The War of Two Queens by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary:
War is only the beginning…
From the desperation of golden crowns…
Casteel Da’Neer knows all too well that very few are as cunning or vicious as the Blood Queen, but no one, not even him, could’ve prepared for the staggering revelations. The magnitude of what the Blood Queen has done is almost unthinkable.
And born of mortal flesh…Nothing will stop Poppy from freeing her King and destroying everything the Blood Crown stands for. With the strength of the Primal of Life’s guards behind her, and the support of the wolven, Poppy must convince the Atlantian generals to make war her way—because there can be no retreat this time. Not if she has any hope of building a future where both kingdoms can reside in peace.
A great primal power rises…Together, Poppy and Casteel must embrace traditions old and new to safeguard those they hold dear—to protect those who cannot defend themselves. But war is only the beginning. Ancient primal powers have already stirred, revealing the horror of what began eons ago. To end what the Blood Queen has begun, Poppy might have to become what she has been prophesied to be—what she fears the most.
As the Harbinger of Death and Destruction.

Review:
The War of Two Queens has created some controversy in the book community. I certainly have some thoughts, but I think the best way for me to write this review is going to be to do my what I liked/what I didn’t like kind of review. I think that I am going to talk spoilers for this review because there are some things that really impacted my thoughts of this book that I can’t talk about without spoilers. So, if you don’t want to read spoilers about this book, stop reading here.

What I Liked:

I liked Poppy. Poppy is powerful as hell and only continues to gain power as she completes the Culling. I absolutely loved seeing Poppy lose control and lose her shit on those that test her. But I also really liked seeing her able to pull back and control her abilities when she needed to. Poppy is a Queen in this book and since she and Casteel are separated, Poppy must stand as a queen on her own, and damn did she succeed. I also really loved seeing Poppy hold her own when she came up against Isbeth.

I really liked seeing the ties between the Blood and Ash series and the Flesh and Fire series. I liked that we got hints of what is to come for the next book in the Flesh and Fire series. I think seeing how deep the deception and misinformation about the Gods and the history of their world was fascinating. It’s kind of unbelievable that none of these people know the actual history of their own world.

Millicent. I honestly love her so much. I liked her in the last book, but I loved learning her secrets. I am incredibly eager to see what will happen next in regards to Millicent. I loved her connections to Poppy and I even liked the connections with Malik. There were so many things that Millie was a part of that were left open-ended for future books. I am very excited to see what she does next.

I loved the ending. Isbeth absolutely got what she deserved and I was screaming when she met her end. I was definitely surprised by a few things that happened at the end of the book, but I predicted early on that Kolis was the True King that Isbeth was talking about. But the way that Isbeth went about waking him really surprised me. Guessing the secret about Kolis didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the story because I didn’t know all of the details of what needed to happen for him to return. This also is where a lot of the tie-ins come into play from A Shadow in the Ember and I really loved seeing things revealed about the Consort.

The joining. Okay, so, I liked that the joining happened, but I didn’t like the joining itself. I’ll explain that in the next section. I was always pro-joining, and I definitely think that there was foreshadowing leading up to the joining actually happening. I am happy that Kieran and Casteel are connected through Poppy so we will need to worry less about them dying since Poppy is practically impossible to kill.

What I Didn’t Like:

I’ll just dive right in and explain what I didn’t like about the joining. It was messy as hell. For someone that seems to write some really great sex scenes, this threesome was not good. Poppy basically has no idea what’s going on at all. She’s literally talking about how she doesn’t know whose penis is inside her and who is touching her where, like Poppy, open your eyes and look? The whole scene was just messy and I think it could have been much better.

The side characters that we’ve come to know and love felt like they were barely in this book. We’ve been missing Tawny for several books and once again, she was barely in this book. The same goes for Vonetta and Delano and so many others that I’ve really enjoyed seeing. I wish they’d played more of a role that we got to see in this book.

