A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire: A Blood and Ash Novel (Blood and Ash, Book 2) Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout comes the next novel in her Blood and Ash series....
Is Love Stronger Than Vengeance?
Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.
Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants - to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself - about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation.
But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late.
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|Listening Length||24 hours and 21 minutes|
|Author||Jennifer L. Armentrout|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||November 03, 2020|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #453 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#6 in Fantasy Romance (Audible Books & Originals)
#7 in Paranormal Romance (Audible Books & Originals)
#94 in Fantasy Romance (Books)
Reviewed in the United States on September 1, 2020
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Top reviews from the United States
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"He may hate being called the Dark One, but he has earned that name..But he’s the one thing in all the kingdoms that you, and only you, never have to fear.”
There is no author quite like Armentrout that knows how to write an alpha that makes you want to hit him and love him at the same time. Hawke has now revealed himself to be Casteel, the Prince of Atlantia, and wants Poppy as his bride. But it’s not only because he wants her, but because he needs to use the now former Maiden to get his older brother, and rightful future King, back. And Poppy is about to learn so much more about who she is and what the Maiden was really for. Get ready to be amazed when secret after secret gets revealed and everything that Poppy thought she knew is about to get blown out of the water.
“Your heart, Poppy? It is a gift I do not deserve. But it is one I will protect until my dying breath."
Poppy, feeling betrayed by the man she believed herself to be falling in love with, refuses to consider to marriage to Casteel but when she begins to realize that some things that he has told her is true, she agrees to a fake engagement but with her own stipulations to try and save her brother as well as his.
“Your heart was always safe with me. It always will be. There is nothing I will protect more fiercely or with more devotion, Poppy. Trust in that—in what you feel from me. In me.”
But Casteel doesn’t make it easy to resist him. Lordy, Casteel is wicked and those dimples and dirty mouth of his make Poppy weak in the knees and there is only so much the heart can take. When she finally opens her eyes and remembers that Casteel sees her as Poppy, and not just the Maiden. That he values her strength, her courage, her bravery, and even her violence. That he doesn’t want to suppress her which is something that she’s had to deal with all her life, she stops fighting it and wants what’s between them to be real. My heart!!!
“There is no side of you that is not as beautiful as the other half. Not a single inch isn’t stunning.” His lashes lifted, and the intensity in his stare held me captive. “That was true the first time I said it to you, and it is still the truth today and tomorrow.”
If I could give this 10 stars, it would still not be enough for me. It’s the only way to explain how I read over 600 pages and I didn’t want it to end. The story is engrossing, the characters are stellar, the relationship between Casteel and Poppy is swoon-worthy, and that ending is another massive cliffhanger that made me need more. Do not go into this book thinking that you are going to be able to recover easily because you will not. I’m still reeling from it all and I just want to reread it from the first book. I have not been so addicted to a JLA series since Lux and I can not wait to read more. Gah, stop reading my review and go buy this ASAP!
Have you ever read a book that COULD be good, but WASN'T?
Have you ever read a book you had to WORK to finish reading (fiction, not college text on labwork)?
For all the layout, the slowwwww layout, it was lacking needed build.
Content was all over the place, sometimes great and sometimes my head hurt just trying to get past it.
The characters are ok... thats all. (I'll explain)
I don't care if characters do things I expect or like (or not), it's a book and I'm open to the story. But, these characters are missing things...they are a mix; Super detailed in their buildout...but for only half of their story (like a portrait, half completed nicely and half with missing details ,colors, and dented canvas.) Some are also barely constructed and paper flat in creation.
I would like Poppy as a charcter, but she can honestly shut up for about 70% of her inner crap. I would like Hawke/Cass but he is written so shallowly repetitive. The banter is dismal.
I feel like I shoved myself through the first book (literally scanning to read the parts about the characters that mattered), and was genuinely mad because I wanted to know about the charcters enough that I bought the second book to just get done. (I'm a finisher)
And getting done meant exactly nothing, the ending is as hacked as the rest of the two books.
My only consolation was it cost me less $ than lunch to read both books, and I finished them in less than 24 hrs.
Would I buy them again? No. I wouldn't have missed anything.
Now that I'm done I have zero desire to know these characters better and zero desire to follow this worlds other characters (which is also frustrating, because several characters had such potential for more)
These books remind me of a lush salad that looks really good, but has little chunks of mushy brown hiding under and stuck to the crispy green, and off tasting dressing coating all the best parts. I literally scraped dressing and picked through the salad eating what good stuff I could just to get done enough to feel like I had a salad. Would I order it again? Not worth the risk.
