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.
Armentrout has been holding this book, or at least the idea, hostage for years and I’m so glad she finally set it free. From Ash and Blood is set in a country where years prior a civil war ensued for reasons we’re not quite sure of. All we know is it was fought between the Atlantians and the Ascended and that the Ascended won.
Our main heroine, Poppy, resides with the Ascended as their Maiden, chosen by the gods and is the key to others being able to ascend themselves. Problem is Poppy isn’t a worthy maiden because she lives in a gilded cage but has hopes, dreams and while others have basic rights she is only rewarded them occasionally with good behavior. Then she meets the most handsome swoon worthy boy ever and she starts to wonder if she can take control of her life. As Poppy starts to want more for herself a new war seems to be starting with the fallen kingdom gaining more power and traction among those under the power of the Ascended.
Poppy is the kickass heroine we need and want. While her life as a Maiden is a sheltered one, she is skilled in combat along with being quick witted and smart. As a Maiden she isn’t allowed contact with anyone and is to remain pure and worthy in the eyes of the Gods. Aka no friends, boys or doing anything besides breathing. It’s a suffocating life but throughout the novel we get to see her start to take control of her life and her sexuality when she meets the handsome Hawke.
The swoon worthy hero Hawke was charming, cocky and downright lethal. While he is protective of Poppy, he never crosses the line or becomes an alpha asshole about it. Poppy already has so little say in her life and he does nothing to impede the little freedoms she has left. While his dimple may have disarmed Poppy though I found him suspicious. Someone that good looking is hiding something. Or I’ve just had a crap dating life.
I was looking for some romantic smut and Aremntrout delivered. The chemistry between Hawke and Poppy was sizzling and the kind of slow burn that makes you wish slow burns didn’t exist. Consent was a thing that Hawke took very seriously which I applaud. I loved how Poppy took control of her sexuality and wasn’t afraid to explore it nor did she feel ashamed. She was fully in control and it was the perfect smoldering romance.
While I loved the characters, the smut and the romance I do have to say the book seemed to drag a bit. I was constantly waiting for things to happen beyond Poppy and Hawke’s relationship. It wasn’t until the last third of the book where things really start to go down. There were twists and turns and while I saw a couple of them coming from miles away, the ending did shock me.
The world-building also was a bit off. I had a hard time keeping the different peoples straight, which now I know why from the ending, but there were also info dumps periodically. There were actual textbook readings that I wanted to skip but knew would probably be info needed later on. It wasn’t Crescent City level info dump but it could have been a bit smoother.
Overall though I loved From Blood and Ash. It was such a pleasant surprise release and I can more than get past the pacing and world-building issues because the characters themselves were so well written and I loved them. The wait for book two is going to be a hard one and I can’t wait to continue Hawke and Poppy’s story. Beware the cliffhanger though.