these books and become as obsessed as pretty much every other reader who’s gotten their hands on them.

It’s a story of a young woman named Penellaphe Balfour, or “Poppy” as her friends call her, who’s raised as the maiden, who’s a holy figure amongst her people and is the chosen who will one day become Ascended. With that, she must live a life of solitude; no eye contact, no spoken words, and to keep her head down unless ordered otherwise. It’s a sad life, but others would kill for the position, so she should be thankful…

All that is called into question as Hawke Flynn comes into her life and becomes her new knight/bodyguard. Duty and passion become twisted together as he helps her question everything she’s ever known, but also finally gives her the push to hope for more…

There’s whispers of an ancient Kingdom back on the rise, plus creatures of the night growing more and more restless. Lines are blurred as to what is right and wrong, and Poppy will do whatever it takes in order to protect not only those she cares about but also herself and her heart…

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!

Quick Disclaimer!*** I do not own any of these images even as I try to credit all who are known, and I will promptly remove if asked to do so by any of the owners.

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Here’s my official Fancast/Dreamcast:

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Kieran Contou: Isha Blaaker

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

Kieran is a huge fan favorite for the series, so I had to come up with someone who’d look like he deserved to have a large following! I originally casted Kendrick Sampson as the role, but I honestly fancast him for a ton of parts where it’s a character who’s POC with lighter colored eyes. I wanted to switch it up, plus I’d say I do the same thing with Jesse Williams (who’s too old for the part anyways), so Isha definitely looks the part!

Vikter Wardwell: Graham McTavish

Image courtesy of the actor’s Twitter account

Love this Scottish actor in both Outlander and even his smaller role in the fourth season of Lucifer, but he has that older, more protective fatherly figure vibe which is right up Vikter’s alley, so I think Graham would nail this role if they were to actually make From Blood and Ash into a movie/TV series.

Rylan Keal: Garrett Hedlund

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Guerin/Contour @ Getty Images & GQ Italia

I’m not too familiar with this actor, but a few movies he’s pretty noteworthy of was the rebooted Disney’s TRON: Legacy film from about ten years ago, plus he was in Country Strong. I don’t know, he just has those unassuming blond looks that I really pictured for Poppy’s original bodyguard.

Tawny Lyon: Caris Shelton

Credit to owner

Tawny was actually a hard choice, and part of me feels like I still may switch out this choice at some point or another if another face comes along that I think would fill the role better. Until that happens, I think this gorgeous model I found on Instagram has the look I imagined for Tawny.

Lord Brandole Mazeen: Craig Parker

Credit to owner

Some of you may or may not recognize this actor, but he’s actually been in a couple widely popular films and TV shows! He was the Elven general in Lord of the Rings, he was also in TV shows like Reign and Spartacus, which if you’ve watched them, will totally make you agree with how I casted him for such a cruel character in these books!

Duke Dorian Teerman: Peter Facinelli

Image courtesy of DEFY Magazine

I mean, why not cast at least one character from the Twilight movies in this? Part of me still can’t believe I’m so obsessed with a Vampire-esque Paranormal Romance quite like From Blood and Ash, and it’s freakin’ 2020! The Duke is cold, menacing, and vicious behind closed doors, so I thought it’d be an interesting switch from Peter playing Dr. Carlisle.

Duchess Jacinda Teerman: Inbar Lavi

Credit to owner

She played the first ever woman in the world, Eve, in the Netflix hit, Lucifer, and for some reason I totally pictured her playing the role of the Duchess as well…it totally could just be because I was watching the show and reading the first book around the same time. Kind of like Peter Facinelli above, the roles are so opposite of each other, I’m curious to see if the actress could pull it off!

Jericho: Tom Felton

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Jericho was a smaller role for the first book, sure, but why not have a bigger name actor to play the role itself? For some reason, Jericho was giving me some major Draco Malfoy vibes, so I thought it’d be fun to have Tom Felton play the role, why not?

Elijah: Travis Van Winkle, or Nathan Parsons

Image courtesy of Twitter account @SpoilerTV
Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

Elijah was a toss-up since not much was actually told about his looks other than his beard and warm eyes. I mean, that could be taken in so many directions, right? Travis Van Winkl;e fulfills the more wholesome, all-american guy next door vibe I could see Elijah having, but Nathan Parsons, who’s been on The Originals (Spin-off of The Vampire Diaries), so it wouldn’t be unfamiliar territory for him either!

Delano: Drew Van Acker

Image courtesy of cbs.com

Drew Van Acker is a personal favorite of mine! He was the tortured and gorgeous Jason Dilaurentis in the tv adaptation of Pretty Little Liars, and his sad, soulful eyes along with the rest of his good looks have always stuck with me over the years, and I love to fancast him for other blond male roles if I see fit.

Naill: Rome Flynn

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The other half of the Wolven dynamic duo along with Delano, Rome Flynn is who I pictured for this particular character, who’s only been described thus far as having dark skin. I picture all the Wolven being stunningly gorgeous, I mean why not?…so I pictured this young actor from the Shonda Rhimes courtroom drama, How to Get Away with Murder, to add up some even more sex appeal onto this fancast of mine.

