Published: March 30, 2020
Publisher: Blue Box Press
Series: Blood and Ash #1
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 625 (Paperback)
My Rating: 2.5/5.0
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.
This was a purely for fun book that I did not have super high expectations for… but wow. It was certainly entertaining but it was so, so predictable and had the cringiest romance. Here we go!
Poppy is “the Maiden”, which means she is somehow essential to the “Ascension” where select people become immortal. It’s quite unclear why she is special or chosen or even what the Ascension is exactly. She’s just doing what she’s told. Being the Maiden is quite the bore – she is forbidden from interacting with most people and must wear a veil any time she leaves her rooms so none may see her face. So really, it’s no surprise that she’s inclined to sneak out of the palace and visit forbidden places like, say, the local bar/brothel where she encounters one of the handsome young palace guards named Hawke. *swoon* It’s also no surprise that when Hawke becomes one of her guards and actively pays attention to her and obviously flirts with her that she falls head over heels.
A good chunk of this book is dedicated to Poppy worrying that Hawke may recognize her from her disguised foray into the brothel where they first met and spill the beans to the Duke. Next she spends a great deal of time fawning over him, followed by the last teeny bit where she feels utterly betrayed by him. It’s such an emotional rollercoaster, but I was SO NOT SURPRISED by the big reveal at the end. It literally makes me want to burst into crazed laughter thinking about it because it was really quite ridiculous. Like, my reaction to this book makes absolutely no sense, but it makes me laugh!
Did I mention that along with the ooey-gooey first love theme, there are also vampires and werewolves? But of course, they aren’t called as such. The werewolves are wolven and the vampires are called Atlantians because that’s supposedly the city/country they originate from. There’s also this whole propaganda thing that the Ascended promote that basically helps to keep the people in line and convinces them to give up their third born child to serve the gods, etc. Turns out, they’re actually the bad guys and the Atlantians aren’t exactly good but they definitely aren’t evil! The actual political elements could have actually been very interesting, but this is a fantasy-romance with heavy emphasis on romance and cheesiness.
I just have such mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it was SO LAME but I also want to read the next book because the ending (while predictable) left me so curious as to what would happen next. To be fair, there were some fantastic elements to the story, but the romance was so heavy handed that it was easy to forget about those parts. Poppy’s friendship with her only companion and her found-family thing with her long time guard were lovely. She was also a very strong character, dealing with those who abused their power over her and her own lack of control of her life. So, definite positives and negatives. This book won’t be for everyone and if you don’t like a book with a romantic bent, this won’t be for you. I do enjoy them from time to time, and I expect them to be this cheesy!