I picked up the new craze from Jennifer L. Armentrout earlier this year and instantly fell in love with the From Blood and Ash series. So, as many were throughout the first half of this year, I was anticipating for the third instalment to be released.
I fell in love with the dynamic relationship between Poppy and Casteel (Hawk) and the fact that the second book ended with them having been newly wedded and Poppy having slain an entire room full of people who had been trying to kill her, I picked the third book up the moment I got it.
Safe to say, the beginning and first third part of the book did not disappoint. The fact that within the first twenty pages I was on the edge of my seat anticipating with what was happening, is safe to say I was instantly gripped. The moment it was explained that Poppy was the rightful Queen of Atlantia and that Alastair revealed himself to be a conspirator against her when the reader had been deceived to think that he truly cared for her well-being, had me flipping the pages. The moment Kieran was hit I panicked, wondering if Armentrout was being a ruthless author and killing off massive characters half way through the series. She had killed Victor, a true guardian to Poppy, just over half way in the first book so I was nervous for Kieran. Then when Casteel was hit I couldn’t believe she would do that, but then again, she wouldn’t be the first to kill off the love interest.
I couldn’t put the book down as Poppy was taken and Alastair revealed that he was the reason for her scars and why her parents were murdered. It was beautifully crafted that Armentrout had it explained that Poppy had felt drawn to Alastair not because he had reminded her of Victor, but because she had met him as a child and his voice had haunted her without realising. But if I’m honest, I did gather Casteel would find her when it was said he would wake and wasn’t dead. But when they caught up to Poppy and rescued her, I did not see what happened next — her being ascended? Not only did Armentrout round off by bringing a character from the first book, the solider — Jansen, but to have him actually be so close to killing Poppy had me shocked. She was dying, and to see how deeply Casteel loved her to not care about her becoming a vampry, but I also truly loved that Kieran supported it, even though he had just claimed her as his Queen.
The first third was epic, action packed and filled in so much from where the second one left off. The next part, I will be honest, felt a bit slow. It was still gripped as it was explained that, spoiler alert, Poppy’s father actually was Malec, Casteel’s mother’s first husband that first created the vampry. I did not see that coming I have to say. But the rest did feel like you were just seeing Poppy contemplating and coming to terms with whether she should take the crown or not. I suppose this did leave the opportunity for more character development for her and with her relationship with Casteel. And I have to say, I find it so refreshing that Casteel is still the exact same character that we met in the first book, and he has not changed since falling in love — which I have read often in books. Poppy still finds it disturbing that he loves the idea of her being violent to him and he still constantly teases her about Miss Willa’s journal. Both Poppy and Casteel feel like how it should be, that they are still themselves and neither have changed to be with the other. I also did like that this second part opened up for more character relationship with Kieran. We’re really seeing the friendship dynamic between Poppy and Kieran during this part, and it is quite funny how he seems to be brought in a lot with the steamier scenes.
I know there was a debate that Armentrout was perhaps setting up for a three way with Kieran at one point. And yes, the fact that there is a part where in Miss Willa’s diary a foursome is mentioned and then Poppy seems to be intrigued by Kieran getting steamy with a female wolven, but I don’t think this is being set up. I think it’s more the friendship being at a comfortable state between Poppy and Kieran where these conversations can come up, and this section focused on that in my opinion.
I also did like that you could see the relationship Casteel had with his parents. Seeing the dynamic between him and his father, which was set up in the previous book since it was explained that his father had tried to arrange a marriage and was trying to persuade Casteel to take the throne. So, it was only natural for the two to clash and this was shown well. Then to bring in his mother, and I did like the scene where Queen Eloana said to Poppy that she had to have a good enough reason to take the crown and not just for the sack of it. It proved that Eloana had a strong head on her shoulders and she wasn’t going to take any shit.