You’re welcome.

Alastir Davenwell: Brett Tucker

Image Courtesy of the actor’s IMDB Profile

Alastir was described as being rather good looking even with it being obvious he’s getting a little older in age, and this Australian has been on my radar ever since I first saw him in the TV Show, Spartacus. Alastir may be a total drama loving instigator, and I could go on about all that, but at least he’s pretty easy on the eyes, amiright ladies, gents, and non-binaries?

Emil Da’Lahr: Ken Bek

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile

I feel like Ken Bek is just the basic-bitch go to casting for EVERYONE who needs an attractive male redhead for some character (him and Sam Heughan), but I can’t help it with this one! Ken just has that mischievous smirk in almost all his modeling photos that really just remind me of this character, who I still don’t know whether I like them or not quite yet!

Lord Chaney: Finn Wittrock

Image courtesy of thewrap.com

Finn is an incredible actor, probably one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood right now! He’s incredibly versatile, and I can say that even just from watching him perform a wide variety of characters in a couple seasons of American Horror Story. Plus, Lord Chaney is an Ascended, and I just picture them being beautiful beings.

Vonetta Contou: Logan Browning

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Logan Browning has become a favorite of mine since I’ve seen her star as the powerful roll of Sam in the Netflix show, Dear White People, I also picture her as Kieran’s sister in this series. Her acting chops are definitely up to par, I know she’d do nothing but add even more greatness to the cast!

Jasper Contou: Luke Evans

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Jasper was one of those characters you just fall in love with the moment you meet them, and I could say the same about Cinna from Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, The Hunger Games. At first, I was like a ton of the fandom who’d fancasted Idris Elba and/or Lenny Kravitz, but Jennifer Armentrout actually confirmed that Jasper is white (It makes sense if Kieran and Vonetta are lighter in skin tone), so I had to reimagine the character and who could play him. Luke Evans, whose been in The Hobbit trilogy and even Gaston in the live-action remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, would be my new Jasper!

Hawke Flynn/ Casteel Da’Neer: Michael Malarkey, Jaime Astrain, or Danilo D’Agostino

Michael Malarkey, image courtesy of the actor/musician’s Instagram profile
Jaime Astrain, image courtesy of balistarz.com

Danilo D’Agostino, image credits to owners

Of course, like almost every other fandom with a wickedly devastating male love interest like this character, there’s a huge debate of who would be perfect to play him. EVERYONE has their own preference of who they feel is attractive enough and skilled enough to play the part, which is totally fine! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I have to say I can agree with just about every choice I saw come up: Stephen Amell, Jesse Metcalfe, Theo James, Matthew Daddario (who was my original choice), but after much deliberation on my part, these are the three I’ve narrowed it down to!

Penellaphe “Poppy” Balfour: Peyton Gastel, or Laura Gwyneth Butler

Peyton Gastel, image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile
Laura Gwyneth Butler, image courtesy of listal.com

Poppy is the vampire para-romance heroine we really need; she’s the exact opposite of Bella Swan, and I am fully behind her on her journey, and these two are my final choices of who’d portray her in a cinematic format! The first is a model I found on Instagram who has the red hair, green eyes combo that is Poppy! My other choice is a model who Facebook user Tiffany R. on the Facebook group I’m a member introduced us to, and I fully support this choice as well!

Queen Eloana Da’Neer: Gal Gadot

Image courtesy of celebmafia.com

She’s used to playing a powerful, regal figure like Diana (aka: Wonderwoman) in the DC Superhero movies, but I also imagined her playing the role of the Queen of Atlantia, and also Casteel’s mother. She’s actually a very complex character as you read on in The Crown of Gilded Bone, and I know Gal would do an amazing job!

King Valyn Da’Neer: Chris Pine

Credit to owner

We all know King Valyn was going to be blond daddy goals, and at first I was picturing Brad Pitt playing this role, but I know with how word of mouth is he was miserable on the set of Interview With a Vampire back in the 90’s, so I think he’d avoid another vampire franchise like this one. As for Chris Pine, why not? He’s got the looks, the acting ability, and we know he has chemistry with Gal Gadot in the Wonderwoman movies too!

Commander Jansen: Simon Merrellis

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

He was a character that I—and I’m sure most of the fandom is guilty too—totally overlooked and didn’t think would become a bigger character than where he was already at. But reading the third book, he practically shoves his way to the forefront and became worthy of my consideration to add him on here. I only know this actor from the STARZ hit show, Spartacus.

Hisa Fa’Mar: Lesley-Anne Brandt

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LOOOOOVE her in Lucifer, and even though the characters are incredibly different from one another, I know that Lesley can play badass, powerful females. She’d have no problem being the General of the Atlantian Army.

Kirha Contou: Danai Gurira, or Angela Bassett

Danai Gurira, image courtesy of latimes.com
Angela Bassett, image courtesy of amomama.com

Two totally iconic POC woman in Hollywood, I would be happy with either choice to play the mother of Kieran and Vonetta as well as wife to Jasper. This is a softer role—at least so far of where we’re at in the series—but I imagine Kirha is a glorious fighter on the battlefield when she needs to be! Danai was in Black Panther and The Walking Dead, and Angela Bassett I know from American Horror Story, Black Panther, and 9-1-1 on Fox.

