Author: Jennifer Armentrout
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.
I can’t believe it took me so long to get around to reading this novel! It’s a great start to what seems to be a fantastic series and I can’t wait to start book 2 and then book 3 when it is released later this year! I can see how some reviewers disliked the first part of the writing as it truly was a massive amount of information as the backgrounds, settings, and plots are all described together. It can be overwhelming and I can see how it turned off some readers from continuing. I agree that it was a little too “info heavy” at the beginning, but once you get to the actual story and the events are set into motion, then it’s an enticing story that you becoming enthralled with until you reach the last page and need to pick up the next book.
Poppy is The Maiden and is destined to Ascend soon to become a part of the world of the Gods. She is revered and is almost worshiped as she is not allowed to speak or show her face to others and has to follow a strict set of rules to live a very sheltered and protected life. Poppy is very rebellious and her curiosity gets the best of her when she sneaks out one night to the Red Pearl. Here she meets many guards and becomes entangled with one of their mysterious members, Hawke. The two of them part and Poppy returns to life at the palace. Through a series of events, Hawke ends up as a member of her personal Royal Guard, which brings the two of them together and Poppy to question if Hawke recognizes her or not from their brief initial encounter.
Our main character Poppy was a very relatable and sympathetic character. She struggles with her duty to follow all the rules and boundaries, but also want to experience life and just make decisions for herself. It is a lot for an eighteen-year-old to deal with and if you add in her background, you can understand why she makes certain decisions that maybe others would not have made. Our Maiden does have some tricks up her sleeve though as she is also a skilled warrior. She was taught by Vikter, a member of Royal Guard and also a father figure. Her relationship with Vikter was very heart-warming as the two of them find balance between their genuine caring for the other and to ensure that their relationship remains as “professional” to those watching them. Although, I loved Vikter and wanted even more scenes with him, I feel that he showed up just enough to portray his role in the story.
Hawke was fantastic love interest for Poppy. They initially meet where Poppy has most of her face hidden and he wanted to be with her. Then, they meet again under different circumstances and Poppy is not sure if he recognizes her or not. This mystery was well-done as you get everything from her perspective so you feel her struggle of wanting him to recognize her, but her fear of what could happen to her if he does. As the two of them share more time together, Hawke’s inner thoughts are slowly revealed. It was nice to see his thoughts on the inner workings of the world and how some of it contradicted what Poppy was taught to be gospel. He was very supportive of her which was very sweet and I loved their banter as well as their more tender moments.
The paranormal/supernatural beings were great additions as the Craven (similar to werewolves in form, but they stay in the wolf form) pose a constant threat. There is also the Ascended, the immortals with black soulless eyes. We also have the opposing side from the past War of Two Kings, the Atlantians and their supporters, the Descenters. This group follow and is led by the Dark One, a mysterious Atlantian who no one has seen, although there are rumors of where is he and what he looks like. Initially, I found it difficult to keep track of everyone of not only what they were, but also their place in the story. However, each being is either mentioned through discussions or they appear multiple times and by the time the story is over, you feel as if you’re an expert in this universe with everything falling into place.
Overall, there was a lot of foreshadowing in this novel so it was really easy for me to guess the twists that were revealed at the end. However, they are very well-done and I felt myself not caring that I guessed a lot of the plot as it was all very entertaining and enthralling to read. I found myself anxious to continue reading every detail and I’ve become a fan of the author through this novel. This novel ends at a good spot as it sets itself up well to continue in the next book in the series. This was a very intriguing story that I don’t feel I’m doing justice with in how I’m putting my thoughts on it into words. Although there is romance in this story, it is still greatly enjoyable to those that prefer fantasy as the author manages to mix the paranormal with the romance really well that it becomes a perfect genre hybrid. Again, I absolutely cannot wait to start the second novel if what appears to be a must read series!