Top critical review
Frustratingly slow pacing. Hawke still sucks as a person. Still needs an editor.
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on June 11, 2021
I was not as drawn in to and invested in this novel as I was during From Blood and Ash. This book took me much longer to read and I felt less attached to the story and the characters.
The book starts with Hawke telling Poppy that she will marry him and that she has no choice in the matter. When she asks him why, Hawke takes 150 pages to get to the point of actually telling her why. This book definitely could have been shorter than it was.
After around page 250, I became bored and was waiting for the story to end, reading very slowly because I couldn’t really focus on it—this is the total opposite reaction I had to the first book where I couldn’t read the pages fast enough. The first book was slow but interesting and engaging. The second book did not engage me until the last quarter or so, and I struggled to connect to it or enjoy it up until that point.
A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire can be summed up thusly: boy likes girl but won’t actually admit it; girl likes boy but won’t actually admit it either; boy openly declares he’s selfishly using girl to get his brother back from the enemy; girl openly declares she’s going along with the plan to also get her brother back from the enemy. Neither of them admits they like each other, both of them are using each other, but both of them only care about each other. It’s kind of tiring to see this back and forth, Poppy saying how much she hates Hawke while she’s refusing to admit to herself that she actually does want to be with him. This book tried to play on that whole trope of neither one admits they like each other, but I honestly found it to be a bit unbelievable, especially in the beginning. Hawke is just so mean to Poppy and he’s manipulative and controlling. I don’t understand why Poppy likes him when he’s using her against her will, and when he’s finally manipulated her into agreeing with him, he claims he will let her go if she wants, only for her to say no because she actually wants to stay, but she only wants to stay because Hawke manipulated her into it. It’s so messed up.
I’ve never been fully on board with the romance in this series; after feeling very conflicted about Hawke at the end of book one, I went into book two with my guard up and didn’t trust a word Hawke said as he’s known to be a habitual liar toward Poppy. Hawke shows us once again in this book that he is abusive and controlling. He kidnaps Poppy, locks her up in a cell, and demands her to marry him despite her wishes not to. Then he tells her he’s only using her as bait and is going to trade her back to the very people who abused and lied to her during her whole life in exchange for his brother. Then he makes fun of her for wanting to go back anyway, but she’s supposed to believe he actually cares about her? I’m sorry but what?? Literally not a single one of his actions tells me that he actually cares for her. He’s so manipulative. Poppy questions him and he constantly lies. He’s so arrogant as well. I seriously don’t understand how people think he’s sexy when he’s extremely problematic. I really dislike and distrust Hawke. Or Casteel. Or Douchebag, or whatever else you want to call him. He had tried to redeem himself to Poppy but I just don’t buy it. I’m sure we’ll get a “happily ever after” with them in the next book, but I still don’t like Casteel as a person and I personally don’t find him to be a desirable love interest.
One thing I did like about the romance aspect, however, is that this book isn’t as spicy as the first book. Casteel and Poppy spend most of the book playing “pretend” and won’t admit that they do actually like each other. Of course there’s still some spice, but it’s less frequent than in the first book, and I skimmed over those scenes anyway because I just didn’t care to read about it. Eventually, Casteel and Poppy finally got their crap together and admitted their feelings to each other, and I started enjoying the story a lot more after that because Casteel shared a lot of information with Poppy that she needed and deserved to know.
One aspect I really enjoyed about From Blood and Ash that we didn’t see as much in the sequel is Poppy’s fierceness. She still threatens Casteel and defends herself, but she was so much more hardcore in the first book, so I wish that trait had been carried over.
I enjoyed A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, but I also couldn’t wait for it to be over. It took me almost a full month to read this book, which kind of frustrated me, but I just wasn’t in the mood to read it very often and then I would get bored or distracted and put it down. The first 200 pages were engaging, and the last 200 pages were exciting, but the middle 200-ish pages were where I really struggled to remain interested in the story. The entire novel is a journey from Masadonia to Atlantia, and a lot of the content in the middle was just them trekking along on their journey, and I personally feel like a lot of it could have been cut out as it was the slowest and least interesting portion of the story. I also really disliked and was distracted by the plethora of editing errors that plague this novel. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t at least point that out.
I’m still looking forward to continuing on to the third book in the near future as the ending—while not as mindblowing to me as it seems to be to some—has me questioning what will happen next. I’m mostly just interested in the fantasy politics in this series and the entertaining time I have while reading it, so hopefully that continues in The Crown of Gilded Bones.