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From Blood and Ash Book Review

Updated: Oct 24

Guess who's back on the blog for our Monsters & Magic theme? With a late review for a book I read a couple months ago, no less. Tis what it is.


From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout is a dark, vampiric fantasy romance that took me by surprise. It's been a while since I've gotten sucked (hah) into a book so thoroughly, and it's a perfect read for spooky season.


Onward, witches!


From Blood and Ash Review Coffee, Book, and Candle

Genre: NA Dark Romantasy


Category: Cozy Read

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RATING: 4/5 Stars

Plot: 3/5 stars

Characters: 4/5 stars

World: 4/5 stars


Pairings: Poppy's Stew + Heartmates Sangria

 

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.

 

PLOT & WORLD


The plot and world are initially what hooked me. From Blood and Ash is mostly set at a medieval-esque keep in the kingdom of Masadonia, cut off from the rest of the world by a Blood Forest (cheesy-sounding, but mY gOtH vIbEs approve). The forest is full of ashen trees with blood-red leaves and crawling with Craven—vampiric creatures devoid of humanity and driven by bloodlust. It is said the Craven are made by Atlantians, descendants of the gods who control the Craven and have wiped out the rest of the land with them.


Supposedly, the Ascended are the only ones keeping the remaining Atlantians and Craven at bay. Ascended are nobility "blessed by the gods" with immortal lives and the strength to protect their people.


Like all rich and powerful folks, the nobility abuse their position. They delight in holding their people's fear over them and are not telling the whole truth—no one knows what goes on during the Ascension or how Poppy, the main character and Maiden, is supposed to usher in a new era.


These are the questions that drew me in. It's not the most creative plot—hence why it's rated lowest. But if you've read our reviews, you know we're forgiving of a cheesy plot if the world and characters keep our attention, which was the case here.


The plot is a standard formula: bad nobles are in control and lying to everyone, the main character is the special chosen one, and by meeting dark-broody-new-guy, she unlocks the secrets of her world so she can begin making informed decisions that are actually everyone else telling her what to do.


Eh.


But you know what? I speed-read that shit. I consumed it like a bag of Halloween candy to satisfy a sweet tooth. Because despite having a predictable plot, it was exactly what I wanted: a character-driven, romance-heavy read with a snarky villain love interest and enough gothic vibes and blood to kick it into spooky territory. I didn't have to think too much about it, and I'm okay with that type of fantasy sometimes.


Now on to the heart of the story.



CHARACTERS


We're first introduced to our main character Poppy, or Penellaphe Balfour, the Maiden who's a headstrong rule-breaker. She routinely sneaks out to a local, seedy inn to observe the life around her. And yes, this is meant to set her apart as "super special heroine who's different from all the others," but I like that she's not as robotic as others in that trope. She's both fanciful and jaded, girlish but badass in a fight, and eager to experience life yet full of rage and questions.


She's not the most well-rounded character I've read, but I like that she's suspicious of everyone's motives well before "new guy who makes her question everything." She suffers routine abuse at the hands of the keep's lord (and because he's in power, he knows he can get away with it), but her simmering rage is overshadowed by love for her father figure—Vikter, the captain of the guard who raised her and taught her how to defend herself—and her desire for a better world, despite having lost her parents in a brutal Craven attack and seeing so much suffering around her.


Poppy's "gift" is that she can sense and soothe emotions, so she insists on going with Vikter to ease the deaths of those who are bitten by Craven. By law, those people are supposed to be burned in the village center to make an example of those who venture beyond the city's protection. But some of the guards have formed a group who believe in "dignity in death." They sneak into homes at night to deliver a quiet and peaceful death to those victims, with Poppy's gift granting them comfort and bliss in their final moments.


I wish this had been expanded on. This concept has such somber appeal, and I would have been all for a gutting read. I almost expected it, in fact.


Nope. The focus shifts very quickly to the romance, which is also fine. Part of me just wishes the two emotions had been blended better.


Which brings us to Hawke, Poppy's new personal guard who not only bends the rules, but gets under Poppy's skin and forces her to reckon with every misgiving she has about the world and role she grew up in.


And, dear readers, he is basically Damon Salvatore with slightly higher morality.


“Would you love to hear that I really like you?" he asked.
My heart skipped a beat, but I ignored the stupid organ. "Would you be sad if I said no?"
"I'd be devastated.”


“The next time you go out, wear better shoes and thicker clothing. Those slippers are likely to be the death of you, and that dress... the death of me.”

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“Most people aren’t as insane as you,” I said in a throaty voice that wasn’t mine.
“That’s not a very nice thing to say.” He scraped harder with his sharp teeth, just below where he’d bitten me before, and I gasped as my body jerked. “And the truth is, you like my brand of insanity.”


Bodies lines the walls, arms outstretched, and spikes of bloodstone nailed through their hands. Some had received a reddish-brown stake through the center of their chests, others through their head.
[...] "I promised you they'd pay for what they did."


“It doesn’t matter if I want—”
“And you do want.” His whisper danced over my cheek. “What you want is me.”
My breath caught. “That doesn’t matter.”
“What you want should always matter.”



I won't lie—Hawke is about 75% of my reason for binging this book.


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TL;DR


If you like romance-heavy dark fantasy with a sympathetic villain love interest, a stabby heroine, and gothic vampire vibes that you don't have to think too heavily about, From Blood and Ash might be for you. The plot isn't the most intrinsic (and the writing is jarring and seemingly unedited at times), but I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a villain romance or something to scratch the itch from your latest Vampire Diaries binge.


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Have you read From Blood and Ash? What did you think? Drop a comment below or find us haunting Twitter or bookstagram to chat with us there!

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