Honestly reading this entire book and writing this about 2k review of me screeching. I hope you can hear it in wherever the world you are. Oh, and Meeghan… now it’s your turn for this review 😂 Also SO much thanks to Meeghan and my one irl friend who agreed to listen to my virtual pain of reading this.
If you really liked this book… You might want to avoid this review 😆 Because I absolutely hated it. But I’m also reading the sequel because I’m trash for trash. But this… Is like real real bad trash. Let’s go!
This is a spoiler-free review, as much spoiler-free I could while ranting about it 😆
Disclaimer: I loaned this book out of the library with the intention of reading and reviewing it honestly. The featured image is my own. The summary is taken from Goodreads. All opinions expressed are my own.
Title: From Blood and Ash
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: #1 in Blood and Ash
Year Published: 2020
Publisher: Blue Box Press
Cover Art/Designer: Hang Lee
Genre: New Adult ~ Fantasy ~ Romance
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.
Here’s the thing. I understand why the series/book is really popular. Jennifer has a big presence and backlist. So she has a big readership and because a lot of them probably read her earlier series and now they’re older, they see she’s now coming out with a series set specifically for older readers. High fantasies are also becoming popular again. I think more specifically NA high fantasies. Hawke fits the bad boy mould to a T and a lot of readers like him and how he and Poppy share bantering and lingering stares. So, of course readers are all over this series. Jennifer is also writing the books really quickly and then publishing them really quickly. So readers are able to have the series in their hands faster than other series. The series also has the tried and tested fantasy titles _ of and _ and whatnot. And the series has tropes all over. It’s very tropey. And I think that’s becoming more popular now (I think that’s Tiktok’s influence).
I’m not judging anyone who loves this book, you’re totally allowed to love whatever you want to. But I am, I am judging you just a tiny bit if you say this is one of the best books you’ve read, and refuse to listen to some of the concerns. Because I, personally, think that this book is absolutely awful. But at the same time, I will indeed read all six books in the series and the prequel trilogy and whatever else Jennifer has in store for this series. And I’ll be moaning about it all the way through. You’re welcome. And I’ll frequently call her Jennifer throughout the moaning. Most of this review is a good chunk of rambling.
I know that Jennifer is writing and publishing these books really fast. I would so much prefer her to sit on the drafts and really work through them. And hire some editors, proofreaders, beta readers. Please, please, please.
First of all, let’s look at some names. We have Poppy’s, whose actual name is Penellaphe. So Penelope but with an h? Where do you even get Poppy from that name? Do you know what I laughed so hard at? The name Airrick. I sat and STARED at that name and finally realized what it was when I said the name slowly. If you didn’t know, it’s Eric. Tawny, Poppy’s Lady-in-Wait – do you know what colour tawny is? It’s a yellow brown. And Tawny… is described as being a dark-skinned character. I also saw in some tiktoks that Kieran, basically the only other POC in this book, his name means little dark one. SO. Jennifer spelt Hawke as Hawk once and I just about died because I seriously cannot emphasise the importance of proofreaders.
The absolute BEST thing I have (of names) is this character named Niall who’s a guard. I think, I didn’t pay attention 120% of the time. Niall is introduced around the half-mark of the book or so. But then around the 85/90% mark, we meet his twin! Named Naill!! Please note, Niall does not have a twin (that I know of. I just finished the first book), Jennifer just misspelt his name as Naill, spelt his name a few paragraphs later correctly and then MISSPELT IT AGAIN. Jennifer, do you know how you could’ve avoided that mistake? If you had hired… a proofreader!!! That’s what they’re there for! Editing!DB here to say that Niall is MIA because it’s just Naill.
Poppy kept mentioning something growing in the pit of her stomach (talking about it like tensing up, I believe?) and it happened twice in one chapter and I just said to myself: “You know, back in my day, we just had our hair on our arms being raised.” And I laughed (to myself) so hard.
The book kept mentioning the words, The Maiden, The Chosen about a hundred times per chapter (or so I felt). You could’ve made it a drinking game but you would’ve been totally drunk by the fifth chapter. Speaking of those annoying words – There was such a big emphasis on the fact that since Poppy is The Maiden, The Chosen; she has to remain ‘pure and untouched’ otherwise she’ll be seen as unworthy in the gods’ eyes. Which is just the most annoying thing ever.
