Once in a while I like to read or listen out of my comfort zone. From Blood and Ash (Amazon) (AbeBooks) is definitely not my usual book. It’s an Adult Fantasy, and normally I don’t read or listen to fantasy books. But Audible had a sale on the book a few weeks ago and after reading some glowing reviews, I decided to take a chance.
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.”
When I first started listening to From Blood and Ash, I thought it was YA Fantasy, until the subject matter became very un-YA-like. Do all fantasy books sound like they are written for teenagers? Maybe it was the narrator, Stina Nielsen, who sounded like someone in their upper teens, which is appropriate because Poppy is only eighteen. But it also threw me off, because she sounds so young.
Also, I had issues with the story’s believability. Not in world-building, which was somewhat unoriginal (Masedonia, Atlantians, Ascended beings). Poppy is supposed to be this very sheltered Maiden. She’s not allowed to talk to anyone, and that includes the guards and ladies-in-waiting. Even her face is sheltered by a veil. She’s just supposed to wait in seclusion until her Ascension Day. Poppy has been sheltered since she was six years old, yet she seems to know a lot about the outside world. When she escapes the palace, she knows how to be sociable and talk in slang. She also knows how to fight, because of course she’s been talking to her guards and ladies in waiting all along, who teach her how to defend herself. Defend herself from what? It’s only later that we learn of The Dark Lord (not a terribly original name) and the Craven.
I appreciate that Poppy is a fighter, who questions the norms of society and feels like she can do nothing about it. She tests the waters by doing and saying things to infuriate the Duke, who often lashes her. But it doesn’t stop her from being so rebellious. If she were smart, she’d be biding her time, waiting for a chance to escape, and not drawing unwanted attention from the Duke.
In what can only be a Nancy Drew coincidence, the very man that Poppy messes around with when she escapes the palace that one night at the beginning of the book just so happens to be the replacement guard for her when one of her guards is killed. That keeps him nice and close for a lot of sexual chemistry. Is this normal in fantasy books? Or should I categorize this as Fantasy Romance? Why does there always have to be a love interest? Can’t a woman be a strong, fierce fighter without falling for a dangerous, dark man? It felt like the heat and sexual tension took away from what was otherwise a good fantasy world-building story. Do all fantasy books have a romantic element? I’m not big on romance books. Maybe that’s why I rarely read fantasy books.
The “big reveal” later in the book was hardly unexpected, and knowing that this was part of a series, I saw the set-up to the ending coming a mile away. I did find parts of the book interesting, but didn’t like the fact that someone as strong and fierce as Poppy became a mindless sex toy when around Hawke. I will mostly likely continue with the series, just to see how it turns out, but the next book may be on my TBR pile for a long time.
This is the 24th audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.
For more reviews, visit www.bargain-sleuth.com
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