I didn't think that I could like any book as much as From Blood and Ash, but this book is just as good. There are so many things that come out in this follow up and so many AHA moments. I still have so many questions I need answered and I am waiting for my next fix on pins and needles. This series is amazing. If you haven't started it, fix that now.
Top reviews from other countries
The book picks up exactly where it left off. Poppy is hurt and angry by what Casteel has done, and is not happy with the prospect of marriage. The first 30% of the novel sees her pretty much confined to her room (minus one escape attempt). It’s basically one long scene and there is so much of Poppy thinking about how she feels, and masses of dialogue where huge amounts of historical information are dumped out. Then we see a little action and I was thinking, brilliant this is where it kicks off. But not really. Then we’re back to pages and page of dialogue and info dump. My brain was actually hurting at one point with all of the names of gods and previous kings and I just wanted something to happen to break up the exposition.
It’s not until the very end of the novel that we really see something begin to happen and a huge battle scene. It was great, but was so short and I couldn’t help feeling like it could have happened way earlier.
In all honesty this book was way too long and could have been condensed considerably. The pacing was slow and even worse it was riddled with grammatical errors. You can kind of forgive those in a self published novel (although not really). But this was released by a publishing house who obviously did very little editing. A simple read through would have picked up a lot of the errors.
The author also uses the same phrases over and over again. After seeing the same things repeated five times it gets a little irritating.
I enjoyed elements of the story. But it really was a let down in terms of pacing and progression of the plot. Great idea, poor execution :(
Poppy is still processing Hawke's betrayal, she is angry, hurt, and confused. In a very short span of time, she has learned that everything she has known is a lie and the person she was starting to fall in love with is someone else entirely. The first chunk of this book is all about Poppy coming to terms with this, the most obvious issue of Hawke being Casteel. It was heartwrenching reading some of the scenes between them - so much hurt but there is also a lot of healing and that was kind of beautiful. Casteel is not a perfect guy, and he doesn't try to be, and this is what makes him him, I would have really liked a few chapters from his perspective.
As well as the emotional parts of this book there are a lot of kick as moments and battles. Poppy snark and stabby tendencies are on point throughout. As well as the ever-looming threat of the ascended which made me feel on edge whilst reading justing waiting from the to strike.
For all its flaws, I actually really enjoyed From Blood and Ash, and began this second book with high hopes. Unfortunately, the flaws in this second book outweighed the positives for me, and my biggest gripe was simply the sheer length of the book, when for what the actual plot is, it should have been half the length. The story takes ages to actually get going, and then just when you think it has, it stalls again, and so the pattern continues.
I assumed the book would change setting to the kingdom of Atlantia, where our heroes are journeyed, fairly early on, yet they actually only begin this journey over a third of the way in, and don't arrive till the last 2 or 3 chapters. The whole book is taken up with just the getting there, and nor does really all that much happen along the way. Yes, there are some action sequences interspersed throughout the book, mostly all involving attacks from the Ascended, and 1 encounter with a violent tribe of people known as the Dead Bones clan. Other than this the book focuses mostly on the relationship between Poppy and Casteel, and yet not in a good way.
I enjoyed their relationship as Poppy and Hawke in the first book, and I do think there was a lot of potential in how things could have been handled and explored in the wake of Hawke, aka, Casteel's betrayal of Poppy and the rebuilding of trust between them, yet the way it was actually handled was just too adolescent for me personally. I appreciate this is a Young/New Adult series, but the writing and depiction here was just cringey in parts. There are endless repetitive arguments and conversations between the characters, not to mention lengthy, endless internal monologues from Poppy's point of view where she deliberates over the same things. It is so obvious that both she and Casteel have feelings for each other, such that this whole 'pretending' business that goes on for more or less the whole book, and general angst around their relationship just feels so unnecessary and contrived, though towards the end this then switches to just sickly-sweet levels of being in love, with Casteel forever telling Poppy he is not worthy of her, blah, blah, blah.
