A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh and Fire #1 - Book Review)

If you’re new to this universe, you’re going to love this book. If you’ve read the "Blood and Ash" series before, déjà vu will be your companion all the way. Nevertheless, you’ll still find yourself lost in a sea of action, magic, power plays and passion. It will definitely check your boxes.

A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh and Fire #1 - Book Review)
A Shadow in the Ember by Jennifer L. Armentrout, reviewed by Fae Reviews.


Series: Flesh and Fire
Book: A Shadow in the Ember (#1)
My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
📕Buy link at the end of this post ⤵️

Let me just start by reminding you that the original series—“Blood and Ash—” is one of my favorite Fantasy-Romance stories of all times. That said, you may know that this new series “Flesh and Fire” is connected to the former. It happens in a time before Poppy and Casteel came to exist. In fact, what interests me about the latter is that it has the potential to provide more context into the events that happen in “Blood and Ash.”

From the 150+ books I read this 2022, A Shadow in the Ember is one of my top 13. Discover best of Books of 2022.

In “A Shadow in the Ember” we are presented with a character you’ll find familiar if you’ve met Poppy. She is a Chosen Maiden, meant to Ascend, that is, destined to become the Consort of the Primal of Death, Nyktos. She, Seraphena, has also been trained, not only in the art of seduction, but in combat. Her mission is to make Nyktos fall in love with her, as her family found out this is a Primal’s weakness and the way to kill them. Therefore, they need the Primal of Death dead to reverse the destruction of the human realm. Along the way, though, she’ll discover that Nyktos is more than what they all thought he represented. Doubting her mission, she finds herself not sure of what to do. Are her land and people more important than the rest of the world? Will she sacrifice everything for them? Might there be another way for all to find what they are looking for?

Zooming into the Protagonist

I can’t deny that at the beginning I was feeling frustrated with Seraphena, maybe even a bit disappointed. You see, Poppy is an exact replica of Sera, not physically, but character wise. I can understand finding a resemblance. However, every single trait was present. Sera is just as mouthy, curious, rule-breaker, reckless, pouty and even childish in some of her reactions as Poppy is. She was a Maiden. She was a Chosen meant to Ascend, meant to discover if she was worthy under the eyes of the Gods. She was beaten and humiliated. She had an undeveloped gift. She even felt the need to experience prohibited and improper things for a Maiden. See what I mean?

“My mother placed the Veil of the Chosen over my head.”
“I spent my entire life hidden behind this veil.”

Mirror Mirror

Certainly, this series is connected to “Blood and Ash.” Therefore, I would expect aspects from that story mixed with this one. It’s the same universe and we already know some of the characters. That said, from time to time I would get this feeling of scenes in “A Shadow in the Ember” being a mirror of scenes from the former series. The following might contain minor spoilers if you're new to this universe.

  • In both series, there was a veil of lies holding the rituals and kingdoms together. No one suspected what was really happening behind doors.
“If they learned that the songs and poems written about him had been based on a fable, what was left of the Mierel Dynasty would surely collapse.”

  • Just as Poppy had a father figure, Vikter, Sera had Sir Holland, and he was the one who trained her, too.

  • In one series we have the Duke, an abusive figure to Poppy. Not surprisingly, we also find a sadistic evil character in this series as well.

  • Remember how Casteel was turned on by Poppy’s fighting skills and every time she physically hurt him. Nyktos is very similar in that regard, not so outspoken, but he mentions it a couple of times.

  • There are even phrases that seem a copy from the previous series. It feels like a déjà vu:
“[Sera] I had become skilled with the dagger, sword, and bow, and I could protect myself if it came to hand-to-hand combat.”

“[Nyktos] ’Interesting,’ he answered. ‘I find you interesting.’ […] ‘And unexpected. You’re not as I remember.’”

  • The honey taste… Our characters' bodies seem to be very similar if the honey taste is common throughout both series.

After I read “The Twilight Saga,” I moved on to “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Even in the first pages I got this sense I was rereading “Twilight” but with a different context and character names. That’s when I found out the story was born as a “Twilight” fan fiction. It then evolved into what we know as “Fifty Shades.” However, the plot line was there. I could predict events because I knew they also happened in “Twilight.” Well, reading “A Shadow in the Ember” felt sometimes like reading a fan fiction of “Blood and Ash.” As I said, that sense of déjà vu was very present.

There’s More to It

Dear reader, don’t worry. This is a four-star review after all. This means that as the story progressed, I was so immersed that I couldn’t care less about the mirror scenes anymore. We meet new characters. We connect some dots with the former series. We follow exciting action moments. And of course, there are important revelations and destiny reveals.

Another positive aspect I can’t leave behind has to do with Jennifer L. Armentrout’s writing. This book was such an improvement from the aspects I’ve criticized in her other work. You can check my previous review to get more detail on this. Her repetitive phrases weren’t common. Paragraphs of rambling were nonexistent allowing the dialogues and character interactions to flow. Thank you so much for this!

As a side note, I was very surprised how crude some scenes were, very macabre. If you enjoy this kind of thing, you’re going to be delighted then. After all, we have very powerful characters with impressive abilities.

For Further Explanation

  • It happened to me the first time I read “From Blood and Ash.” I don’t know if the hierarchy of species and characters is too complex, or the explanations are not that clear, but I find the lines between what is and what isn’t very thin. Why is it that if a god ascends becomes a Primal sometimes and something else other times? There are so many Primals and gods and cities, courts, powers, etc., that I will need to read this book again so that my brain can connect all the puzzle pieces better.

  • Also, I was surprised traditions such as the Rite were in place way before Poppy’s generation, I mean in the time of the gods, even the Ascension. In the former series, I was given the impression these were things that started after the gods and Primals went to sleep. In fact, I thought King Malec was the first to Ascend someone. Not sure what exactly the Ascension means or entails in all circumstances, but in this book, the ritual is a common event.

  • Another doubt, what is the relationship between Lasania—where Sera is from and where most of the story takes place—and Carsodonia? Is Lasania part of Carsodonia or vice versa? The map doesn’t show many cities and places Sera mentions and that we’ve known from “Blood and Ash.” In this book, these places happen in a new context and an era where the territory divisions were different.
“…as I [Sera] moved about the streets of Carsodonia.” (The map though is of Lasania)

On a Short Note

I apologize for this lengthy review. It was needed. If you haven’t met Poppy and Casteel and start reading this series, you’re going to love it. If that was my case, we could have had a 4.5 or 5 rating even. That said, if you’ve read the original series before, déjà vu will be your companion all the way. Nevertheless, you’ll find yourself lost in a sea of action, magic, power plays and passion. It will definitely check your boxes.

It’s like with the Marvel universe. Every time a new movie comes out, you need to rewatch almost all the previous ones to remember the details. The latter are crucial to immerse yourself in the current movie and understand what will come afterwards. Same here… You’ll find me soon enough rereading both sagas to sharpen my memory and get a better look into Armentrout’s whole story-web.

Last but Not Least

Here’s Armentrout’s recommended order of reading…

Source: @jennifer_l_armentrout

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