Published by: Box Press on March 30, 2020
Genres: High Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
My Rating: ★★★★★
🚨 MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD 🚨
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 wasn’t beautiful. I was a tragedy.❞
From Blood and Ash ended up being my first five star read this year — I’m extremely particular about giving out five stars, but this is an addictive, thrilling read that is definitely one of my favourite books in a long time. I’m still reeling from everything that happened, if I’m honest. It’s fast-paced with enough twists and turns that I’m suffering heart palpitations twelve hours later. Everything feels like it moves the plot forward — there are no ‘filler’ chapters or dull moments — and it has exciting, elaborate world building. Some plot points I did predict because there’s a breadcrumb trail throughout for readers, but everything is executed so flawlessly that you are on the edge of your seat no matter what.
❝Lust was not love, it was not loyalty, and it was not long lasting.❞
This book employs a forbidden love trope and the relationship between the main characters is one of the best written romances I’ve ever read. Their sexual tension and chemistry is out of this world, it is a multi-layered relationship that isn’t as cut and dry or easy as many YA/NA romances. I think this is definitely similar to A Court of Thorns and Roses in the sense it’s on the cusp of YA/NA because it has some smut and steamier scenes. Thankfully, none of that distracts from the plot though. I can’t even begin to put into words how much I adored this book, I was fully enthralled and didn’t want to stop reading, but I didn’t want it to be over either. It has romance, death, action, friendship and so much more. From Blood and Ash is an immersive, engaging story that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about all day.
❝Fear and bravery are often one and the same. It either makes you a warrior or a coward.❞
❝You’re an absolutely stunning, murderous little creature.❞
Our heroine in From Blood and Ash is Penellaphe — I rolled my eyes at this because I’m firmly Team Obscure-Fantasy-Names-Or-Obscure-Spellings-Are-Dumb — but her nickname is Poppy. She is smart, compassionate and has a violent streak. It is so clear to see why Hawke fell in love with her because she has such a strong head on her shoulders and is never passive in spite of being thrusted into a coveted role where she’s meant to be placid. It’s amazing to see a character that is so unapologetic about being a fighter and her desire to hurt the same people who hurt her whilst blushing when reading inappropriate books and have no clue how to kiss someone. I really admire how complex Poppy is — she’s sensitive and tough, scared and brave, empathetic and bloodthirsty. Females aren’t one thing and Poppy is a great example of a well-developed, likeable female character.
❝Only the bad can be influenced, Princess.❞
Our other main character is Hawke — Poppy’s guard after her previous one is murdered. He is sarcastic, charismatic and self-assured. I honestly got butterflies every time he appeared. Hawke is such a breath of fresh air compared to other male characters in YA/NA — he has an actual personality as opposed to brooding over his past traumas all of the time. I appreciated how he could be protective without being obnoxious and alpha-like too. There’s clearly more to him than meets the eye, but he doesn’t torture himself. Instead of trying to stay away from Poppy or self-inflicting pain, he knows his worth and allows both of them to be happy. God, I fell in love with him, never mind Poppy. He isn’t perfect, he doesn’t pretend to be, but it takes Poppy a little while to come to terms with that, I think. Without too much being spoiled, there’s a big reveal about what he’s hiding towards the end and I managed to guess the truth, but it unfolds in such a way that you don’t hate him and his motives make perfect sense.
MY FAVOURITE MOMENT
❝“Among my people, it’s not polite to stare at a naked woman in a bathtub.”
“Your people sound incredibly boring.”❞
There are so many moments I loved in this book — there are some more lighthearted ones mixed in the with the darker elements, which make the book all the more enjoyable. Poppy and Hawke have such fantastic banter, as do Poppy and Kieran towards the end.
❝I straddled him—
Hawke grinned up at me, the dimple in his right cheek appearing. “I’m liking where this is headed.”
I punched him in the face . . . ❞
However, I think the moment I’d choose above all as my favourite is when Poppy breaks down to Vikter after being caught with Hawke. For most of her life, Poppy is told she needs to be pure and is greatly restricted in what she can do, so for her to finally snap seems inevitable, but it’s done in such a painful, poignant way that all I wanted to do was wrap Poppy in hug. The scene is intense, moving and shows the cracks in the revered position of the Maiden.
❝So I’m sorry that choosing something that I want for myself is such a disappointment to you, the kingdom, everyone else, and the gods. Where is the honor in being the Maiden? What exactly should I be proud of?❞
MY LEAST FAVOURITE MOMENT
There was only one moment in this entire book that left me irritated and that was when Phillips — her guard — figures out that they’ve walked into a trap and Poppy wants to find Hawke. I was screaming at her through pages because she’s so clever and astute up until that moment, then she loses all common sense when it comes to Hawke. To an extent, I understood it — he was the first person she’d ever been with intimately — but I expected more from her.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes high fantasy — fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses or A Curse So Dark and Lonely would like this. This book is one hell of a ride with a heart-stopping romance, danger and betrayal, angst and grief, action and adventure and more! I’m already anxious to read the sequel — especially because it ends on a cliffhanger — and I genuinely think From Blood and Ash is an absolute must read that will be a fantasy book staple in no time.
You can now read my review for the sequel to From Blood and Ash here.
read it and weep,