Man, as enjoyable as the smut was (and damn, there was a lot), this book absolutely DRAGGED. There were several fake-out endings that came beyond the height of the story that seemed excessive, and most of it slowed down because Poppy has constantly been in one of two agitated states: fight or fornication.
THAT SAID, I can’t say I disliked this book, though I’m surprised I liked it a little less than FBAA. It was still a good read, I liked that the whole werewolf-vampire relationship didn’t go in the way of the usual “mortal enemies” storyline. And as much as I whine about Poppy throughout the book, there’s no doubt she can SLAY. That ending though.
A KINGDOM OF FLESH AND FIRE
by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Blue Box Press, September 2020
Rated: 3.5 / 5 cookies
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.
This book kind of threw me for a loop, because there wasn’t much that I’d said in the previous book that was new here. The aesthetic for it is still the same to me (which is probably why I haven’t updated it from FBAA). The plot–or something close to a plot–pretty much followed after From Blood and Ash and we get more out of the story backdrop, but as we can probably gather, if I’m still reading this series, it’s pretty much for THE PLOT, amiright?!
Anyway, it became rather clear by the 200-page point that if I was still reading AKoFaF, and nothing was happening–seriously, nothing–then I at least should have some sexy times to look forward to, right? I mean, the steam was definitely there, so it’s no surprise that there will be some spice much later in the book. I wasn’t disappointed with the steam, ’cause damn, once we got past chapter 18, the levels of spice went from jalapeno to ghost pepper and there was NO TURNING BACK. R.I.P. to those panties, ladies, Casteel be ripping them down, including Poppy’s…of course.
HOWEVER, LET IT NOT BE SAID THAT I WASN’T ALSO READING AS A MENTALLY STABLE, GROWN WOMAN.
I did enjoy much of the dialogue scattered throughout the story. While the flirtation between Poppy and Casteel did make me cringe from time to time, I still loved the banter between them, and some of the characters who show up–old and new–kind of grew on me a bit. Kieran definitely gets more spotlight here as a character, and I love his sister. Alistair demands a bit of spotlight, too, for being a wolven who stirs the pot up a bit.
I mean, how can I NOT like the guy? Despite Poppy feeling a wishy-washy emotion of want-to-stab/want-to-shag half the time. I almost feel a bit sorry for Casteel for the bender she puts him through, but then again, he definitely enjoys it, considering what turns him on the best is his “little murderous creature” that is Poppy Balfour.
GIRL. It hasn’t been pretend since THE VERY BEGINNING, JUST SAYING. If Poppy hadn’t been able to slay demons like the boss bitch she is, I’d probably be more annoyed with her, because she can’t be this naive, considering all the rule-breaking she’d been doing from Day One.
That said, if you were looking for an actual plot, you could definitely skip a major chunk of this book. It took the entire book to even get near Atlantia, and only in the last chapter or two did they even manage to get that far. A lot of the story fell into this pattern of Poppy arguing about her impending marriage, running away, getting in trouble, and then being dragged back to Casteel’s side. By the second and third time, it got repetitive enough that I mostly skimmed those parts, because they didn’t seem relevant in the scheme of things.
Don’t get me started on some of the phrasing that still kept happening in the book. Actually, let me get started, because I need to rant about this at least once. Every time I saw something anachronistic or didn’t fit the overall world, I had to put the book down and groan loudly–and not in a good way (“No one asked for your two cents” and–I literally shuddered–“open heart surgery” to name the most egregious phrases). And honestly, I don’t think Armentrout was thinking it through when she tried to pass off wiverns as shape-shifting cats. At least wolven and vamprys make sense because their names are similar to werewolves and vampires. But…seriously the very mention of wiverns killed me. As did the idea of “heartmates,” because by this point I was just screaming “NOT MATES AGAIN!”
3.5 out of 5 cookies! I will probably read the next book at some point, though not for a while. I feel like my own library might attack me if I kept trying to borrow Armentrout’s books only to not return them for months on end because it’s taking me ages to get through the chapters. I eventually will, though!