Perry: Nathan Owens

Image courtesy of the actor/model’s IMDB profile

So as soon as I found out this Wolven is actually Delano’s on-and-off lover, I had to include him in my fancast! This gorgeous model would add some serious eye candy to the screen, and the total hotness that is the friendship with Casteel and Kieran as they’ve all known each other since childhood.

Miss Wilhelmina Colyns: Nia Long

Image courtesy of hawtcelebs.com

I’m so happy we get to meet the illustrious, infamous being that is Miss Willa Colyns in this series. She’s more than just an author of a smutty diary that is—not so secretly—Poppy’s favourite book, but is also an elder of the Atlantian kingdom! Nia Long is a stunning pop culture icon whose been acting for quite some time now, I totally remember her all the way back when she was in Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but she’s also been in Big Momma’s House, Third Watch, and NCIS: Los Angeles.

Ian Balfour: Ben Barnes, or Nathaniel Buzolic

Ben Barnes, image courtesy of seventeenmag.com
Nathaniel Buzolic, image courtesy of bookingagentinfo.com

So yes, I’ve totally already binged Shadow and Bone on Netflix as I type this, so meeting Ian shortly after that probably has made me have Ben Barnes on the brain, and can you blame me? He was a magnificent Darkling, and I’d love to see him apart of this series if it ever came onto our screens too someday! If SaB took about eight years or so to make it happen, it could very well happen for Blood and Ash too! Nathaniel has a background in vampire filmology as well, he was Kol Mikaelson in both The Vampire Diaries and The Originals!

Nyktos: Henry Cavill

Credit to Owner

A lot of the fandom has put Henry’s name out there as possible fancast choices for Hawke/Casteel, and while I’d never be so douchey and rude as to tell anyone who they can and can’t choose for their own personal casting, I also couldn’t say I agreed with that either. Henry needed to play an older character, and why not play the King of the Gods? This way we’re all happy that Henry can be a part of the series after all, and get lost in either his dreamy eyes or his impressive jawline!

The Consort, Sera: Katheryn Winnick

Image courtesy of unitedagents.co.uk

I wanted to fancast this role ASAP since it appears that were also getting some prequel books in the Blood and Ash world that stars Nyktos, and spoilers in the third book also reveal more about this character. Katheryn Winnick was in the popular show Vikings, and I keep telling myself that I need to watch it someday!

Nektas: Tom Ellis

Image courtesy of Emmy Magazine

I’m a big fan of Lucifer on Netflix, and while Mr. Morningstar is a way different character than the Draken, I just had Mr. Tom Ellis in mind when we finally see Nektas’s mortal form. It may be because I see Tom in his devilish special effects (see image below), but I can admit it’s also just because I like to look at him, and his accent adds so much charm to his persona!

The Handmaiden/Revenant: Megan Fox

Image courtesy of bellasugar.com

This was an interesting new concept added to the series in The Crown of GIlded Bone, and as soon as this character was introduced into the story, I got some major Kate Beckinsale in Underworld vibes. I also instantly thought of this image of Megan Fox I picked, and thought she’d play the role incredibly well. I can already tell this character will be one to watch out for in several ways, and Megan Fox honestly doesn’t get enough credit for her acting abilities. I believe she has more to offer than just how Hollywood perceived her and marketed her as back in the day when Michael Bay pretty much almost completely blacklisted her.

Prince Malik Da’Neer: Reeve Carney

Image courtesy of alcotron.com

We finally meet the older brother to Casteel, the firstborn Da’Neer son who was set to take the throne. I loved the twist with him, I can say I didn’t see it coming and all he had to offer the game of thrones we’re now playing in this series. This actor was in Penny Dreadful, and instantly who I thought could play Malik as soon as we met him!

Queen Ileana: Christina Hendricks

Image courtesy of mytechworld.com

I am honestly doing a chef’s kiss at how perfect I think this casting choice would be if they made the Blood and Ash books into the show or film series. Christina Hendricks has been in Mad Men, and she’s also currently in the Netflix show Good Girls, and she has a unique look to her, a sultry vibe who I think is the ONLY choice who’d perfectly capture the Blood Queen and leader of the Ascended.

King Jalara: Jude Law

Image courtesy of gettyimages.com

Jude Law was actually very close to becoming my choice for King Valyn, but then I remembered how well he played the villain in King Arthur, and he does have a sexier, almost devilish appeal to him, so I wanted him to stay on the dark side and play this role as well too!

So there you have it for now!

With many more books on the way—including a least one told from Casteel’s perspective—I know there will be even more characters to add, so wait for those next books to release and I’ll add more names and faces ASAP!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

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

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

My Review: From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash #1): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

*Kindle Edition*
Publish Date: March 29th, 2020
Number of Pages: 622 Pages
Publisher: Blue Box Press
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

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

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.

A Maiden…

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.

A Duty…

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.

A Kingdom…

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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…
  3. 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.
Image courtesy of Goodreads profile: @arini

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. 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.
  2. 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…
  3. 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.

Conclusion:

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