No one is talking about the way this novel is carried by its villain. Armentrout’s tendency towards repetition is the Achilles heel of the fourth installment of the From Blood and Ash series, taking away from the magic of a fully built-up fantasy world nearing its climax. A contentious scene didn’t seem all that important.
From the desperation of golden crowns…
Casteel Da’Neer knows all too well that very few are as cunning or vicious as the Blood Queen, but no one, not even him, could’ve prepared for the staggering revelations. The magnitude of what the Blood Queen has done is almost unthinkable.
And born of mortal flesh…
Nothing will stop Poppy from freeing her King and destroying everything the Blood Crown stands for. With the strength of the Primal of Life’s guards behind her, and the support of the wolven, Poppy must convince the Atlantian generals to make war her way—because there can be no retreat this time. Not if she has any hope of building a future where both kingdoms can reside in peace.
A great primal power rises…
Together, Poppy and Casteel must embrace traditions old and new to safeguard those they hold dear—to protect those who cannot defend themselves. But war is only the beginning. Ancient primal powers have already stirred, revealing the horror of what began eons ago. To end what the Blood Queen has begun, Poppy might have to become what she has been prophesied to be—what she fears the most.
As the Harbinger of Death and Destruction.
We can’t save everyone, Kieran reminded me. But we can save the ones we love.
Even though the end of this book sets the series up for even more, WAR OF TWO QUEENS is the climax of the past few books (read my review of them here). My MVP wasn’t Kieran or even the super awesomely cool dragon Reaver. It was Isbeth, one of the best villains I’ve read in a long time.
I remember reading City of Bones right when it came out, a sensation at the forefront of a movement, and being amazed at the way Cassandra Clare used and subverted the powerful relationships between parents and children to create truly complex, excellent villains.
“It was love that made you. She would’ve forgiven Malec for what he did by making you. But your hatred? Your grief? Your thirst for vengeance?It has rotted your mind more than the blood of a god could have ever done. What you have become—what you have brought upon the realms—will not save you.”
While Armentrout likes to draw ideas directly from other authors, I have to give her credit for the dynamic between Isbeth and those related to her. As readers, we can understand how she got to where she is. We can appreciate her villain arc even as we remain firmly on Poppy’s side.
So, unlike the rest of the books in the series, I didn’t find the Poppy and Casteel dynamic the most interesting part of the book. In fact, nearly all of their interactions were boring and extremely repetitive. The fights, and Poppy’s regularly overpowered meyhem, were the standout. I thought Armentrout did a great job consistently finding internal conflict for Poppy despite her immense power. And it’s actually really fun to read a book from a god’s point of view.
It’s the most infamous thing about this book, but I found it to be far less shocking than the internet makes it out to be. The crossover between people who read Armentrout and people who read regular, smutty romance must be massive. So why is a threesome so shocking? It didn’t feel like emotional cheating, and everything was handled with maturity and consent. Besides, it was inevitable. Armentrout spent four books teasing the scene.
POVs AND NEW CHARACTERS
Many people loved the Casteel POV. I like it, too, for a very specific reason.
I think the reason people like the female perspective on a hot book boyfriend is best demonstrated by the Feyre POV when she witnesses Rhysand’s power in A Court of Thorns and Roses. Power and awe and reluctant obsession all serve to make a character very attractive and intriguing.
What better time to turn that effect upon Poppy than when she is becoming the most powerful being in the entire realm? I thought it brought wonderful, fresh flavor to Poppy’s character. (Not Casteel’s. His trauma post-imprisonment felt half-heartedly written in favor of his obsession with Poppy. Which, I mean, I get it. I’m with ya, Casteel.)
His head snapped down, and he tore into the knight’s throat—into tissue and muscle. Tore straight through bone. Blood geysered as Reaver bit through the knight’s godsdamn spine. My mouth awnated to drop open, except I might’ve vomited if I had allowed it…Reaver tossed the knight aside and then sprang into the air, landing several feet ahead in a crouch as one of the knights stalked forward, face free of cloth and smirking.
Reaver is a delightful new character that has that ineffible quality that makes the reader fall in love in three scenes flat. Also he’s an AWESOME dragon. *cough* sorry, draken. Armentrout slightly changing vampires, werewolves, and dragons so slightly will never not be amusing to me.
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT?
If you’ve made it this far into the series, then absolutely. It’s full of satisfying payoffs. I came away unimpressed for the same reasons I’ve always had with Armentrout—the repetition, the lazy worldbuilding, the repetition, the repitition. Still—overall, I think she did a great job with this volume while walking some very tricky lines.
Best line award:
“Time for what, you silly fuck?” Kieran snareld, grasping the hilt of his sword.