Top critical review
Unpopular Opinion But Still an Enjoyable Read!
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 3, 2021
Before I jump into my (likely unpopular!) opinions of The Crown of Gilded Bones, let’s recap where things left off in A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire. Poppy and Casteel had A LOT to work through since he basically kidnapped her to use as ransom against the Queen of Solis in From Blood and Ash. Understandably, there’s a ton of conversations in which Casteel, Kieran, and everyone else has to convince Poppy that the Atlantians aren’t the enemy and that they really are (mostly) peaceful people, but it takes awhile for Poppy to come around. There is also lots of chatter about the impending marriage of Casteel and Poppy, which clearly she was not down for since Casteel whisked her away from Masadonia. However, as the novel progresses and more evidence of the horrors of Solis are exposed, Poppy’s hatred of Casteel starts to dwindle and she realizes that even though his approach to wooing her wasn’t ideal, she really does love him. Eventually the two marry (right before a straight up battle goes down in Spessa’s End… YIKES!), and she and Casteel travel the rest of the way to Atlantia to meet up with Casteel’s parents. Long story short, everything goes to heck in a handbasket, as Poppy is attacked and it is revealed that she is the true queen of Atlantia by bloodright. Then BOOM! We had to wait for the next book on that wild cliffhanger.
As I mentioned in my reviews for the other two books in this series, I thoroughly enjoy the way Armentrout has crafted this universe. I won’t lie to you all: There are still times that it is so complex that my head spins a little and I forget things, but I think she and her editors knew this would happen, as there are often clarifications added into those points to jog the reader’s memory. However, in terms of plot, I felt like the storyline drug on for too long at some points and that not enough details were included in others. The plot still flowed nicely from point to point, but the inconsistent pacing was jarring sometimes as I was reading and messed with my ability to fully absorb what was happening at times.
Since From Blood and Ash, Poppy has come a long way in terms of character development. This was particularly evident in the leap from From Blood and Ash to A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, with less development occuring in The Crown of Gilded Bones. This totally makes sense in a way because Poppy has so much coping to do in the first two books that probably things that were happening around her didn’t shock her a ton in the third book except for some more traumatic experiences that went down (no spoilers, I swear!). I will say that I was pleased to see that she does become more comfortable in her own skin and isn’t afraid to speak up as much in TCOGB, and I was always so excited to see her put her foot down and basically command any room she was in. Through everything, I was so pleased to see that Poppy is still super kickbutt at fighting and being all stabby, and I hope this trait continues to be a part of who she is in the books to come because it is my absolute favorite thing about her. I can’t really talk about the ending because *spoilers*, but I will say that that was my absolute favorite Poppy moment to date and I hope the fire we see in her then will stick with her in the next book!
Oh, Casteel. Okay, so like I said, this review is going to have some unpopular opinions in it, and this could be one of the big ones for those of you who are fictionally married to this guy. I’ll start with the positives here: He’s super smokin’, has some really dope combat skills (just like Poppy those his methods of murder are somewhat unconventional), he does everything he can to protect those he loves, and when he takes a notion to joke around, he’s super witty and funny. However, I really had an issue with Casteel in The Crown of Gilded Bones. It has been established that Casteel loves the people of Atlantia, but that didn’t really shown through since he was more concerned about Poppy 99% of the time. Yes, he should care about her, but sometimes I felt like it was at the expense of others which just doesn’t line up with how devoted he was said to be to his people. Additionally, he was selfless to the point of no return. I love a good character that is willing to do anything for those they love, but some of his actions just seemed unnecessarily heroic to me. I know some of you want to punch me and that’s fine (unless you actually try to… then please refrain!), but something about Casteel just wasn’t it for me in this book. I have faith that the next book may change my mind about him, but alas it is too soon to tell!
A huge plus for me was getting to reacquaint myself with all of the amazing supporting characters in this series. Kieran has my freaking soul, and dare I say this… I like him so much more than I do Poppy and Casteel at this point. I’m not even sure why that is but I can’t help but smile every time his name popped up or he cracked some joke at the most inappropriate of times. Delano, Naill, Vonetta, and Emil just keep getting better and better, and it was so good to see more dialogue pop up with these guys in it in TCOGB. I’m super excited to see more of these guys in the next installment, and I hope they have even more opportunities to showcase their personalities then becuase I literally live for them!
And here I go, beign the bearer of bad news. Unfortunately, there were some additional aspects of this book that just didn’t jive for me. The first is that the partnership aspect of the romance is starting to fizzle for me a bit. For some reason, it just felt like Poppy wasn’t as invested in being a support system for Casteel when he is firmly invested in providing emotional support to her. This one-sidedness really got on my nerves, and I really hope this gets turned around in the next book because I really want to love this couple. Speaking of romance… Each book in this series has been someone scandalous in one way or another, but I felt like TCOGB took this to an extreme that, for me, disrupted the plot in not great ways. I totally understand that one of the big things about Poppy’s character is the fact that she has been forced to not have physical connections to other people, but it just seemed like certain types of moments were overused in this book.
As a whole, I really enjoyed The Crown of Gilded Bones. The worldbuilding was exceptional, the supporting characters were so much fun to get reacquainted with, and, per Jennifer’s style, the plot twists just kept on coming. While I can’t say this book didn’t have some (what I would consider) flaws, the overall reading experience was enjoyable, and I am eager to get my hands on the next installment, The War of Two Queens, in March of 2022. Thank goodness I have A Shadown in the Ember, a spin-off novel, releasing in just a few months to tide me over until next year!