Title: A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
Author: Jennifer L Armentrout
What It’s About: Penellaphe is now living with Prince Casteel Da’Neer, the Atlantian Prince known as the Dark One across Solis. He had kidnapped her from the Ascended, and proposed marriage to her. But Poppy, as she is called by her closest friends, feels betrayed and desires freedom above all else, so she turns down Casteel’s proposal. She also fights him on every topic, raising questions about whether he will trade her for his brother. Someone else questions Casteel, but takes it too far, and Casteel rips his heart out.
On her way to being escorted to her room, Poppy meets Alistair, the wolven who is the advisor to the King and Queen of Atlantia, but she doesn’t get much of a chance to speak with him. Instead, she gets taken to her room, and her door gets locked from the outside in order to stop her from running away after a conversation with Kieran, the wolven bonded to Casteel, who tells Poppy that she is safe with Casteel and that she should use her gift to sense people’s emotions in order to be aware of her surroundings and the intent of those towards her. Nevertheless, Poppy escapes from the castle with barely anything, and runs for the woods. Her escape plan goes awry as she gets intercepted by Kieran and Casteel, the latter of whom makes a deal with Poppy–she defeats him in hand to hand combat, and he lets her go. Casteel sends Kieran away, and the two of them fight, but Poppy realizes that while she has been able to keep up with Casteel, he was tiring her out until he could grab her. They get interrupted by the Craven, which they fight together, and then they return to the castle.
Casteel tells Poppy all about the faucets, the piping and the broilers that cause their homes and castles in Atlantia to always have hot water, no matter what. He also tells her that Atlantia is running out of space because they’re taking more and more Descenters that are coming into the country, even though Atlantia is no longer the size of what it used to be. Casteel asks Poppy why she ran, but she doesn’t precisely give him an answer, but then he tells her the reason why he chose Hawke was because Hawkethorne is his middle name. In Atlantia, it is a custom to give a middle name to the child, and that name is only shared with his closest friend and family. He then reveals that Kieran was the one who gave him the last name “Flynn” because he thought that it would fit, which is how he got the alias Hawke Flynn. This completely makes Poppy begin to see Casteel in a different light–up until that moment, she had believed that Casteel had taken on the identity of someone he had killed. He then offers to tell Poppy the truth to any question that she asks. She chooses to ask about the First Maiden and whether Casteel killed her. This question catches him off guard, and it makes him angry, because he has never heard of another Maiden besides Poppy. He tells her that there is blood on his hands–the blood of the Ascended, and many innocents including Poppy’s guard, Rylan, but not the First Maiden. Casteel then reveals that if the First Maiden was anything like Poppy–half-Atlantian–they would have fed her to his brother, because only Atlantians or those of Atlantian blood can given enough sustenance to the other. It also turns out that the Ascended were waiting for Poppy to turn 19 in order to give her the Ascension, because when an Atlantian reaches that age they through the culling, which results in physical changes, as well as changes to certain abilities.
They go to sleep, and Poppy dreams of the night of the Craven attack, seeing her mother telling her to be quiet. Someone in the darkness sings a song to her in that memory. Poppy jerks awake and Casteel holds onto her, letting her calm down and reveals to her how he got caught and what was done to him during his capture under the King and Queen of Solis–they starved him of blood, keeping him on the edge long enough to affect his ability to heal, and that is when they branded him. Then when the people that they were feeding Casteel with were close to dying, they would either slowly kill them, snap their necks, or Casteel would kill them himself out of hunger, and they would leave the bodies there with him in the room. They talk about how each of them manages fear–for Poppy it’s not fear, it’s about preparedness, to never ever be helpless against–while for Casteel, it is all about revenge. Poppy reveals the nightmare that she was having, but isn’t unable to recall the details. Casteel mentions that trauma like that can be mixed up with other trauma as well. At first Poppy cannot fall asleep, but then he cuddles with her, and she falls back asleep.
