Published: March 30, 2020
Read as: ebook, owned
My rating: 4
Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.
The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.
Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel. (from Goodreads)
“Some truths do nothing but destroy and decay what they do not obliterate. Truths do not always set one free. Only a fool who has spent their entire life being fed lies believes that.”
~REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS~
I am not sure even where to begin with this review. This was my first Armentrout book and I went into it knowing that many of my fellow reviewers enjoy her work and nothing about her writing style. Thats about it. When this book was released in late March 2020 I stumbled across it while idly browsing Kindle titles and I had no idea it was surprise release, I just bought it because it sounded fairly interesting.
When I started reading I must admit that I was fairly confused about some aspects of the story. Sure, there were many common fantasy elements that we’ve come to know and (mostly) love but nearly every page a group called the Ascended were mentioned. Now, I don’t know about you but when something is brought up so often I like to know what it is talking out. However, the Ascended are this kind of enigma. You are told that only certain people can go from being hum-drum boring old humans to becoming Ascended and that those people are then gifted an unnaturally long life. But…thats about it. It wasn’t until toward the end of the book that the reader is truly clued in to what these Ascended beings are. The reveal is not unexpected but still exciting.
And, oh, the way Armentrout wrote that warmed my very soul.
While I as the reader was kept in the dark regarding these beings, we find out that our first person narrator, Poppy, is also in the dark about them. Poppy has lead a very sheltered and controlled life. She gets to make no decisions on her own, is not permitted by the ruling class to speak to pretty much anyone, and is allowed no joys and frivolities in any way. She has trouble following those rules. Poppy is conditioned to believe everything that she is told and she is told that the Ascended are magnificent beings chosen by their god and…thats it. When we get the big reveal of what they truly are Poppy is shook and while with some context clues and dropped hints the reader can glean some assumptions about them it is still pretty thrilling.
I do want to bring up here that there are TRIGGER WARNINGS in this book for repeated physical, mental, and emotional abuse. These abuses are used to control and condition Poppy and to shape her into the person the ruling class wants her to be. There is also off-screen violence against children, openly discussed proposed sexual abuse, and repeated violence.
One of the biggest plot threads in this book is for the romantic/love interest for Poppy. Hawke, you could say, wears a coat of many colors. His main job is to be a guard for Poppy and he takes that position seriously. He is also her first sexual interest and Hawke makes no qualms about his enjoyment of that. Over the course of the story he is also a big part of the plot twist in the second half which I saw coming but was still a joy to read. I’m still on a fence about whether or not I like Hawke but, honestly, I feel like that is part of the point.
Overall, this book had a lot of tropes that are common in fantasy novels but the story was so engrossing I couldn’t have cared less about them. Thats the thing about tropes, when used well they can enrich a story and Armentrout used them to their best advantage.
For my first Armentrout book I was very pleased. The story kept my attention, was easy to follow along with, had enough twists to keep me on my toes, and was just fun to read. At the end of the day that is what is most important to me. Was the book fun and entertaining? Yes. I could go on and on about plot points, character development, and sexual tension for pages but the long and short of it was that the book was entertaining. I am very much looking forward to reading more of Armentrout’s work.