If there is a book that conquered me from the first pages, it was Blood and Ashes. He has a complicated fantasy to place himself at first, but he didn’t hinder my progress, and still made me eager to proceed. Of the various reasons that made me like the work, among them is the protagonist. Poppy has her destiny sealed, having been chosen as Maid of her realm.
Of blood and ashes left me with a major book hangover. Each time I opened the book, I was taken to another world, and my worldly problems momentarily ceased to exist. I really got lost in the story. And then one day, I finished the book and I was left with an undertone of sadness. I didn’t want the book to end; I could have kept reading for another 600 pages. That right there says everything you need to know about this book. It was so good that I, a not so easy reader, was left wanting more.
A big part of what makes this book so enjoyable is its story. It is an original and highly captivating story filled with an otherworldly setting, forbidden love, intrigue and many twists and turns. Regarding the first point, the mythical world in which this story takes place is so well described that you can close your eyes and imagine yourself there without much difficulty. Additionally, the amount of detail provided in the world’s history and lore gives the world a sense of realism.
Of course, the highlight of the story is the novel’s subplot. The dynamic between Poppy and Hawke is perfect. I love the back-and-forth banter as well as Poppy’s teasing of Hawke. Their mutual attraction is evident from their first meeting, but the romance is a slow burn, with the anticipation that they will reunite building up over the course of the book. Given the ending of the book, I’m curious to see how things play out between them in the sequel (, now you’ll have to read the book to see what I mean by 😁 ).
Aside from the page-turning romance, the book has its fair share of twists and unforeseen moments that add to its overall likeability. You’ll be reading through a seemingly unremarkable cutscene, and then – BAM – something completely unexpected will happen. This has the effect of keeping you on your toes and leaving you wondering what will happen next by the end of the book (and even then, you’ll still have some unanswered questions).
As far as the pacing of the book goes, it’s ideal. It’s never slow to the point of dullness, nor does it move so quickly that things feel rushed. There are also always soothers between action-packed scenes, allowing you to catch your breath after intense moments.
Now to talk about the characters. The primary and secondary characters are well crafted and look realistic. The protagonists, Poppy and Hawke, are particularly well written. You learn enough about their respective histories, personalities, and internal struggles that they take on in some depth. This level of detail also has the effect of making the reader care about them; we invest in their stories and read to see how things play out for them. Secondary characters perfectly fulfill the role of supporting characters: they add to the story without ever taking too much focus away from the protagonists.
Armentrout’s writing is what brings this story home. Using a first-person narrative from Poppy’s point of view, she creates an immersive and engaging reading experience. From the very first page, she grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until the final word of the book. She creates realistic dialogue capable of eliciting everything from laughter to anger. She also drops bits of foreshadowing throughout the book, a writing technique I like. In short, she is a wonderful storyteller.
Reading it was a rollercoaster of events and feelings, having a large number of pages, but I didn’t even notice how quickly I got involved. The book has heavy scenes, with detailed deaths and explicit sex scenes. I knew before I even read it that I would like it, and I nailed it. The story captivates for several reasons. Thus, for those who like fantasy and romance, it can also be an excellent reading choice.