Meeghan mentioned that there’s some continuity and world-building issues and boy, there are. First of all, they push the fact that Poppy isn’t allowed to talk to others (will she fall out of favour with the gods if she does that?) but then right after she mentions that she’s not allowed to talk to others… she goes and talks to people. There’s a lot of information about the gods and the rules and all which has some plot holes. Do you know what would’ve fixed that? If Jennifer had an editor who told her to fix the world-building in another draft. Oh, she didn’t really have an editor? Yeah, I could tell.
There were a lot of run-on sentences and so many ellipses. Do you know what would’ve helped there be less? A freaking editor. Please. Speaking of the word ‘freaking’, look; I actually love anachronistic media, but that only works if the viewers know and understand that the media is meant to be anachronistic. Otherwise you’re literally just taking like, the backdrop of Lord of the Rings and shoving the words ‘weirdo’, ‘brain space’, ‘un-have-able’. The last two words? Were in the ACTUAL BOOK.
There’s also a lot of contractions and listen, you don’t see them all too often in high fantasies! Normal fantasies and urban fantasy, definitely. Definitely fantasy sci-fi. But not high fantasies. High fantasies are known for not having many contractions in the writing, thus making the writing seem stiff and formal at times.
Speaking of high fantasies and fantasies; which I’ll probably talk about more in the second review, this book should absolutely not be marked as a high fantasy novel. I could tell that she was trying to write it as a big fantasy but it really fell flat. If she had truly written this as an urban fantasy I think I would’ve liked it a little bit more.
I said this to Meeghan and now I’m saying it here. Is Poppy actually super interested in Hawke, like does she have real interest in him or is he just the one person around her that doesn’t seem to care for the rules? And plus everyone else thinks she’s either very average looking or only focuses on her scars, while Hawke thinks she’s absolutely gorgeous with the scars.
Poppy is just a very boring and average main character in a fantasy series. Even if you want to argue the fact that she’s a strong character or doesn’t take nothing from nobody, I could also argue that you could find that in a lot of fantasy books if you look hard enough. Like I’m sorry but I don’t get the whole ‘she’s so different from all the other female fantasy characters’ – no, no she’s not. Not if you read the right books.
Hawke’s fascination (with Poppy) and knife kink was okay at times and then at other times it was really weird. Like Poppy will be angry and frustrated and she’ll draw a dagger and he’ll say something about how hot she and the situation makes him. Which is annoying because he just dismisses her emotions for his, thereby placing his needs above hers! Which is a bit toxic, in my eyes? I have a feeling I’ll see a lot of this in the future books.
Also the way the reveals and plot twists were written. In other books I would’ve been gasping and reacting appropriately. In this book I just rolled my eyes at places and was unaffected. And it was a large part because of the writing.
Also the book had so much info dumping when I finally got to the bigger plot, it was 67% in? The pacing was so bad. And now I have to go through all of this again! Goodreads says the book is 454 pages long. I’ve read books far longer than that that didn’t have pacing and plot issues.
Another reason I got annoyed at the world-building (or just at the entire book) is that nothing makes sense. They push one of the main reasons how the gods would deem Poppy worthy is if she stays ‘pure and untouched’. But then later on in the book she mentions how she can’t get scared at a spider because… she would be deemed as unworthy by the gods? If I’m not making sense, don’t worry! Neither does the book!
A random thought – I’ve never heard of anger being described as a ‘kernel’. How does Poppy feel an emotion and know exactly how her body reacts to it? Shame, anger, etc, her body has various ways of responding to that. My body hurts and I have to cycle through 20 reasons why it’s hurting and not once has it been because of an emotion? I feel betrayed, body. And she ascribes taste to all of the emotions! I know there are people who do feel this way but with Poppy, it feels more like a “oh look at me I’m so perfect and I’m not pretty but actually everyone is immediately attracted to me but OH I’m supposed to be with anyone but I’m gonna be with the first guy who doesn’t immediately shudder at my scars that absolutely make me way less gorgeous” 😑😑
Uh, yes. This was just a rant review and not like my standard reviews 😆 You’ll see this again when I finally finish A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire. I think it’ll be longer 😂 I really hope you enjoyed reading this. Have you read this book? Please tell me if you agree with my thoughts or not. Are you still wanting to read these books? Truly, I commend you. Come chat to me!