Title: Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher/Publish Date: September 1st 2020 by Blue Box Press
Genre: New adult, high fantasy, romance
Edition/Pages: Kindle Edition/637 pages
Trigger warning: kidnapping, mention of physical and sexual abuse
**Spoilers for the first installment, From Blood and Ash, below**
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.
*Synopsis from Goodreads
Kingdom of Flesh and Fire picks up right after From Blood and Ash. Casteel has just announced that Poppy will be marrying him when they get to Atlantia. And of course Poppy protests in front of all his people like the badass she is. I mean why wouldn’t she? He disguised himself as her guard Hawke in FBAA when she was the Maiden. She started to fall for him. Then he kidnapped her, revealed his true identity, planned to ransom her to the Ascended to get his brother back, and now he’s talking about marriage?? Yeah, he’s definitely crazy.
KOFAF started a little slow at the beginning, not much happens plot-wise. The whole book is HEAVY with exposition. We learn SO MUCH about Atlantians and their customs, which I’m sure will be important in book three. We also learn more about the gods, deities, wolven, and all the types of bloodlines in this vast world. Jennifer L. Armetrout makes sure we understand this world that she’s thought up. One of the things that makes KOFAF a great book is the world-building, it’s excellent. There was so much to take in which made it easy to completely immerse myself in this fantasy.
The writing is top-notch. JLA knows her audience and she knows how to keep us wanting more. The character development was good. Poppy has grown into her own person. In FBAA she was chosen as the Maiden, never to be seen, never to interact with anyone except for a few. She was always watched; always told what to do, how to act, and what to eat. Now she’s been taken from that cage, and seemingly into another one. She’s dealing with Hawke/Casteel’s betrayal and her feelings for him, trying to figure out who she is without the veil of the Maiden, and trying to find her brother. Not to mention, at the end of FBAA, she found out she was part Atlantian, a people she was taught to hate and fear. She’s going through all of this, but she’s found her voice. She’s not afraid to tell Casteel exactly what she thinks about his plans. She’s been in a cage once, and she’s not about to be placed in another. She’s done with everyone making decisions for her, she’s done being the victim. I loved how fierce and determined Poppy is. She’s strong and will never back down from a fight. She’s empathetic, even to those who distrust her. I really enjoyed witnessing her character growth.
We found out very little about Poppy’s “ancestry”. And I put that in quotations because there are things that are revealed which cause more questions. I was expecting to discover more about her parents and what happened the night the Craven attacked them, but we don’t get many answers. Also, Poppy’s powers are evolving and we don’t exactly know why. In the end, you find out why…but still, I need the science behind it.
I absolutely hated Casteel at the end of FBAA. He became the exact opposite of Hawke, who I loved. All the good qualities that Hawke possessed were seemingly thrown out the window. I was hoping for his redemption in KOFAF. I wanted to like him, but what he did to Poppy was wrong on so many levels. Casteel was arrogant, which I do not find to be cute at all, and expected Poppy to just fall in line with his plans without fully explaining them first. I didn’t like that he kept her out of the loop. The miscommunication between the two of them causes so much discord. Just one conversation explaining his plans would have cleared up so much air and avoided so many arguments between him and Poppy. It was truly frustrating when they wouldn’t be completely truthful with one another because it was unnecessary. I was not team Casteel at all at the start. But after learning more about his past, what he went through, and how his plans truly involve Poppy, he grew to be someone I could admire. However, it took too long to get there.
The chemistry between Poppy and Casteel is HOT. Through their conflicting feelings for each other, they have to make their engagement believable to all Atlantians. But of course, there’s no need to pretend between the two of them if they just let go of all their worries. I enjoyed seeing their relationship grow.
I loved the side characters. Kieran is Casteel’s bonded wolven and his sarcasm is superb. He says a little and a lot at the same time. I also liked the new characters that we meet in KOFAF. Alastir, the advisor to the King and Queen of Atlantia, reminded me of Vikter in the beginning. Kieran’s sister Vonetta seemed like the perfect friend Poppy needed. There were tons of side characters that were great, but it was hard to keep up with their names at times.
Much like FBAA, the action really picks up in the last third of the book, and boy, IT IS GOOD. I could not put this book down. THAT ENDING THOUGH!! All hail Jennifer L. Armentrout, Queen of Cliffhangers. The very last sentence is just…I did not see it coming at all. I had my theories, but I didn’t even think of that one. I have SO. MANY. QUESTIONS. I need book three in my hands NOW!
This book was funny, emotional, sexy, full of action, and just unputdownable! There’s vampires and werewolves, gods and goddesses, and an enjoyable plot. This series is quickly becoming one of my favorite reads this year. If you haven’t picked this up, please do; you won’t regret it!
RATING: 4 STARS
Poppy: “A cell is a cell, no matter how comfortable it is,”.
Casteel: “Make me feel incompetent and kill more than me, Princess.”
Poppy: “I’m not your enemy, but you’re quickly becoming mine.”
Poppy: But if Vikter had taught me anything, if I’d learned anything from Queen Ileana and my time as the Maiden, dealing with Duke Teerman and Lord Mazeen, it was that being pragmatic and rational was the only way to win a battle and survive a war.
Kieran: “Do me a favor,” Kieran said, looking down at me. “Protect your Prince, Poppy.”
Casteel: “Let’s make a deal that we don’t borrow tomorrow’s problems today.”
Casteel: “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.”
Poppy: “I don’t want to pretend,” I whispered. “I’m Poppy and you’re Casteel, and this is real.”
Poppy: “He was the first thing I’d ever truly chosen for myself.”
Casteel: “You don’t deserve everything that I’ve laid at your feet, and you sure as hell don’t deserve the fact that I’m still trying to hold onto you. That when it comes time for you to leave, I’m still going to want you. Even when you inevitably do leave, I’ll still want you.”