The dual points of view were not my favorite thing. We got back and forth between Poppy and Casteel and I just didn’t care for some reason. Every time we were in a Casteel chapter, I just wanted to see what Poppy was doing. I don’t know why that is, but I didn’t care for the alternating perspectives.

So, this issue is one that I didn’t actually notice until I read some of the reviews after I finished the book. But this might be why I didn’t really care about Casteel’s chapters. Casteel is such a flat character whose only personality trait is loving Poppy. He feels like he’s only in the story to be Poppy’s hype man and that’s such a difference from the first book. He just slowly lost any sort of purpose outside of loving Poppy.

I didn’t really like the repetition either. The countless jokes about Poppy asking questions, Poppy being stabby, and a few other things are jokes that are just getting a little old at this point. They feel a bit overdone.

Overall:

I’m still total trash for this series and I will be continuing on. I’m still very interested to see how things are going to play out. But I will probably be lowering my expectations for future books. I’m sure there are other things that I could talk about, but these are the highlights of my thoughts. I had a great time while I was reading, but it’s definitely not passing The Dark Elements as my favorite series by Armentrout.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

A Shadow in the Ember by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary:
Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.   
However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then…end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot. 
Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.

Book Cover

Review:
I just finished this book less than an hour ago. So, I think I’ll write this review in the ‘what I liked/what I didn’t like’ format while everything is still fresh in my mind.

What I Liked:

I liked Sera. She’s known her destiny her whole life. She’s resigned to it. But when things don’t go as planned, Sera’s life is changed. Her life still isn’t her own, but she lives at the grace of the Queen, her mother. I thought Sera was interesting because she’s a trained killer, but one with moral objections to killing. She doesn’t think very highly of herself. She basically is just trying to make the best of a bad situation, but she believes herself to be a monster. I liked her fire despite that belief. She’s stubborn and doesn’t know when to keep her mouth shut. She’s funny and fierce. I really liked her.

The world building was interesting. I had a bit of a hard time putting aside the thought of how everything that was in this book became what it is in From Blood and Ash. But when I did, I was really interested by the world. Especially once Sera goes with Nyktos to his court. I loved the mythology and world building around the gods and Primals and their realm. I already can’t wait to learn more about it in the next book in this series and hopefully in the next FBAA book.

I liked Nyktos. I liked him when we met him as Ash and I liked him when his true identity was revealed. I think he was a bit harsh at times. But I’m very excited to see him fight falling in love with Sera and failing. It’s clear that he has a good heart and does his best to help those that need it. The sad story of his parents was good backstory for him. I just liked him.

I really loved the draken. I loved getting to know some of the characters we met briefly in The Crown of Gilded Bones and I loved seeing the baby draken. This sort of goes with the world building, but learning more about the draken was one of my favorite parts of the story. Baby Jadis and Reaver were definitely one of the highlights of this book.

What I Didn’t Like:

I didn’t love the similarities between Sera and Nyktos and Poppy and Casteel. There were a few lines and scenes that felt like the couples were mirroring each other. I couldn’t tell if this was intentional, or if it just happened like that. But it totally took me out of the story when it happened.

The ending, oh, the ending. I just wanted more. The place that this story ended left me wondering what the hell. It felt like it didn’t end in a good concluding place. I wouldn’t call it a cliff hanger, but it just ended and I wanted to know more about what the hell they were going to do next.

This book was 650 pages and it still felt like nothing happened. I understand that Armentrout was setting the scene with how Sera’s life had been since things didn’t go as planned, but it felt like that part of the story really dragged on. We got to know all these characters that she loved and hated, but once she goes with Nyktos, I assume we’re not going to see them again because they’re all in the mortal realm. And yet, I wanted the side characters we meet in Nyktos’ court to be more developed. We only learn a little bit about a few of them, but some seemed like they’ll play a bigger role in the story and I wanted to know more about them. At times, it felt like they were just there because it wouldn’t make sense for Sera and Nyktos to be the only characters in the book.

