A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Blood and Ash #2) by Jennifer L. Armentrout
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.
I had some mixed emotions going into this book. If you look at my review of the first book, Hawke/ Casteel really pissed me off with this lying, and more than that, Poppy pissed me off for not doing more to get away or straight up call him out. So the beginning of this book started out as more of the same. In fact, I almost DNF it, until finally Poppy called him out for his lies and trying to control her. Remember when you were younger and you read New Moon by Stephanie Meyer and you wanted to rip out those pages in the middle where Bella was annoying? Well the beginning felt a little bit like that, but with a better plot! After this, the book got wayyy better for me and I literally couldn’t put it down.
I think that was a very pivotal moment in the book not only for me, but for the plot. Casteel started explaining more and communicating better (though still not good enough IMO) and he stopped being so controlling and actually gave Poppy choices instead of making them for her. That was a big turning point for Casteel as well and I actually started to root for him a bit.
After that, the book really progresses and it all goes uphill! I really liked Poppy’s badassness and when she finally started to stand up for herself. I loved Casteel’s vulnerability and that he started to learn from his mistakes. I liked the battle scenes and all the little twists and turns. It does end on a massive cliff hanger FYI so be prepared for that!
Overall, the more I read the book the more I enjoyed it. Don’t let the beginning deter you like it did me for a bit. My inner feminist was absolutely screaming, but it does get better. I am super excited for the third book! I do wonder how many books it is going to be? Many sci fi/ fantasy series are a trilogy, but with Armentrout, she tends to write longer series, not that I am complaining either way. Let me know what you guys think!