In terms of characterization, I liked Poppy in the first book, and particularly the angle of her being the Maiden, with this destiny and veiled existence that means she lives in a gilded cage, with her torn between duty and her own desires. But that all falls to the wayside here, and there is not really anything about her that stands out from other YA fantasy heroines. She is now just the typically feisty heroine, who seems to have these strange powers no-one quite understands, that grow through the book. Yes, she is still compassionate, wanting to help those in pain with her powers, but otherwise her character seems to be served by either constantly asking questions, for narrative purposes, or being angsty.
In my review for the last book, I mentioned I was unsure about my feelings towards Hawke at the book's end, though I had overall liked his character as Poppy's personal guard. Here, we essentially get to know the real Casteel, who as predicted, is a much more complicated character than Hawke. Certainly he has an interesting backstory, that makes for a tortured character, however, again this was just handled in too Young Adult a way, with too many vibes of Rhysand from the ACOTAR series by Sarah Maas, such that he didn't feel original.
I did enjoy Kieran's character and the fact we got to know him better. I liked his sense of humour, and easy-going way, and also his loyalty to Casteel. There are other new characters introduced, but none that I could say I feel too strongly about. Alastair seems rather too obviously dubious to me personally.
We do get a lot more information on Atlantia's heritage I suppose, learning more about the different types of Atlantians and Wolven, varying bloodlines and links and ancestry to the Gods. There is a lot of speculation throughout the book regarding which bloodline Poppy, who is half-Atlantian, descends from, though the answer is never resolved, if anything the cliff-hanger ending just throwing more questions to this regards. I am interested in the world-building with regards to Atlantia, and towards the end of the story things happen that suggest we still don't know the truth about Poppy, which again I am interested in, as well the wider story of the Atlantians and Ascended, unfortunately there just wasn't enough of that story in this book.
I will at some point read the next book in the series. I had initially thought it was a trilogy, but it turns out there are more books planned, and even a prequel book that relates to the Gods, which I am particularly interested in. I would have thought for the main series though, 3 books would likely have been enough, and the fact that I know the next one is not the last, makes me worry it is yet again going to be filled with endless filler. As such, I think I will be taking a break from this series for the time being, and will likely come back to it at some point.
Overall more of a 2.5 star rating, though I've rounded it up to 3 stars.
I want to talk about the characters and the relationships, but I feel like I am entering spoiler territory for the first book - so if you haven't read the first book then I would definitely recommend it - and you can check out my review of From Blood and Ash which I have linked above.
Firstly, Poppy is just incredible, we see her awakening in the first book, she realises that most of the things she has been told are lies and half truths, and she deals with it all so well, even if that means getting stabby with a certain person. She grows and listens and we get to witness her internal struggle as has to chose who and what to believe. I love that she is vulnerable and brave at the same time, that she is capable of taking care of herself in a phyiscal sense (she is so badass I love her) but also that in many ways she is so innocent. She had no clue about relationships or even friendships because she had no frame of reference. It all makes for very compelling reading!
I also want to say that with her relationship the power dynamic is literally perfection. I am a huge fan of enemies to lovers, and I love the relationship Poppy has in these books. The fact that she has the nickname Princess melts my heart. I love that she threatens to stab, well just about anyone who annoys her, and follows through with it too. I love that she is such a good person, and wants to help, even those who do not want her help, even those who hate her. The banter between her and Cas is just so swoon worthy - I do love snarky banter!
Cas is literally perfect, and he reminds me a lot of Roth from the Dark Element series, the way he baits Poppy and the things he says to her and yes the fact that he calls her Princess. But we also get to see beyond the snark and the confidence in this book, we get to see him ask Poppy to just pretend even though they are alone. We get to see his vulnerable side which makes him all the more appealing. Though to be fair we also get to see him rip the heart out of a mouthy wolven too.
These is a whole range of new characters, but one of the highlights for me was Kieran. He is an amazing character and I love that we get to see more of him in this book, that he is the voice of reason (most of the time) and tells both Poppy and Cas the truth even when, especially when they don't want to hear it. I hope that we get to find out more about the Wolven in future books.
I don't want to spoil anything of this book so I am just going to say, I loved it - my favourite read of the 80odd books I have read this year, I loved it even more than From Blood and Ash even though before I started it I could not see how that would be possible. And that everything was perfect, pacing, plot, worldbuilding and characters. I just adore Jennifer L Armentrout's writing style and I now need to focus my efforts on reading the rest of her amazing sounding backlist and trying to resist the urge to reread the two Blood as Ash book whilst I wait (impatiently) for book three which I believe is due to be released in Spring 2021.