Overall, I did enjoy reading this book. The sex scenes were excellent. I did grow to love Sera and Nyktos. I will absolutely be continuing the series. I’m incredibly excited to see how this book will tie into the new FBAA book that’s coming out in March. I’m also excited to see what will happen in the next book (which I believe is the conclusion) in this series.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Summary:
She’s been the victim and the survivor…
Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.
The enemy and the warrior…
Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.
A lover and heartmate…
But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.
And now she will become Queen… 

The ​Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash, #3)

Review:
The Crown of Gilded Bones is the third book in the From Blood and Ash series. If you’d like to read my reviews for the first two books, they’re linked here: From Blood and Ash review and A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire review. I’m going to start this review by saying that if you haven’t read the first two books and you plan to, eventually, maybe come back to this review after you’ve done that. I won’t be spoiling anything from The Crown of Gilded Bones, but I will probably be spoiling events from the first two books.
In this third installment of the series, we start right where book two left off. Poppy and Casteel have arrived in Atlantia. There is so much new information being thrown at Poppy. I really liked the way that Armentrout deals with this. Instead of info-dumping, Poppy sort of absorbs everything she’s hearing, maybe asks one or two questions, but saves most of her questions for when there’s actually time for her and Casteel or her and Kieran to sit down and talk about it all. Poppy is the rightful Queen of Atlantia. She has a choice to make whether or not to accept this responsibility. I liked that Poppy wasn’t forced to become the queen just because she is the rightful ruler by blood. Her choice isn’t taken away from her once again, it’s up to her to decide if she wants to be queen. I liked the interactions between Poppy and Casteel and Casteel’s parents. I liked that everything wasn’t just fine and dandy. There was conflict and conversation before being able to actually develop Poppy’s relationship with her mother and father-in-law.
The Wolven come into play often in this book. As Poppy is Queen by blood, the blood of a God, they are loyal to her. I loved this aspect of the story. She’s a little bit uncomfortable with it and her moments spending time with the Wolven definitely added some moments of levity to an action packed and otherwise serious story.  I liked meeting more of the Wolven and even the infamous Gianna. I think Poppy’s bond to the Wolven was a really interesting aspect of the story. She’s exploring what that bond entails (communicating telepathically??) and how it works.
This leads me into Poppy’s godly abilities. There isn’t anyone alive to teach Poppy how to use her abilities. She is a descendent of Nyktos, so she has power over life and death, but as she’s learning in this book, her powers are so much more than that. I really liked seeing Poppy explore her abilities and figure out what she can do and how to do it. I think that it’s another great way that Poppy gains control over her own life. She can do these incredible things, like healing people from the brink of death or the opposite. But she has to choose to learn how and choose to use her powers.
Now, the sex scenes in this book are to die for. There were so many specific sex scenes that I wanted to happen and Armentrout blessed us with them. And not at all surprising, these scenes were even better than what I’d hoped for. I think Armentrout is doing an incredible job showing sex as something natural and fluid thing. Poppy watches someone doing something, because Wolven are very open about their nudity and attraction, and then she tries it with Casteel. I think this is such a great part of the book. There is no shame when it comes to sex for any of the characters and I think that’s such an important thing. I think sex is today’s world can be considered such a taboo and sometimes shameful thing to talk about and I’m so glad that Armentrout only shows it in positive ways.
The world is also opening up so much more. We learn more about the history of the world and we visit new places in Atlantia as well as a secret new place. I think this world is such an interesting one. I have a feeling we will be seeing even more, as there was definitely some foreshadowing of places to come for the rest of the series. It’s here that I also want to mention all the answers we finally get. I was left with so many questions at the end of A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire and almost all of them were answered, though Armentrout certainly left me with an entirely new set of questions. It’s interesting because I had the questions I went into this book with answered but I finished the book and still have so many questions and yet I still feel satisfied with the answers I did get.
Poppy and Casteel are absolutely one of my favorite bookish couples. I think the development of their relationship is so incredibly done. They really are so well suited. Casteel gives Poppy the freedom of choice that she so desperately needs and Poppy gives Casteel the love and support that he needs. They both manage to know exactly what the other needs when they need it. And their sexual chemistry is nothing short of perfection. I loved that even in the most serious of moments, they are joking and being completely inappropriate with one another. It’s just so fitting for who their characters are and how they are together.
Overall, this series just keeps getting better and better. I was absolutely devastated by the events in the final 100 pages of this book and I will be anxiously awaiting book four to see how things play out. I can’t say that I’m not incredibly excited to see a rage filled Poppy take on Solis. It’s going to be glorious and there are so many new things and new information in play. I think the series will just continue to get better and better and I cannot wait.

