Series: Blood and Ash #1
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.
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.
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.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who came into this book due to the hype surrounding the series. So I will try to keep this short and concise because I’m sure someone out there already wrote their exact feelings somewhere.
Poppy, whose full name is so hard to pronounce and spell, can ultimately be described in two words: virgin and stubborn.
One, I have no idea why it’s the BIGGEST deal in this book, especially when it becomes VERY clear that she does not care about that aspect of herself very much if she had her way.
Two, stubbornness can either be a blessing or the most frustrating thing in the world depending on how and when it’s used. Poppy, the sheltered princess archetype, is a physical fighter and I have no qualms with that. But she doesn’t listen when it actually matters and she feels she’s the smartest popsicle when she barely spoke to more than 5 people in her life.
So here we are, a story about precious Poppy and some evil force out there who wishes to seek her harm SPECIFICALLY. Why? We don’t really figure that out until later. I mean, even Poppy doesn’t understand why she’s special more than half the time. She’s just been told that she is and she’ll have to wait until she reaches nineteen to help “save them all”. (I’m not usually super annoyed with the Chosen One trope but her naïveté and stubbornness make her harder to root for.)
And for at least half of this book, that’s what we know about this main part of the story. Because of course, this is a romance at heart.
Hawke is your typical hero with handsome features, golden eyes (does this remind people of a certain sparkly vampire?), and the ability to entice our heroine like no other. I’m not necessarily against this but he’s a rather horny guard for the fact that he’s supposedly guarding Poppy from whatever is out there. Distracted much?
I almost gave up more than once in this book. The action doesn’t really hit until way later, but once it did, that’s where the rating pulled up a bit. Predictability wasn’t too hard for me to guess but it may surprise some people. I loved the introduction of another kingdom as Poppy learns about the history of the two kingdoms long ago. There needs to be more of this, to be honest. The world building was kind of intriguing without it feeling like too much was being dumped on you all at once.
I will also admit that JLA is really good at writing romantic scenes and creating that tension between characters. While I’m not the hugest fan of Hawke (do I personally love super cocky guys?), I see the appeal and can understand why Poppy fell for him. On the other hand, she’s so inexperienced with guys that maybe anyone could’ve been enough. Either way, it was no small feat to get my cold heart pumping a little in those uh, steamy moments between the two.
If you ask if this lived up to the hype, I will have to say it didn’t work out as well for me, but I’ll stick with it for the rest of the series because the foundation’s been set with the world building that surely will get more interesting from here. This book is all about the romance, with sprinkles of the mystery surrounding Poppy’s Ascension, but this made the pacing all off-balance and hard to get by. If you love a hearty romance with a dash of action, then I can see why this is your book.
From Blood and Ash features a naive protagonist who is mostly characterized by her virginity and isolation from the outside world. While that’s not a bad thing in and of itself, this Chosen One trope gets a little skewered with very little information as to why she’s so special until way later in the book, and the pacing drags for the longest time before the action kicks in. With it being a romance at heart, the upside is the allure of Poppy’s new guard, Hawke, as they flirt on the forbidden attraction they feel for one another. If you can get through the sludge of the beginning and middle, the end really does pick up with world building, action and a twist you may or may not have seen coming. I can understand the hype, but it just didn’t work out as I had hoped for me.