From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout is one of the best books I’ve read in 2020 so when she announced the release of the sequel, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, I was READY. After reading this book and Armentrout’s Wicked series, I’ve came to the conclusion that her first books are always a hit while the following books in the series are… not. She starts strong but struggles with the follow through. I’m giving A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire three stars, which isn’t bad, but after giving From Blood and Ash five stars, it is disappointing. I have quite a few reasons for giving it a lower rating so let’s talk about them. I do recommend reading my spoiler free review for From Blood and Ash first because this review will have spoilers.
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.
Let’s start with the positives, shall we? I adore these characters and this world. Poppy had some character development (or regression) that I wasn’t a fan of but I’ll talk more about that in a moment. Casteel is still perfection and I enjoyed meeting all the new characters. The last 20% of this book was excellent and if the entire book would have been on par with it, this would have been a five star read. If it wasn’t for the ending being SO strong, I *might* would have decided to DNF this series and that leads me into the negatives.
This is going to be a three or four book series and this book was clearly a middle book. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it filler but it was just a whole lot of info dumping, talking and going from point A to point B as SLOWLY as possible. The pacing was simply bad. I couldn’t put From Blood and Ash down because it was so fast paced and interesting but it took me weeks to get through A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire.
I was so bored because a huge chunk of this book is Poppy having inner monologues with herself and it was about the same topic every time… her conflicting feelings for Casteel. Speaking of their relationship, this book relies HEAVILY on miscommunication and these two simply not communicating at all. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves because it’s so contrary to who I am as a person. I am BIG on communication and so it’s frustrating to read about characters that refuse to speak openly to each other for no reason whatsoever.
I also couldn’t stand Poppy in this book. I loved her in the first book so much because she was brave, endearing and smart. In this book, however, she’s none of those things. As I said above, she spends most of her time fretting about how she feels for Casteel. It’s SUPER annoying because she clearly loves him but she keeps up the facade of hating him and wanting to stab him all the time. Like, okay, it was funny in From Blood and Ash how borderline violent Poppy could be but in this book it was repeated over and over and over. It’s like when somebody keeps repeating a crappy joke and it’s just not funny. We get it, she’s not like other girls.
Now it’s time for possibly my most controversial opinion… I don’t care about Kieran at all. It seems like everyone loves him, and I don’t dislike him, but he’s just so bland. As I was reading this book, I kept seeing people in the Facebook fan groups I follow going crazy about Kieran so I was expecting him to have some major character development. If that happened, I missed it. He makes a few funny comments but other than that, he has no personality and he definitely doesn’t have chemistry with Poppy. I don’t think there will ever be the love triangle that people seem to want between Kieran, Poppy and Casteel. I’m going to need some major character development in the next book for me to be interested in him.
I would say there were only three or four major, interesting events in this entire 626 page book. Almost none of the questions from the first book were answered. We still don’t get to meet Poppy or Casteel’s brothers, find out about Poppy’s parents or really learn much of anything new. If you condensed this book down to the really good parts, it would be a novella.
I know this review may seem harsh but I am simply disappointed. The potential is there for this to be an absolutely excellent fantasy series and I don’t want to see that ruined. I think the issue lies with how quickly Armentrout churns out these books. I would rather wait six months to a year and get a really good book instead of a mediocre and poorly plotted one. As always, different opinions are welcome. If you’ve read A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, what did you think? Thanks for reading and have a great day!