But I will say, the fact that both Poppy and Casteel had showed worry for their brothers, I was surprised it took so long into the book for them to do something about it, and even then it wasn’t the case of the them going off, but for Poppy’s brother, Ian, to seek them out. I did think they were going to go on an epic quest to get their brother’s back, and not Vonetta coming to say that Ian had journeyed down to see Poppy. And then for him to say that the blood crown wanted to meet with her and Casteel, but then to show a quick proof he was still him, even though he had ascended, and to try and tell her to seek the king of the gods guards. It did feel a bit like we were thrown into something finally happening, and into Ian’s character. The fact that Poppy talks so much about it, I partially expected a bit more, but he still seemed badass.
Saying that, I did feel that this was when the action started to pick up again. First you have Poppy and Casteel accepting the roles as the new Queen and King, and then let’s not forget the meeting of the one and only Miss Willa — that was quite epic.
Then we jump into Poppy and Casteel leave to go seek Nyktos’ guards — which revealed to be none other than drakens — I did feel that perhaps this wasn’t needed as, even though we found out the reason later why Poppy wasn’t handed the drakens there and then, at the time of reading it, I felt the scene left me hungry for more. But I suppose that was Armentrout setting up for later. But then we jump into Poppy and Casteel finally heading off to meet with the blood crown, so perhaps it wasn’t necessary to happen before this event since it didn’t bring anything to it.
But now we get into the part where I just couldn’t put the book down. First, I loved that little snippet we had of Poppy being able to change a giant cave cat into a man by one touch — setting up beautifully for the later reveal of who that was. Then meeting a Handmaiden — the fact that Poppy was wondering if this was what her mother was, meeting one and seeing their skills immediately was brilliant as already it made you think if that was what Poppy’s mother was and perhaps that was why Poppy was able to train to be a brilliant fighter — both a gift from her mother as well as her training with Victor. A bit sad that this wasn’t the case though.
But as the scene gets going, you are gripped as you discover that their plan of coming early and surprising the blood crown had failed before they had even left for the journey. Then the quick reunion with Tawny — a side character I did love in the first book — and finding out she hasn’t ascended. Thank the gods! But then jumping straight in to the Queen of the blood crown walking in with none other than Casteel’s brother, Malik. I did not see that coming either. I did wonder if perhaps we would get a shock with the Blood Queen walking in with Malec, Poppy’s supposed father, but not Casteel’s brother.
Then not to mention that first we find out that the Blood Queen is in fact Poppy’s birth mother, but the fact that she is in fact Malec’s lover, Isbeth — I did nearly scream when I read that part. Hearing the reasoning behind why the Blood Queen, Isabel’s was doing all this… I couldn’t help but see her point. Everything she loved had been taken from her and she wanted revenge. I’m sure many people would want that in that scenario, but perhaps wouldn’t be so violent. But it was so nice to have a villain where you could understand their actions, and weren’t doing it just for the sake of being evil. Well done, Armentrout.
But then we have the heart-breaking part of Ian’s death. I won’t lie, I did feel slightly robbed about this. Ian was showing proof that even though he had ascended, he wasn’t like the others, and I think that would have been really cool to explore. Plus, his death was definitely only used for tactics and to spite a reaction from Poppy, so it did feel more could have been done. But I suppose if he hadn’t died, Poppy wouldn’t have lost it and wouldn’t have resulted in Casteel being taken. I did like this as well since this time it was Casteel being taken and Poppy now has to work out to get him back. Before it’s always been the reverse and this opened up for Poppy to truly become a badass — her coming back to Atlantia and claiming her right as a God and making the council feel small was brilliant.
It’s safe to say I am already counting down for the fourth instalment with how it ended. The fact that Poppy learnt that the reason why Nyktos didn’t give her permission to have the drakens was because she is his granddaughter and so already has their possession was wicked. But to then find out Malec isn’t her father after all, but his twin, Ires, and that was the cave cat she saw transform… just wow. And now badass Poppy has killed the Blood King and claimed the God’s knights as her own. Safe to save the fourth book is setting up for one epic battle and I cannot wait.
Overall, this book did not disappoint. I felt it was a bit slow in some places, but Armentrout threw it all back around with that ending and yet again I am finding myself throwing my fists up in the air with excitement for the next book. Who’s with me?