Unfortunately when she wakes up Casteel is gone, leaving her locked in the room. Delano runs into the room at one point, wondering if Poppy was yelling for him, but clearly she wasn’t. She ends up falling asleep again, and this time wakes up to Kieran watching her. On their way to the food hall, Kieran tells Poppy more about the bloodlines in Atlantia, indicating that Casteel is from the elemental one, which is the one closest to the deities. They encounter Alistair, and Kieran tries to hide Poppy behind him from Alistair, but she tells him off, which makes Alistair smile. They talk for a while about her background and her parents, and Alistair takes a liking to her, while she cannot shake the feeling off that she’s familiar with Alistair. Then Kieran and Penny go on to the dining hall and continue their conversation. Of course, when Casteel arrives, Penny gets tongue-tied around him momentarily, and Kieran tells Poppy about Casteel’s heightened senses, which makes her realize that the reason Casteel knows she’s attracted to her is because he can smell her. Upset with Casteel over keeping her locked up in a room all day, Poppy tells him that he is no better than an Ascended, which prompts Casteel to take her to an underground meditation room where the Descenters and Atlantians wrote the names of those who have been killed by the Descended. When they return, Casteel tells Poppy about his plans with the marriage, saying that he won’t force her if she doesn’t want it, but if she does agree to marry him, she will be safer. The next day, they try to convince Alistair, but he doesn’t fully buy it and tries to ask Poppy if it’s for real, offering to help her escape, which she turns down. She then spends the rest of the day with Kieran in a library discovering an old Atlantian Census record. Casteel answers her questions about some of the bloodlines, and points out the Senturion bloodline, which is a warrior bloodline, and then he gives Penny a history lesson about Atlantian bloodlines.
They get interrupted with the news that the Ascended had arrived, and Casteel takes Poppy outdoors, so the two of them hide in the woods, which is when Poppy notices the crimson carriage with the Royal Crest, and that they had brought the Royal Knights with them. Lord Chaney was the Ascended that came out to question the people of New Haven, and it turned out that Mrs. Tulis was the one that ratted them out after the death of her husband. Fortunately no one was willing to rat out Poppy’s existence to Lord Chaney, and so he kills one of the men. A fight breaks out, and Casteel gives Poppy her wolves bone knife before he joins the fray. She does too, in an effort to save a child, but fails as she is captured by Lord Chaney, who whisks her away. She wakes up in the carriage an hour later, and she talks to Lord Chaney, trying to figure a way out of the carriage, and he reveals more about who she really is, realizing that she knows more than she should about the Ascended. A fight breaks out between the two of them, and Poppy tries to fend him off, but he shreds her arm with his teeth, resulting in intense pain the likes of which Poppy has never felt. Suddenly the Lord gets pulled out of the carriage, and Casteel is there cradling Poppy, who explains to him in her muddied thoughts that she never wanted to go, before she passes out.
She wakes up again in the bedroom, and Casteel catches her up on what had occurred, including that he had given her his blood to drink from. She then goes down to the hall to help those that were injured by taking their pain, but before she is able to help them, Casteel shows her that there is a Blood Tree in the exact spot where Lord Chaney kidnapped Poppy, which many people believe is an omen. She then takes away the pain of the people who were hurt in the battle, and afterwards, with Alistair they talk about her abilities. Alistair leaves that night for Spessa’s End, and Casteel tells Poppy that he is in awe of her abilities, after which they pretend to be Hawke and Poppy and share a kiss, with him teasing her. Then he takes her to the dungeon, and they talk to Kieran, who keeps asking Casteel if he’s all right. Turns out that Lord Chaney is in the dungeon, and Casteel gives Poppy the option of killing him, and she does.
Over the next day, while Poppy and Casteel wait for the roads to clear to go to Spessa’s End, she learns more about Atlantian History and about the bonds between Wolven and Elemental Atlantians. She also dreams more about the night her parents were murdered, and Casteel consoles her. They leave the very next day for Spessa’s End, with only a few individuals, while the rest of the members of New Haven would be leaving the following day. Three days after the group consisting of Poppy, Casteel, Kieran, Delano, and Naill leave New Haven, they encounter the Dead Bones Clan, a group of mortals that moved away from the Ascended’s cities, and have sinister intentions. A fight breaks out, and the group manages to overpower the Clan. Shortly thereafter, they reach Pompay, the last Atlantian stronghold in Solis, which was burned to the ground by the Ascended who feared that there would be Descenters in the area, and did not wish to rule this far away from their cities. They slaughtered the whole city, leaving people where they were to be taken back by the elements, so when the Atlantians came to the area, they buried everyone.
