Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Pages: 625

Series: Blood and Ash #1

Publisher: Blue Box Press

Release Date: March 30, 2020

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

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.”

What Did I Think?

Y’all, I am SHOOK. A little backstory for you all: JLA announced the title and cover of this book on THE DAY IT FREAKING RELEASED (yes, seriously — not even exaggerating!) AND it was her very first time releasing an adult high fantasy novel. As if that didn’t shock me enough, I am completely flabbergasted to say that now that I’ve read it, From Blood and Ash just might have made my top three favorite books of hers of all time!

Now that you understand why I am completely SHOOKETH, let’s discuss the overall concept of this total gem! From Blood and Ash had just about everything I could ever want in an adult high fantasy novel: multi-dimensional characters, stunning descriptions of the very complex world of Masadonia, all the political intrigue, and an action-packed plot that kept me on my toes from beginning to end. I thought the religious tie-ins were fascinating to read about, and I thoroughly enjoyed them in conjunction with the mythical creatures and themes that were also woven into the story. From Blood and Ash has so many moving parts, and I thought all of them worked together beautifully — like a well-oiled machine!

Poppy, our main protagonist, is a force to be reckoned with. Given the role of ensuring the Ascensions of the people of Masadonia, Poppy is forced to live her life in solitude, following the explicate orders of the Duke, Duchess, and priestesses. However, the reader learns quickly that Poppy often secretly breaks away from what is expected of her in order to try and maintain some control over her life. From the very first chapter, we see that she’s not too keen on following direct orders from the people who are supposed to “rule over her” and that she is more than capable of protecting herself when need be. Throughout the course of the book, we continue to see her question everything she previously thought was true, and the more she manages to discover, the more she begins to fight for what she feels is right and what she wants, rather than what those around her expect her to do for the “good of humanity.” I loved that the reader sees the fire in her from the first page and that we hardly ever see it go out, even as she struggles through some very tough moments. I found myself rooting for Poppy over the course of the entire book, and I am so excited to see how the events of this book have shaped her character in the next one!

As always, JLA gives us a totally swoon-worthy supporting lead, and this go-round, it’s Hawke Flynn: handsome, crazy clever, and one of the wittiest JLA characters of all time, if you ask me! Though he comes across as this very mysterious tough guy, he also has a softer side to him that had me saying “awhh!!!” in my head like a million times over. One of my favorite components of Hawke’s character is the fact that instead of trying to protect Poppy from every little thing as her royal guard, he understands her need to take control of her own life and fight for herself. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the whole “tough guy constantly save the damsel in distress” trope, so I was happy to see that Hawke helped when needed, but wasn’t the overbearing, brood-y male lead we often times see in similar novels. To say that Hawke never got on my nerves/made me really angry is a total lie (no spoilers, friend! Just give this book a read and you’ll totally get what I mean!), but a part of my soul still loves him to pieces. Hawke’s character has so many secret layers, and I cannot wait to see more of them unravel in Book #2!

One last comment before I cap this review off: THAT FRICK FRACKIN’ ENDING, YOU GUYS! PREPARE YOUR HEARTS AND SOULS BECAUSE THAT WAS CRAY!

From Blood and Ash was basically what you’d end up with if Throne of Glass and Twilight had a baby. I loved watching Poppy navigate through the uber-controlling world she lives in and how Hawke provided the breadcrumbs she needed to sort the facts from fiction she’s been told her entire life. The romance was legit FIRE, the characters had so many layers that I loved seeing unravel as the story went on, and the plotline was so fast-paced that it was legitimately breathtaking. I am so thankful that the second book, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, releases tomorrow because I seriously cannot wait to dive back into this world!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

*NOTE: This book is definitely only for mature readers (the romance is STEAMY and there is also quite a bit of graphic violence/murder). I would not recommend this book to readers under the age of 18.*

If you’ve read Jennifer L. Armentrout’s other books (particularly her paranormal romances!), From Blood and Ash may just turn out to be your next great read!

