Also by this author: Don't Look Back, The Problem with Forever, White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements, #1), A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash, #2), The Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash, #3)
Published by Blue Box Press on March 30, 2020
Genres: New Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 634 •Format: E-Book •Source: Overdrive
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.
You know when you read a book that reminds you how much you love reading? Restores you faith in a genre? Makes you wonder why you ever engage in hobbies outside of books? Well, From Blood and Ash was all of the above for me, and believe me when I say I am shocked by how much I enjoyed it. I really struggled though the first half of the book. It felt generic, uninspired, and I just didn’t get why everyone compared it to ACOTAR (which is my fave fantasy series). Yet about 50%-60% into the novel it really picked up, and the chemistry was off the charts (the lovers to enemies trope execution here was just *chefs kiss*).
I don’t want to give too much away, but From Blood and Ash is much more of a steamy, intense romance to me and felt more secondary in its fantasy elements. The world building was super vague and confusing to me, especially at first, and while it gets (somewhat) cleared up in the second half of the book, it was disorienting to really not have a firm grasp on the world building for a good chunk of the book. Protagonist Poppy at first seems similar to many other YA/NA protagonists, but I did eventually find her to be more unique the more I read about her, and felt she was well balanced in being good at fighting/combat but also having her limitations as a late teen girl and being realistically overpowered at times. I liked how the story focused on her discovering herself, her principles, and her desires in such an empowering way.
And then there’s Hawke….who at first I was scared was going to be your generic fantasy mid-2000s tall, dark and handsome JLA love interest (and he was to an extent), but he was so much darker and irreverent than I was expecting (this series to me should definitely be in the NA category…) I’ll admit, it’s been a long time since I swooned over a fictional character not written by SJMaas but Hawke brought me back to my teenage paranormal romance fan girl days. I did see the twist regarding him from a mile away, but it was all executed so well that I didn’t mind at all.
I will admit, I was a bit surprised about the direction the story took in terms of almost transitioning from fantasy to paranormal View Spoiler » I love that some of these “overdone” tropes from the mid-2000s are coming back in such a fun and fresh way. I also adore that this story really tackles the nuanced (and often problematic) issues of “purity,” “worthiness,” and agency/autonomy for young women. Poppy has been sequestered for so long in her role as “The Maiden” and I like how the story points about how problematic this role she has is for so many reasons, and explores more complex circumstances like the shame Poppy feels at the actions of those who are abusive to her, even when it’s not her fault at all, or the burdens that are placed on her by the symbolism of her role as The Maiden.” While this story is fun and seductive, it’s also thought-provoking and full of female empowerment through Poppy’s own journey (even though her journey is far from complete). That’s not even mentioning the other themes of politics, the abuse of religion, domestice abuse, etc- there’s a lot going on in here than just a romance!
Are there similarities to ACOTAR/ACOMAF? Oh yes, absolutely. 100%, especially with Hawke/Rhysand. I do think this story stands on its own and does have unique elements but I think the romance does have a lot of parallels. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! If you like that series you will definitely enjoy this (although the world building is definitely not up to the same caliber).
And THAT ENDING. THE LAST LINE. SUCH A CLIFFHANGER. Did I immediately squeal and then put the sequel on hold at my library? Absolutely. Am I considering tossing my planned TBR out the window to read it next? Absolutely.
Overall: From Blood and Ash is the NA fantasy book I didn’t know I needed. I have definitely fallen in love with JLA’s writing again and can’t wait to binge the rest of the series ASAP! I wish I could have given it a full 5 stars but did have to take off a bit for the slow start, however I do have high hopes for the next book!