A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire
“Sometimes, the heartbreak that comes with loving someone is worth it, even if loving that person means eventually saying goodbye to them.”
The second instalment in the Blood and Ash series, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, the explosive sequel to From Blood and Ash, continues to follow our character Poppy’s journey of self discovery, her search for the the past, and her fight for freedom. Warning: this book is about to get angsty, sexy, and even more badass.
Certainly, it is best to go into this book with no expectations – but I don’t want to spoil any of the juicy developments in the story, so I’ll try and keep this review as mysterious as possible, while giving you a good impression! But *spoiler warning*, some things might be given away – so please proceed with caution if you want to go into this blind. Somehow, this book manages to be better than the last volume; definitely my favourite book released in 2020!
Poppy is in over-her-head, after discovering that everything she had known is a lie – not least, the man she fell in love with. Her relationship with Cas is more twisted than ever, and nothing seems to make sense to her. Her search for answers is about to get so much more interesting. Poppy is surrounded by Atlantians, most of whom either hate her for what she represents, or simply want to kill her for being The Maiden. A role she now resents with every fibre of her being, wherein she was caged beneath a veil to be used like a chess piece by powerful players in an ancient game.
A game that she is trying to understand, how and why exactly she fits in, seemingly those who kept her captive would have used her, like a cow for slaughter, to further their agenda, but the threads of reality go much deeper than that. As she tries to untangle this puzzle, it seems like every time a piece fits in to place, the board doubles in size.
Casteel’s plan to kidnap Poppy and barter her life in exchange for his brother’s seems to have fizzled, meaning things are changing in the power plays of this world. His people expected him to return to his royal duties, leaving behind his brother, and so many are suspicious when he announces a plan to keep Poppy by his side and reassume the throne, where he will be expected to become King.
“He was both the villain and the hero, the monster and the monster-slayer.”
Poppy struggles to understand his intentions, as he and his charming best friend (and bonded wolven) Keiran, begin to strip back the preconceptions she had learned of their world. Cas seeks to use her for his gain, but, for some reason he is not sacrificing her life to the Ascended, as she (and everyone else) knows he had planned to. Despite the hatred and distrust between them, the sizzling connection they share is unavoidable. (Cue some STEAMY vampire scenes.)
But as they draw closer to Atlantia, the most perculiar things begin to happen. Those sleeping below and Poppy’s own powers start to multiply, meaning not only that people start to become afraid of her, but nobody seems to understand what she is. Threats begin to multiply on her life, and as the skies start to bleed, and the last group attempt to kill her, the truth unfolds.
“Feelings were not stagnant. Neither were opinions or beliefs, and if we stopped believing people were capable of change, then the world might as well be left to burn.”
Tropes & Types
Character/plotline tropes and types you might have seen before that feature – or are similar to – the content in this book.
Tragic Backstory, Antihero, Orphan, Hero antagonist twist, Fierce women, Naive women, Bad boy, Secretly good villain
Hidden Civilisation, Chosen One, Undiscovered Power, Vampires, Waiting Evil, Parents are Dead, Evil government, Secret royalty
Certainly, Armentrout has a knack for creating the most exquisite relationships. Ones that flow naturally with humour and quips, those that grow slowly from acquaintance to near-family, and she so beautifully demonstrates her understanding of character development. Not only the relationship between Poppy and Cas, but the deep understanding between her and Alastair; the kindred and humorous bond that groups between she and Keiran, and her sisterly relationship that fosters with Vonetta.
I remember Jennifer admitting that she was worried her high-fantasy writing would be poor… now, I sit here thinking, “what the hell were you thinking, Jennifer? This sh*t is GOLD.” It would be futile for Armentrout to doubt herself; she has proven again and again that she has a natural talent for writing the most epic, captivating tales. These are stories that you lose yourself in for days. This story is constantly levelling up the action, developing itself and bonding the pieces together like superglue on lego houses.
I actually finished this book about 10 days ago, but I’m still hungover and dazzled. I even dreamt about the storyline the other night. It’s captivating, addictive, and dangerous.
“I don’t want to pretend,” I whispered.
“I’m Poppy and you’re Casteel, and this is real.”