I’d also whole-heartedly recommend From Blood and Ash to fans of Sarah J. Maas, and Stephanie Meyer.

Fantasy, New Adult/Adult

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City): Maas, Sarah J ...

Pages: 816

Series: Crescent City #1

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Release Date: March 3, 2020

Genre(s): High/Urban Fantasy with Romantic Elements

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

Bound by blood.
Tempted by desire.
Unleashed by destiny.

“Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.”

What Did I Think?

Okay, y’all. I think I’ve finally calmed down from the awesomeness that it this book enough to formulate all of my thoughts, so here it goes:

The world-building in this book was fantastic, as with all of Sarah J. Maas’ books! In all my years of reading, I’ve never read anything quite like this world, and I absolutely loved every moment of piecing the imagery and descriptions of this world together and creating a visual in my mind of exactly what Lunathion (aka Crescent City) would look like!

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was the fact that even though Danika and the Pack of Devils weren’t physically present for a good portion of the book, I was so invested in their characters and fell in love with them instantaneously, which made the more emotional moments of Bryce’s journey that much more heartbreakingly beautiful for me to be a part of. It takes incredible talent for someone to be able to write characters that stick with the reader long after they’re gone (not gonna spoil anything, folks, so just read the book to find out what I mean!), and the fact that Maas could make the reader connect with a group of nearly-invisible characters on this deep of a level in literally a couple of chapters is completely insane, but in the best possible way!

Speaking of characters… First and foremost, I love every freaking character in this book, including the mean ones (yeah, I’m talking to you, SABINE, MICAH, AND THE AUTUMN KING). Ruhn, Queen Hypaxia, Flynn, Declan, Naomi, Isaiah, Ithan, Amelia (err, okay, my like of this one is still up in the air), Tharion, Fury, and so many more have totally stolen my heart, and even though I know there’s bound to be casualties in the other books in this series (A SARAH J. MAAS SPECIALTY, much to my dismay), I really hope that a lot of these guys make it to the end and get their happy endings (I know, unlikely, but one can hope, right?).

Okay, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the ROMANCE between Hunt and Bryce! At first, I wasn’t sure I was sold, to be honest. I think this was because I feel like with all relationships (fictional and in real life), you have to work on yourself first before you can really connect with someone else, and these two both had things they needed to figure out. However, as I continued reading and learning more about their individual struggles, I couldn’t think of a better pairing, as they were able to help one another through the challenges they were facing because the battles they were fighting individually were very similar to the other’s. While Bryce and Hunt’s individual journeys in and of itself themselves were incredibly raw and beautiful to watch unfold, I think the emotional bond (and, of course, the romantic bond) they created with one another makes their stories that much more compelling because they had one another to lean on and trust, when at the beginning they each had close to no one in their corners.

A quick shout-out to my FAVORITE element of this whole book, as cheezy as it may sound: the fact that EVERY SINGLE MOMENT circled back to the idea that there is real power in love, and that sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps you moving forward, whether it be love for your friends, family, a romantic partner, or maybe even a combination of all three.

Okay, so I’ve rambled a whole lot about this book, so here are my final thoughts:

The plot moved at a perfect pace for me, and I thought the story line was very well constructed– complex enough that the reader is certainly going to have to think things through, but not so complicated that our heads are spinning. The characters and their development were FABULOUS and their motivations/journeys and their reactions to various plot points were represented realistically, and I loved all of the “OH SNAP NO FREAKING WAY” plot twists that kept getting thrown our way! I would seriously give this book 1,000,000 starts if I could, but since I can’t fit that many on this post, I’ll just have to settle for 5/5!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

Due to mature content (both in terms of romantic elements and violent themes), I would only recommend this book to mature audiences (17/18+).

If your’re looking for an adult fantasy novel that’s action packed, full of plot twists, and has has a little dash of “forbidden romance” thrown in, this book is totally for you! If you’ve read Sarah J. Maas’ other books and fell in love with her characters and world-building, I highly recommend you check this book out!

I also recommend this book to those of you who are big fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, and Leigh Bardugo!