From Blood and Ash
- Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
- Genre: Fantasy
- Publication Date: March 30, 2020
- Publisher: Blue Box Press
- Series: Blood and Ash #1
CONTENT WARNING: blood, gore, sexual assault, abuse, murder, grief, violence, confinement
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.
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.
I was originally really excited about this book. It’s been on my TBR forever, and I’ve seen the hype everywhere. As a fan of SJM, which the author is compared to in the blurb, I figured it would probably be a good read, and my friend Kim was kind enough to send me a copy to cheer me up, and encourage me to do a buddy read with her. Well, our expectations were shattered preeeeetty quickly with this one. Although we really tried to stick to a buddy reading schedule, I couldn’t do that to my friend on her birthday weekend, so she raced through it as I slogged through this miserable read.
While I always try to find at least one positive thing to highlight in a review, I’m truly struggling here. I finished this one yesterday and have been racking my brain trying to find just ONE thing that was good about this book, and all I could come up with is that I finished it and never have to pick it up ever again.
Let’s start with the world building. Which … isn’t good. We’re provided with a ton of info dumps in the beginning of the story, making it difficult to really absorb what’s being offered, and the information that we are given never answered the questions that I had. The characters live in the fictional land of Masadonia, yes really, they live in a place that is pronounced exactly the same as a REAL PLACE but it’s okay because it’s spelled differently! That’s how you know it’s different! Just like the other fictional land of Pompay involved in the story—no relation to the real place of Pompeii. Don’t even get me started on Poppy’s real name, which happens to be Penellaphe, which just made me laugh every time I saw it.
We’re just given some basic information that’s all tossed at us really quickly: Ascension, Descenters, Craven, Wolven, Vamprys, and the Maiden, but only a few of these terms are ever explored, and that only comes at the end of the book. There’s a lot of talk about the gods and the importance of faith and being worthy, but we have absolutely no insight into why and what the faith is. There aren’t any religious practices discussed in the story, aside from the fact that there’s a priestess and Poppy has lessons with her where she reads out loud from a history book. We also never learn what the purpose of the Maiden is, or why there are all of these ridiculous restrictions placed on the Maiden.
“‘It seems to me that this honor that has been bestowed upon you comes with very few benefits. You’re not allowed to show your face or travel anywhere outside the castle grounds…You are not allowed to speak to most, and you are not to be spoken to. You’re caged in your room most of the day, your freedom restricted. All the rights others have are privileges for you, rewards that seem impossible for you to earn.’”
And while Poppy is bound by a gazillion rules, she follows exactly none of them. In the very first chapter of the book, she’s out at some type of house of ill repute. There’s drinking, card games, and … other things going on. She’s talking to people, people are talking to her, she’s way off the castle grounds, *gasp* on her own, and someone even touches her. So she doesn’t even follow the rules. Throughout the book, there’s so many times when she breaks the rules, and they’re only enforced some of the time. Which made no sense. Even worse, she has no faith and constantly questions everything. I guess that’s a really bad thing in someone who is the Maiden. But perhaps the most confusing part of all of this, is that somehow, we’re told that her purpose is to save the whole kingdom through her Ascension, but it’s never really explained how or why. Or how the kingdom manages to function without her, since Ascensions seem to happen pretty regularly in the absence of a Maiden, because she’s only the second in the history of the kingdom?
“Instead, I was in here, reaching an all new height of self-pity when in reality, my Ascension would do more than protect one city. It would ensure the entire future of the kingdom.”
Another part of the story that endless irked me is the portrayal of the two Black characters that have larger roles in the story, Tawny and Kieran. First of all, TAWNY? That’s the best name to come up with? It literally means light brown. Both of these characters have barely any personality, and only seem to be there to further each of the characters they serve, because they are literal servants. While we don’t get to see too much of Kieran, since I’m guessing he plays a bigger role in the future books I won’t be reading, Tawny is definitely a problematic portrayal. I think the sentence that most upset me (and I’m not even a reader of color), was this one, since it paints her as more of an object than as a person:
“She had yet again been commandeered by the Duchess and the Mistresses, and I knew I might not even see her the following morning.”
I never felt invested in the story or the characters, and I might have enjoyed a plot if I could have found one. There were so many ellipses that I found myself rolling my eyes to the point where even picking up the book gave me a headache, and I would have DNFd this one if I hadn’t promised my friend I’d finish the book. Even the smut wasn’t remotely enjoyable, and the writing was corny and overdone, as evidenced here:
“The sunlight almost seemed drawn to him, caressing his cheekbones and brow like a lover.”
I was particularly offended by the fact that the author clearly stole the idea of an ROUS from one of my favorites, The Princess Bride, and hid it under another name, even though it was still clearly recognizable.
“Barrats weren’t your average rodents. Rumored to be the size of a boar, they were the thing of nightmares.”
This was probably one of the least enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time, coming in only just above Zodiac Academy for worst book I’ve read in 2022. I’m not sure that I understand where the hype is coming from. But if anything, I think I’ve learned my lesson, and that is not to trust BookTok for recommendations anymore. I’ve been burned one too many times.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: A WHOPPING ZERO
Categories: Book Review