Hello hello and welcome back for another book review. Today I’m going to be talking about A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, which is book two in the Blood and Ash series. You can find my review of book one, From Blood and Ash, here. This is one of those series where it may be useful to make sure you have read at least the review or synopsis of the first book before reading that of book two, because even the synopsis of the second book reveals quite a lot of spoilers. Just so it’s been said in advance!
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.
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.
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.
After how much I had loved From Blood and Ash, I wasn’t sure I could enjoy the sequel as much. Once again, with this book series, I was proved wrong, and I’m really pleased I was.
The book picks up straight after the conclusion of the first book, literally the next line. The story was set over a short time frame relatively, especially compared to the first book, and whole chapters were set in single days. This made it even more intense, which is saying something for a book that was highly powered in a lot of ways. Just as before we have a strong sexual subtext with highly intimate scenes, and for a large amount of the book Poppy is wrestling with herself with her feelings regarding Casteel, knowing how he still makes her feel, and hating that is the case. Being held captive in The Keep while plans are formed to travel, Poppy really struggles both with coming to terms with who Casteel really is, but also with feeling like she’s simply exchanged one cage for another.
The work on developing her own person that began in From Blood and Ash continues throughout the many pages of this book. Although she feels like she’s just as captive to begin with, as the constrictions begins to lessen, and she finds that she can start to develop a sense of who she is, she begins to have more faith in her decisions, surrounding everything, but especially Casteel. It takes a good three quarters of of the book for her to have the confidence she has been deprived of for so long, and when she finally reaches that point, my heart utterly swelled for her; I so wanted her to be happy, and confident, and sure of herself. She had so much – everything – stripped back from her when she was The Maiden, and for her to decide “this is what I want”… It made me smile. All of this is written in such a way that it is a clever slow burn of romance combined with a development of a personality, and those together make for a beautiful book.
By the time comes for Poppy – and Casteel – to make the decisions that really need to make, they’ve had the time to prepare for them, and for what they mean, regardless of the consequences. Those consequences, however, are there, and very much matter to those surrounding them as individuals and as a couple.
As always I try not to leave spoilers in my reviews, but I will say that I thought the author couldn’t excel the ending of From Blood and Ash, but the last two chapters of this book? Blew. My. Mind.
With book three coming out later this month, I can’t wait to see what comes next. The book hangover situation is REAL.