They finally arrive in Spessa’s End, which has been rebuilt and reclaimed by an Atlantian population. They encounter Quentyn, and Beckett, who is a wolven, and they show them to the stables as well as to their quarters. Casteel notes that Quentyn and Beckett weren’t supposed to be here at Spessa’s End because those who have been moved out to the area were hand-selected. They needed to be old enough and trained in case the Ascended came out so that they could fight them off. Poppy goes to sleep alone, and wakes up twisted around Casteel. When she moves, this triggers a predatory response in Casteel, who traps her in bed without warning or recognition, and when Poppy uses her gifts to sense him, she senses hunger. Casteel’s eyes are fully black and there’s no sign of him or Hawke that she recognizes. They are interrupted by Kieran, who then becomes Casteel’s focus, and he tells Poppy to run. Instead, Poppy uses her gift to channel all the good and wonderful feelings into him, and that stops Casteel short, who then comes to his senses and leaves the room.
Kieran then reveals that Casteel he has been getting too close to the edge, and that he has nightmares so when he startled awake he is still caged. The two of them go to the bay, and Kieran tells her stories of Malik, Casteel and him when they were young, including Shea in the stories. He then tells Poppy that Casteel needs to feed because he’s getting too close to the edge, and throws a few truths at her–that Casteel and she care for each other despite all the other stuff, whether they want to admit it or not. Kieran reveals that since Casteel cares for Poppy, he would find it repellant to feed from anyone else because it’s too intimate. Rather, Kieran believes that they are heart mates, something that is far rarer than love, especially since they recognized each other after speaking a few times. As they continue talking, Poppy comes to the realization that Casteel drew a line he wouldn’t cross, and that involved her. Alistair visits her later that evening, and tells her about other Atlantian traditions, and one that would prolong her life if she was bonded to the wolven.
When Casteel returns, he apologizes, and they talk about one of the traditions for a while. She then offers herself up to be bitten by him, and he agrees, but he asks for Kieran to be present so that he doesn’t take more blood than he needs to. The next day, they take a little field trip one horseback, with Casteel teaching her how to ride, through Spessa’s End. They visit with Kieran’s sister, Vonetta, who instantly takes a liking to Poppy. They talk about a variety of things, including Poppy’s bloodline, when they are interrupted by a loud crash. Alistair comes rushing with Beckett in wolven form, and Poppy uses her gifts to help him. But this time they do something different–her hands start to glow–and she forces Beckett to change forms while also healing him, which confuses everyone around her. When the crowd that gathered leaves, Poppy and Casteel talk, and he suggests that they get married here in Spessa’s End.
The following day, they talk to Alistair, who tries to persuade them that waiting to marry until after they meet the King and Queen would be the wisest thing to do, but they decide to proceed with the marriage. Then Casteel and Poppy go to the caverns that he used to visit with his brother and they spend an hour in the cavern, enjoying the water, this time choosing to not “pretend.” When they return to the city, they have dinner, and Poppy feels ill-feelings towards her from the crowd. She then finds out from Alistair that Casteel has been promised to another individual. Someone in the crowd says something about Poppy, and for the first time she stands up for herself with her own words. The discussion continues with the crowd, and Poppy and Casteel reckon with their own feelings for each other in front of the crowd. Having enough of the hatred she continues to feel despite the truth that they shared, Poppy steps outside, and Casteel follows her, but Kieran comes out and sends him back to the dining hall. Poppy goes back to the room, and realizes that she is in love with Casteel, despite all of the lies.
Casteel returns later that night, and they have an argument, which gets interrupted by information that the sky is on fire. They go up on the rise, and watch as something far away is burning. There, Poppy meets Jasper, and they talk for some time. When Delano returns, hurt, from his scouting, Poppy heals him and he tells them that the Ascended are coming. Apparently a lot of them, and everything is burning as the army advance. The group try’s to figure out what to do, and how many fighters they have, with Casteel giving out orders, sending Kieran and Poppy away. But Poppy argues back, showing exactly why she would be more useful here than being sent away, and Casteel agrees to let her stay. The rest of the day is spent in a haze of work, and in the evening Casteel and Poppy have the remainder of their talk. Casteel tells her the truth of his actions, he tells her about Shea, and Poppy in turn admits her feelings for him. He proposes to her again, full off sincerity, and Poppy agrees.