I have to talk about the characters, because one of the things that makes this book so special is the characters, their development, and their relationships. We all remember Poppy, our Maiden, our protagonist, our beautifully damaged, “murderous little creature” with the heart of a lion.
Her unyeilding bravery, despite the odds against her, despite the fact that if she decided to give up, nobody would blame her, is more than admirable. Despite pain, despite exhaustion, despite heartbreak, despite injury, she never fails to get back up again, and take the next step, a true fighter. She is intelligent, curious and understanding, and Armentrout makes sure to explain clearly, using Poppy’s voice, anything that both we, the reader, and Poppy, the lead, is discovering. Poppy’s refusal to be labelled ‘a victim’ is a feeling that resonates with me – in fact, it’s in line with a quote I’ve had tattooed on my arm for years, which I’ll show below! – and I’m sure it speaks to many other women who’ve been beaten down. Her empathetic traits are astounding, and are some that I try to embellish in my own life.
“Your heart, Poppy? It is a gift I do not deserve.” He placed his hands on his knees as he lifted his gaze to mine. “But it is one I will protect until my dying breath.”
Now, Cas. Casteel. Casteel, on his knees pledging his heart, and promising to protect Poppy’s, is something I could re-read again and again, and again… until the day fades to night, and the night grows old. Casteel’s dark, sexy, passionate lines are the things of every person’s fantasy. He’s devilishly handsome and entirely too charming, with an ego the size of America. He’s powerful, he’s passionate, he isn’t afraid to show his feelings or speak his mind, he’s a little bit reckless and entirely protective of the things he cares about. He’s the perfect anti-hero, the ‘bad boy’ who’s painted out to be the most evil, vile, creature – but who has a tortured soul, a responsibility, and many hard choices to make. Casteel Da’Neer is known by many faces, because he needs to be many things, and each is a mask that is entwined in his very being.
Let’s not forget about the secondary characters. Keiran, Cas’s bonded wolven, is almost as dreamy as Casteel, and I could totally support a three-way-poly relationship between them (but, we who know Armentrout’s writing know that that won’t ever happen. *pouts*.) The banter between he and Popppy, and he and Cas, is priceless – it will have you giggling, for sure. Vonetta, Keiran’s sister, is equally badass, outspoken, and beautiful – some of my favourite characters in a lady. I could swoon for her all day too.
The Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
From Blood and Ash (Book #1)
Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (Book #2)
The Crown of Gilded Bones (Book #3)
“[Casteel, to Poppy] He pressed a hand to his chest. “You wound me yet again.”
“He’s not wounded,” Kieran answered.
“At least, not physically. Emotionally, I believe you left him shredded.””
Cons… cons… cons. How can I find any fault with this book? It’s perfect. It’s like a clear-cut diamond shining on a pile of treasure. I suppose, the only thing I might have wanted more, would be a poly-relationship between Keiran-Poppy-Casteel, but that’s a personal preference. I really, truly, can’t find a single bad thing about this book… Even with the ending how it is. Let me just say, the ending is a CLIFF. The sheerest, most dramatic drop ever. Shock factor installed with the wow-omg-amazing effect enabled. Love it.
“I fell for you when you were Hawke, and I kept falling for you when you became Casteel.”
A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire has beaten it’s way to the top of my all time favourites list. Quite literally, it’s vanquished every other series I might have read, and now they can only gaze upon their new Royalty.
It is enchanting, emotional, addictive and thrilling. The decadent layers of society, the glorious battles, sinfully sexy scenes, delicious dialogue and captivating character developments were skilfully crafted into the most tantalising treat 2020 had to offer: this book, I gobbled up every word greedily.
My favourite moments were plentiful, to name some of them: Casteel comforting Poppy after her nightmares, Poppy helping to calm Casteel after his nightmare/blood lust, Keiran supporting Poppy while Cas feeds from her, Poppy and the…. shaking ground (trying to avoid BIG spoilers here!), Poppy realising that Atlantians can ‘smell’ when she’s aroused (hahahahahahaha, mortified), Poppy standing up for herself against those who would kill her/hate her, the time where Poppy almost walks off the cliff, THE ENDING.
“You can’t spell dysfunctional without fun, now can you?”