Back in November I swore that I would try to work on my blog more. Once school ended, and the holidays calmed down I again swore that I would work on my blog more. Once I began to work from home, and shelter in place was mandated I swore… well you get where I am going with this. I spend most of my time with all of these thoughts flying in my head, but when it comes to writing them down I psych myself out. So I am picking myself up by my bootstraps, and writing a review about From Blood and Ash because it is that good.
Written by Jennifer L. Armentrout, From Blood and Ash centers around Pennelaphe, often called “Poppy”, the Chosen Maiden of the Queen. All her life, Poppy had been told that she was Chosen by the Gods and that the fate of her people’s future rested on her purity and piety. She sits in silence as a figurehead as the ward of the Duke and Duchess of Castle Teerman. She is told where to be, who she can speak to, what to read, what to wear, and who is allowed to look upon her veiled face.
This book had some pretty intense world building. The Kingdom of Solis is structured so that every second child in a family is selected to take part in the Ascension, a ritual shrouded in mystery where the gods pass their blessing and the ascended become almost immortal themselves. Any child that is born after the second is to dedicate their lives to serving their gods with the priests and priestesses. Those waiting to ascend are called Lords and Ladies in Waiting. Poppy is told that the ascension of herself and everyone else that is waiting hinges on whether the gods will find her worthy. Nobody tells her what exactly will happen when she is given to the gods, but the fear of ruining a generation of Lords and Ladies keeps her mostly in check.
Poppy is not the meek, silent Maiden that most of the kingdom assumes that she is. She frequently escapes the castle when she can, she has been training to fight in secret with a castle guard, and when she can she goes into the city so that she may assist with easing the suffering of those who have been mortally wounded by the mist shrouded monsters that haunt the kingdom. She lives in quarters that are sparse due to her having possessions taken away every time she is caught reading anything that has been unapproved by the High Priestess. Any infraction, be it real or imaginary results in her being beaten by the sadistic Duke. Everything changes for Poppy once she is assigned a new personal guard, but I don’t want to give away too many details.
From the very beginning where Poppy had snuck into a gambling hall/ brothel I was ensnared into the story. The narration is first-person through Poppy’s P.O.V., and you know that she is raging against her fate every step of the way. She desperately wants to help her people, and refuses to be on the sidelines whenever she can. She also doesn’t want to be found unworthy, making it impossible for the new Ascension candidates to complete their rite. So much of the world building is through details from Poppy, or other characters. There are rarely moments where things are explained in great detail, you need to put things together piece by piece as the story goes along. So if you are a speed reader, slow down, or you might miss something crucial. One the plus side, you don’t have one or two chapters worth of information being dumped on your lap all at once.
Jennifer L. Armentrout has been one of those authors that I really wish I could love. She writes stellar romance, but for me, sometimes her alphas can be too alpha. For some reason, a lot of her female main characters get under my skin. In From Blood and Ash, she has knocked it out of the park with the chemistry between Hawke (the new guard) and Poppy. Hawke is very clearly an alpha male character who is used to getting what he wants, when he wants. However with Poppy, he does not charge in an rescue her at every single chance he gets. She fights and is in charge of herself (almost) every step of the way. The main thing that Poppy wants is the option to choose what life she wants for herself, and Hawke gives her that. The way Poppy and Hawke interact is a huge part of what makes this story so much fun to read. I will point out that this book is New Adult, and not YA, so things do get steamy.
If I was allowed to go to the beach, I would say this is the perfect beach read, but since I am home I will call this the perfect quarantine read. The world building was a unique take on shifters, vampires, gods, and monsters. The romance hit all of the right notes. The plot was fairly fast paced, but not too rushed. While the end was a little predictable, it was so much fun getting there. My only problem, is that I might die from waiting for the sequel.
My score- 5 not-so-virtuous maidens (out of 5)