Vonetta comes to Poppy on the day of the wedding, and they talk, while Poppy gets dressed for the wedding. Casteel and Jasper arrive, and the wedding ceremony kicks off. As they put on the rings on each other, the sky turns dark, which Jasper says is an omen that he last saw at Casteel’s parents’ wedding, but it wasn’t like this. Apparently the King of the Gods approves of the union. Some time later the same day, the armies of the Ascended had arrived at the rise of Spessa’s End, and Casteel and Poppy take their spots on the Rise. Duchess Teerman steps out of the carriage, and a conversation ensues where she says that she is here to prevent death. She mentions something about Queen Ileana being Poppy’s grandmother, and seeing that Poppy won’t change her mind, the Dutchess throws the heads of everyone from New Haven into the Rise. Casteel is pissed at the senseless loss, and charges head first into battle.
Poppy has Quentyn cover her, while she runs out into the battle as well. She fights her way to Casteel’s side, and together they fight their way together. Poppy’s gifts begin expanding, and feeling trapped, she tells everyone to stop fighting or she will kill herself. Suddenly, a new contingent of wolven arrives along with men on horseback, giving Poppy the chance to run into the carriage where the Duchess is. The Duchess tells her that she will take her to Ian and when she realizes that Poppy is married, she becomes gleeful, saying that the Queen will be so thrilled to learn that Poppy did something that the queen had never been able to do. Poppy kills her instead, never letting her finish the sentence.
While Poppy is healing those who were hurt after the battle, a wolven delivers a stark warning to her–that the King knows of the Prince’s original plan, but doesn’t know that it has changed, and is planing to continue with that plan. Later on Poppy and Casteel talk, and he reveals that during the battle, all of the Wolven heard Poppy call for help, and they all veered in the same direction towards her, even though she never did. Poppy also reveals what the Duchess told her to Casteel, but he doesn’t think it makes any sense.
Shortly thereafter, Poppy, Casteel and a small group of wolven head towards Atlantia. They pass through the Skotos Mountains, and Poppy, Casteel and Kieran camp for the night in the woods. During the night, Poppy dreams of her father calling her. She follows the voice, and sees the scene from her nightmare, this time getting more information–there was someone else there talking to her father. In the memories, she hides with her mother, and then there is a cloaked man who protects her. Suddenly she hears the words “stop” and a golden figure tells her that what she seeks won’t be found here, and that she must return home if she wishes to find the answers that she seeks. Casteel and Kieran find Poppy, terrified, and that is when she realizes that she was about to walk off a cliff.
They made it to Saion’s Cove, when Alistair meets them on the road, and tells them that Casteel’s parents are in the city. He then asks to speak with Casteel in private because Poppy is not part of the crown. Not allowing Casteel to argue, Poppy goes with Beckett to the temple nearby, but gets betrayed by the boy, as he leaves her behind. People surround Poppy at the temple, and they start to stone her, but her gifts kick in, and it ends with the sky raining blood, and the people dead. The Wolven come to her protection, and they do not let Casteel past to her. The King and Queen come to the temple as well, and the Queen asks Casteel what he brought back, before putting her crown on the temple floor in front of the King of Gods, and stating that everyone should lower their swords. She then asks them to bow before the last descendent of the King of Gods, and their new Queen.
My Verdict: I got this book as soon as it came out, downloaded right into my kindle. And to be honest, I couldn’t put it down. There are so many twists and turns in this story, that just kept me on my toes. I really loved the book, especially because of Poppy’s personality, strength of character, and wit. I love how she constantly fights back against what is expected of her, now that she’s no longer the Maiden, and does everything for her freedom, but at the same time she’s smart to realize the truths that really matter, ultimately coming to the realization that she is in love with Casteel, and that what they have is as real as it comes. She’s fully aware of the threats around her, and to her, and she knows that no matter how rosy Casteel tries to paint it for her, it will never be the full truth, so she learns to harness her powers in unusual ways that can help her. At the same time, she’s naive enough in trusting everyone around her, once she realizes that they do not wish her ill, as is the case with Beckett, which blindsides her. There’s so many things that Poppy is and isn’t, but I think that the strength of her own convictions and that desire to protect the freedom that she’s won so hard, is what stays and resonates with me very strongly.
I already have my theories on what is to come, and what is Poppy’s background and past, but I will have to wait until the next book comes out so that I can determine which theories are correct, and which ones are not. In fact, it’s the first time in a long time that I’m looking forward to the next book in a series and can’t wait to get my hands on it.