Title: From blood and ash
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Series: From blood and ash, part 1
Genre(s): Fantasy, romance
My rating: 4/5 stars
Other books by this author: A lot, on the author's website you can find all the titles.
Find Jennifer L. Armentrout here:
From blood and ash follows the story of Poppy, who lives as a maiden. She must not be touched, spoken to or fully seen by anyone. Her face is always covered. She is not looked after, but still there is a lot of pressure on her shoulders because Poppy has to be found worthy by the gods to give the kingdom a future. Something Poppy often has a hard time with. She sometimes slips away and one day she meets a young man with whom she has a short adventure, something that is forbidden for a maiden. When the same young man - also known as Hawke Flynn - is chosen as her new guard, the story really begins. When a fallen kingdom demands their rights and shows up, her life is turned upside down and it turns out the empire is not as safe as she thought it was.
In this story, you follow Poppy, she is also the main character. In the beginning Poppy comes across as a naive person, who doesn't know much and has little knowledge of the world. But as the story progresses, Poppy turns out to be a real warrior, who knows and understands more than you as a reader might think in the beginning. She really goes through a development from a somewhat boring, naive character, to a fighter who is not afraid to stand up to someone.
Someone who really brings her into this development is Hawke. When he is chosen as Poppy's new guardian, he immediately spends a lot of time with her. Maybe a bit too much sometimes. He's also the one who knows how to find her when she escapes and has deep conversations with her. Something Poppy - because she's not really allowed to talk to anyone - hasn't had much of in her life. Hawke mostly likes to tease Poppy and although she denies that she likes it, as a reader you get that what she says isn't quite the truth. The scenes where Hawke and Poppy are together are fun to read and don't go too fast. There is a nice growth in their relationship and as a reader it is fun to follow. However, it becomes clear pretty quickly that Hawke is also hiding things here and there and that there will be a plot twist there too.
Then there are Vikter and Tawny, two side characters who both have a very nice personality and who it is also fun to read about. Just like the rest of the characters in the story, they also follow their own mission. Though that mainly consists of preparing Poppy for what lies ahead for her. All characters start the story differently than they leave it and not everyone's growth is clearly visible, but when you look back later on you can see that the growth has been there. It is wonderful to follow these characters.
I really enjoyed reading this story, although I had already expected that. I have not read any books by this author that I did not like. I like her style of writing and always get into the stories very quickly. The same goes for this story. Although, I found it a bit slow in the beginning, with a bit much explanation of which I did not remember everything, and a fairly boring character. I kept on reading and then after a few chapters the story became a lot more fun indeed. I think I really got into it when Hawke became her new guardian. From then on, things really started to happen for me. Here and there I could predict things that would happen (also because I may have seen a bit too much fan art of some things, whoops), but despite that I still found it a lot of fun to read.
The tropes that were woven into the story were fun to follow, even if I found some of them a bit too cliché for me at times. But fortunately it never took too long and I could just read it. I think that a little more attention could have been paid to further world building here and there, because it seemed like a really interesting empire, but I still don't feel like I know how it really works. But maybe that will still come later in the series.
I liked it in this story that the author did not leave everyone alive by default. I mean, people die in battles, and I never like it when it's only the 'bad' ones. The 'good' ones can die too. And I thought this author had a stable division in that. When the battles really broke out, the story moved at high speed and really made you turn page after page. Fortunately, there were a few slower scenes in between to calm down the reader. The scenes between Hawke and Poppy were especially fun to read. The teasing between those two, and not always wanting to admit that they enjoyed it, made their relationship a lot deeper for me. Although there were a few moments where it went on a bit too long for my liking, that didn't spoil the fun.
The end came as both a big surprise to me and as a prediction that came true. Anyways, I thought it was well built up towards it and well executed. All sorts of things became clear and it was also clear that Poppy had become a stronger character. That last sentence did scare me a bit, because I didn't want it to go a certain way (I'm not posting spoilers here). But when I started part 2, I saw to my luck that there would be a lot of talk about it. Which I personally really like, because it would be a big change and after everything that had just happened it wouldn't be quite in place yet. So I like the fact that it wasn't all 'yes and amen' right away.
Apart from some minor points, I found this a great book to read and I felt completely at home again in the writing style of this author. I am very curious what the other parts in this series will bring.
From blood and ash is a fantasy novel for anyone who likes a bit of mystery, with lots of romance and a steamy scene here and there. The story easily takes you as a reader into the world where it takes place and makes you feel the emotions that are being felt by the characters. If you read a lot of fantasy, some of the plot twists are easy to predict, but that doesn't make the story any less fun. The end leaves you longing for the second part and I recommend you to read it in quick succession. Especially if you are already a fan of other books by this author, this is a book you do not want to miss.
Let's finish with one of my favorite quotes from the book:
"Fear and bravery are often one and the same. It either makes you a warrior or a coward. The only difference is the person it resides inside."
- Jennifer L. Armentrout. From blood and ash.