As I begin my journey to writing more in the Romance and Fantasy genres, I decided to do some research on what was currently selling. FROM BLOOD AND ASH by Jennifer Armentrout kept popping up in my suggestions and on my TikTok feed. Everyone rated it HOT on the heat scale, so I was really excited to dive into it.
Let me preface this by saying I have not read a lot of romance. Most of the stories I read have romantic elements, but my knowledge of the romance genre in general is very limited. Because my NaNoWriMo project this year was an Adult Fantasy Romance, I did some digging to find books that were similar (medieval setting, magic, etc.) and landed on this one. There were a couple of others that I’ll review later as well. I have not read any contemporary romance, but I have written a Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic romance novel with a friend (and had a BLAST writing it).
Let’s begin, shall we?
“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 temps 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 really excited to start this book. After the glowing reviews I read about it and all of the hype, I was expecting this book to blow my socks off. I was, sadly, disappointed. Not because I didn’t like the story, but because this was promoted as Fantasy Romance, when really it’s a Fantasy with romantic elements. There’s a scene early on where the heat is ON, but then it’s another four hundred pages before it comes again. In my opinion, a romance needs to keep that burn going low and steady, ramping up the heating from time to time, not leaving things to chance.
Quite literally, two-thirds of the book is world building and setting it up for a crazy third act, where pretty much everything happens at once. While I am not an expert on romance, there are many things I would have chosen to do differently if given this storyline to work with.
Given that Armentrout is a largely successful writer in the romance sphere, I’m not surprised that this was marketed as a romance.
The love interest, Hawke–bad boy with a wicked grin and mysterious past–is the reason I ended up reading the second book in the series, A KINGDOM OF FLESH AND FIRE. Hawke shows up early on in FROM BLOOD AND ASH and he is everything we love in a bad boy. Tall, handsome, badass with a sword, and fiercely protective of the main character with *issues*. (Reminded me of Rhysand from ACOTAR, but not nearly as good :))
The main character is a strong young woman–we love a badass female protagonist–who has been sheltered but begins to grow and learn and find out who she truly is, only to have the world turned upside down. There is a big twist toward the end, followed by some hate-sex (which, in my opinion, was pretty toxic, but readers seemed to love it though I didn’t).
One thing I didn’t like was the lack of diversity. There was no LGBT representation and very little POC representation. It’s 2021 folks! We. Need. Representation!! It’s so important for readers to be able to see themselves in stories, and not just as a side character or a token character that fits into all of the discriminatory tropes.
I borrowed the second book from the library, and I plan on reading the final one when it comes out this spring: A CROWN OF GILDED BONES, because the second book in the series left off on a bit of a cliff hanger. I want to see where Armentrout takes the story given the ending of book two.
While this wasn’t my favorite read of 2020, it was still a pretty good story and helped me to understand a little of what the fantasy romance genre looks like currently.
Overall, I’d rate this one as 3.5 stars out of 5. If you’re looking for an escape story with drama, fantastical elements, and some decent heat, check it out!
Thanks for reading,