2 star, NA

Review: Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Series: Blood and Ash #2

A Betrayal…

Everything Poppy has ever believed in is a lie, including the man she was falling in love with. Thrust among those who see her as a symbol of a monstrous kingdom, she barely knows who she is without the veil of the Maiden. But what she does know is that nothing is as dangerous to her as him. The Dark One. The Prince of Atlantia. He wants her to fight him, and that’s one order she’s more than happy to obey. He may have taken her, but he will never have her.

A Choice…

Casteel Da’Neer is known by many names and many faces. His lies are as seductive as his touch. His truths as sensual as his bite. Poppy knows better than to trust him. He needs her alive, healthy, and whole to achieve his goals. But he’s the only way for her to get what she wants—to find her brother Ian and see for herself if he has become a soulless Ascended. Working with Casteel instead of against him presents its own risks. He still tempts her with every breath, offering up all she’s ever wanted. Casteel has plans for her. Ones that could expose her to unimaginable pleasure and unfathomable pain. Plans that will force her to look beyond everything she thought she knew about herself—about him. Plans that could bind their lives together in unexpected ways that neither kingdom is prepared for. And she’s far too reckless, too hungry, to resist the temptation.

A Secret…

But unrest has grown in Atlantia as they await the return of their Prince. Whispers of war have become stronger, and Poppy is at the very heart of it all. The King wants to use her to send a message. The Descenters want her dead. The wolven are growing more unpredictable. And as her abilities to feel pain and emotion begin to grow and strengthen, the Atlantians start to fear her. Dark secrets are at play, ones steeped in the blood-drenched sins of two kingdoms that would do anything to keep the truth hidden. But when the earth begins to shake, and the skies start to bleed, it may already be too late.

I don’t understand why everyone loves this series, but Kingdom of Flesh and Fire was even harder to get through than its predecessor.

For such a long book, it’s entirely focused on Poppy’s feelings for Hawke, aka The Dark One aka Casteel, the enemy she was told about all her sheltered life. I get it, she’s been betrayed and she’s literally given him everything about herself. Of course there’s ramifications to deal with in the aftermath of what happened. BUT, this book spends TOO much time on this compared to growing the new lore of the Atlantians.

I have nothing against romance but this long book can be summarized with travel from Poppy’s home in Masadonia out east wherever the Atlantians are taking her, and her conflicting feelings for Casteel. Travel + romantic angst for 500+ pages is NOT a fantasy book. I don’t mind either, but it just was not interesting!

There were little tidbits signalling more about Poppy’s “Chosen One” status. While I don’t usually have a big problem with this trope, it’s just emphasized so much how she’s this precious gem that both sides of the conflict want that it starts getting tiresome. Why is she so important? We don’t get any answers here, and only until the very end of the book does it get interesting with this element of the story.

I’m keeping this review short because I honestly don’t have much more to say. It felt like a filler story wherein Poppy and Casteel deal with their “feelings” and Casteel’s people do not like her because they didn’t expect these feelings to be real. Poppy develops more powers – because of course a Chosen One has to be powerful in ways that is like no other – and we don’t get any answers so hold onto your hats for book 3! Just…I’m tired, friends. Yet I will probably still read the next one just to finally get some answers for my own morbid curiosity.

Overall Recommendation:

Apparently I’m a sucker for punishment because Kingdom of Flesh and Fire was barely a fantasy story with hardly much action or lore being added in a valuable manner. It could’ve been way shorter for the amount of non-action happening. The focus is on the romantic angst and conflict between Poppy and her dark prince, Casteel. If that’s what you’re looking for, then by all means, go ahead. Otherwise, this completely suffers from Middle Book Syndrome and I would recommend almost skipping most of it until the last 10 chapters or so before it actually gets somewhere. Will I be present for book 3? Didn’t I mention I’m a sucker for punishment already?

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Releases I Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

It’s been a harrowing week of sickness and I do NOT want to repeat that again in a long time. I guess I avoided being sick for all of 2020 and 2021 that I have forgotten how awful it is to be truly sick. I just want to wish all you well out there, and everyone please keep safe as we keep fighting the good fight against this pandemic.

This week’s topic is looking at releases in 2021 I was excited to get to but didn’t yet. I do hope to read a number of these (if not ALL of these) this year, but of course, my TBR is always super crazy so that’s not a guarantee.

