“My heart skipped a beat.”
I believe this is Jennifer Armentrout’s (JLA) favorite expression. I counted around 41 times it was written throughout the book series. It may not sound like a huge number, but if you choose to read these books, I promised you one of the things you’ll remember the most is going to be that phrase. Our characters experience multiple skips of their hearts’ beats when they are feeling every possible emotion, attraction, fear, you name it.
I love Armentrout’s creativity. “Blood and Ash” is one of my favorite fantasy romance stories, content wise. We follow Poppy in her journey to know herself and discover her true potential. ‘Chosen by the Gods’, she is the Maiden, the future of the Kingdom of Solis, and her Ascension—a ritual blessed by the Gods—will usher great changes. However, she discovers that being a Maiden means being in a sort of cage. No one can speak to her. No one can touch her or even see her face. She is not allowed outside the castle grounds. She spends most of the time locked in her room and only has some human contact with her personal guards and lady companion. Being a curious person with particular abilities in her arsenal, she decides to choose a life of her own and listen to her instincts. We follow an adventurous path full of action, passion, betrayals, lies, violence, wonder, and mystery. Will she ascend? Or will she shed the disguise of the Maiden and show her true colors? What are those true colors? These are the questions you’ll explore throughout the series.
So, why is it not a five-star rating? As I said, content wise, this book series is amazing. Great twists and turns, action packed, romance and passion on its best. However, it is lacking in the way it was written. First and foremost, JLA's writing style has a tendency to be repetitive:
- As you could see, she favorites phrases that after a while you’d wish she would find other literary resources to convey her meaning.
- Poppy, her protagonist, rambles. It’s one of her distinguishing personality traits. Not only she rambles while talking, but her mind and her actions, too, jump from one place to the other. While she’s thinking about her feelings and possible actions, you can get lost in endless paragraphs of meditation that slow so much the story that it even gets boring. This happens specially when Poppy is interacting with others. Don’t be surprised if after someone asks her a question you have to go back pages to remember what that question was again. That’s how long—in terms of paragraphs—it takes sometimes to find out the answer. Not only that, she goes over the same struggles and thoughts over and over. After a couple of times, you as a reader are more than familiarized with her conflict and it’s excruciating to see it on repeat. You wished she would get on with doing something about it instead of just rambling about it.
- Poppy’s curiosity makes her ask a lot of questions. This said, how many times do we need to see written that she has a question? How many times do we need to hear Kieran—another character—reply that no one is surprised about it? Can’t she jut ask her question and receive or not the answer like the rest of the characters do when interacting instead of going through this repetitive banter that seems to have no end?
- JLA’s metaphors also become repetitious. Through Poppy’s eyes, she compares one of her characters to a god and to a wild cat. It didn’t happen 41 times, but it happened more than enough.
Second, there are some minor, I call them edition mistakes. They give you the impression, there was some content that was cut from the original manuscript and they never realized they left some loops in the story. Let me give you an example:
“He was the one who broke off a hunk of cheese and placed it on my plate as he reached for his glass, seeming to remember that it was one of my weaknesses.”
In this scene, Prince Casteel—you’ll find about him soon enough in the series—remembers her apparent love for cheese. However, there is no mention of her liking cheese anywhere before that page in book 1. Fortunately, these type of errors don’t interfere with the story itself or are relevant to the conflict. Now, I did find—unless I got it wrong—one mistake that does affect the story. I’ll comment on it at the end of the review in case it might spoil part of the story.
To finish with the writing observations, I was pleasantly surprised that there were very few grammar/spelling errors. When I first read these books, I remember finding a lot of minor details in this regard. I guess, they corrected them.
Just a side note, book 4 wasn’t my favorite. Again, I would have preferred some parts to be more straightforward. Moreover, towards the end, there were some scenes that didn’t make sense to me. Your life is threatened, there’s a course you need to take, and you decide to meander instead? Questionable. Finally, there’s a name in this latest book that cannot be mentioned because of the power it carries. It turns out this name is readily available in a JLA’s different book series. So, how is it that an important piece of information is used to hold suspense in one series but it’s also easily available in another? Won’t it kill the suspense if a reader chooses to read the first book of that other saga before book 4 of “Blood and Ash—”specially when that’s the recommended order of reading?”
I know this review sounds like I hated the books. It’s just tough love. When you love a story so much you just want the books to reach their maximun potential. You want the series to be beyond five stars. The plot is there. Cut some paragraphs to reduce the blathering, close the loops and we reach almost perfection.
All in all, From Blood and Ash is a story you won’t regret.
🚨Spoiler Alert: Remember I wrote before about a mistake that affects the story?
Poppy has the ability to sense people’s physical and emotional pain. As the story evolves, she becomes capable of feeling other emotions/sensations, such as love, fear, concern, etc. There’s a scene where she identifies the taste of love by comparing it to a similar feeling she got from her parents and brother when she was little. Nonetheless, when she was little she could only sense pain. So how could she sense love at that time? 🚨
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