Quotes:

“I would kill any and all who stood between Casteel and me because we deserved to be together. We deserved a future, a chance to explore each other’s secrets. To love one another. We deserved to simply…live. I would do anything to ensure that.”

“You are the foundation that helps me stand. You are my walls and my roof. My shelter. You are my home.”

“I’d spent the better part of my life clothed from chin to floor, and more than half of my face covered. I knew how to hide. I was only now learning how to be seen.”

“I do not want to be party to forcing you into yet another role you did not ask for nor desire. I will not replace the veil you loathed with a crown you hate. If you do not want to take the Crown, I will support you,” he swore, and the intensity in his words captured me. The irrevocable oath he was making. “And if you decide you want to take what is yours, claim the throne, I will set this entire kingdom on fire and watch it burn if that ensures that the crown sits on your head.”

“Bravery is a fleeting beast, isn’t it? Always there to get you into trouble, but quick to disappear once you’re where you want to be.”

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

Blogmas Book Review: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

GoodReads Summary:
A Maiden…
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.
A Duty…
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.
A Kingdom…
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.
From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash, #1)Review:
How am I supposed to succinctly explain why and how much I loved this book? Armentrout is one of my favorite authors and has been for many years. So, I bought this immediately after it came out, but waited until the second book came out so I could binge read them.
From Blood and Ash follows Poppy. Poppy is the Maiden, which means there are many restrictions on the things she’s allowed to do. This includes who she’s allowed to speak to, touch, and many other medieval ideas. Poppy does her best to follow all of the rules set for her, but she wants more from her life. She has wants and desires. One of the biggest is that she wants to help defend herr kingdom. One of her guards, Vikter, has spent years teaching her how to fight. When Poppy was a child her parents were killed and she never wants to be defenseless like that again. So, she learns to fight and she can’t always stop herself from doing things she probably shouldn’t. When her close friend and guard is killed defending her, she gets a new guard, Hawke. The time she spends with Hawke and the things they talk about lead Poppy to start questioning he role as Maiden and her whole life.
I’m going to stop my summary there because things get pretty complicated after Poppy and Hawke meet. I loved this book. I adored Poppy and I want to reread this book already. Poppy is a fighter. She fights for others before she will fight for herself. She accepts punishments she doesn’t deserve so that others she cares for won’t face punishments. She has a huge heart despite having been treated so poorly by so many people. I love Poppy so much. I also love Hawke. I thought the secrets he was keeping were so interesting. I just wanted to know more about what he knew. Hawke was just all around a fascinating character. There were so many clues about who he really was and I think Armentrout did such a great job of giving us clues and slowly revealing the truth.
Overall, this world and its politics were absolutely fascinating. I just wanted to learn more. I loved the characters. I think Armentrout did such a great job of giving the reader characters we could easily be invested in, and developing relationships, both platonic and romantic, that we would die for. I am very excited to have read this book and I immediately jumped into the second book, so I will have a review for the second book shortly. I also am eagerly awaiting book three. If you like fantasy romance, this will not disappoint.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.