  1. Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber
  2. The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
  3. Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson
  4. Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong
  5. Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare
  6. Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
  7. Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard
  8. Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
  9. You’ll Be the Death of Me by Karen M. McManus
  10. Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Have you read these releases last year? Are any of these still high on your TBR? Let’s chat below!

4 star, YA

ARC Review: These Deadly Games by Diana Urban

Let’s play a game.

You have 24 hours to win. If you break my rules, she dies. If you call the police, she dies. If you tell your parents or anyone else, she dies.

Are you ready?

When Crystal Donavan gets a message on a mysterious app with a video of her little sister gagged and bound, she agrees to play the kidnapper’s game. At first, they make her complete bizarre tasks: steal a test and stuff it in a locker, bake brownies, make a prank call.

But then Crystal realizes each task is meant to hurt—and kill—her friends, one by one. But if she refuses to play, the kidnapper will kill her sister. Is someone trying to take her team out of the running for a gaming tournament? Or have they uncovered a secret from their past, and wants them to pay for what they did…

As Crystal makes the impossible choices between her friends and her sister, she must uncover the truth and find a way to outplay the kidnapper… before it’s too late.

Author of All Your Twisted Secrets, Diana Urban’s explosive sophomore novel, These Deadly Games, will keep you riveted until the final twist is revealed.

**These Deadly Games comes out February 1, 2022**

Thank you Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Fast paced, exhilarating and full of twisted games, These Deadly Games had me on the edge of my seat the whole time as we race with Crystal against the clock to save her sister.

This is Diana Urban’s second novel and I fell in love with this one even more than the first. Written in the same storytelling method I have come to expect from her, we are not given too much information about certain aspects of the protagonist and friends’ past that only slowly unfolds as we move forward in the present time. How this impacts the present day characterization of the main group of friends we are following is brilliant as it shaped who they each are.

Besides characterization, the mystery flows super well that it’s very hard to put down. Right from the get go, we know Crystal’s group is up for a gaming tournament with high chances of winning the team component. Is someone hunting them down one by one so they wouldn’t qualify for it? There are plenty of motives and suspects who may not want to see any of them succeed. Guessing who the culprit(s) may be was fun, though I will admit I had a sneaking suspicion who it was around the 50% mark, but that didn’t lessen how much fun it was to see it all being pieced together.

This book is also aptly named because, oh boy, those sure were some DEADLY games this unknown entity put Crystal through. What seemed like innocent enough gestures alone soon became separate ways that were hurting people she loved. And if the “truth” of these deadly acts came to light, all the evidence would point to Crystal alone, wouldn’t it? It was such a brilliantly devised plan and this evil mastermind had me applauding their, well, genius the whole way. They were so creative, and I have to praise Urban for devising up such things.

There was a lot to love about this book. I felt the secondary characters, all of Crystal’s gaming group, were unique enough although we don’t get to spend a lot of time with each since we really are just following Crystal during this 24 hour period. It also explored some of Crystal’s family life and the feelings she had about the dysfunction present there, along with her instinct to put her little sister above all else. Unfortunately I couldn’t quite give it a 5 star rating. I felt like it was just missing a “wow” factor, but that really could only be me since I might’ve guessed whodunnit rather early on.

However, how the ending wrapped up was pretty solid and amazing. I can’t give away much, but let me just say it made a lot of sense and still had me gripping my seat until the very last page. I think Urban couldn’t have written a better ending for this story with the perfect amount of allure and openness. It was definitely far better than the dumpster wreck ending of her debut.

I would definitely recommend you pick this one up when it comes out if you’re looking for a fast read that takes some turns you may not expect. These Deadly Games is sure to thrill and have you flipping through the pages to find out how it would all resolve.

Overall Recommendation:

These Deadly Games is a wonderful mystery/thriller that features a cunning mastermind tormenting Crystal and her friends on the weekend eve of a big gaming tournament they’re posed to win. Its fast-paced storytelling set in a 24 hour period as Crystal races against the clock to save her kidnapped sister had me rushing to get to the bottom of it. I enjoyed the characterizations of Crystal’s friend group, but particularly learning who Crystal was and the lengths she’d go to juggle the hardest decision she’d ever have to make: save her friends or her sister. The ending was spectacularly handled, although I kind of guessed who the mastermind was some time earlier. Overall this was a solid mystery but may have missed a little wow factor for me to reach 5-star. Diana Urban’s sophomore novel definitely set the bar and I look forward to seeing where she goes next because it’s only getting better!