Monday, October 11, 2021

All Things Halloween Review - The Crown of Gilded Bones

The Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash, #3)

By: Jennifer L Armentrout

Publication: April 20th 2021 by Blue Box Press

625 pages

Genre: New Adult, Fantasy

Source: Personal Kindle Library

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Goodreads description--Armentrout comes book three in her Blood and Ash series…

She's been the victim and the survivor…

Poppy never dreamed she would find the love she’s found with Prince Casteel. She wants to revel in her happiness but first they must free his brother and find hers. It’s a dangerous mission and one with far-reaching consequences neither dreamed of. Because Poppy is the Chosen, the Blessed. The true ruler of Atlantia. She carries the blood of the King of Gods within her. By right the crown and the kingdom are hers.

The enemy and the warrior…

Poppy has only ever wanted to control her own life, not the lives of others, but now she must choose to either forsake her birthright or seize the gilded crown and become the Queen of Flesh and Fire. But as the kingdoms’ dark sins and blood-drenched secrets finally unravel, a long-forgotten power rises to pose a genuine threat. And they will stop at nothing to ensure that the crown never sits upon Poppy’s head.

A lover and heartmate…

But the greatest threat to them and to Atlantia is what awaits in the far west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash has her own plans, ones she has waited hundreds of years to carry out. Poppy and Casteel must consider the impossible—travel to the Lands of the Gods and wake the King himself. And as shocking secrets and the harshest betrayals come to light, and enemies emerge to threaten everything Poppy and Casteel have fought for, they will discover just how far they are willing to go for their people—and each other.

And now she will become Queen…

I'm going to have a difficult time putting my thoughts into words for this review. First of all, I thought The Crown of Gilded Bones was the series ender. I'm not sure why I thought this, but because I was waiting for the ultimate conflict to wrap up, this felt like an extremely slow start with much to cover. The pacing of the book does pick up towards the second half, but I still felt like there was too much the characters needed to accomplish and discover in order to settle all of the pieces of the puzzle. Once I realized this is not the series ender, the pacing made more sense.

Of course, my favorite piece of any book is usually the romance. In this case, Casteel and Poppy have a pretty solid relationship. They're together. They know how the other feels. And so there isn't much tension or conflict there. You guys know how this happens. We want our characters to be happy, but we also find them a bit boring when they are.

Most of the story is about Poppy's self-discovery. She slowly gets pieces of her history through the story. And just about every time we settle on an additional piece that allows her to have some sort of title, we learn that there's an even bigger and more powerful title that should replace the one we've just learned. And Poppy is only just beginning to learn her power and what she's capable of. From the start of the series and being trapped as the Maiden, Poppy has dreamed of choosing her own path. And she finds time and time again that those around her want to cast her into a role, a piece of their puzzle, and they have preconceived ideas of how she should act and behave. If she deviates, those characters have at times tried controlling her. But Poppy won't be controlled. She won't allow others to make those decisions for her anymore. And as hard as it may be, she's not going to allow her raw emotions to make the decisions for her either. I was both frustrated and impressed with her through this cycle of behavior. Several times, Poppy has to pull herself back from using her powers in a destructive way. And I wanted to roll my eyes every time she found herself in this mental state, yet applaud her and Jennifer L Armentrout for choosing a different path. Yet, I also wondered why Poppy needed this "lesson" repeatedly.

This series has been about some big twists. Unfortunately, my brain can't help but seek them out. I find myself anticipating a bit twist, reveal, betrayal, etc. And I question myself, "What could the author possibly do to surprise me? What assumptions have I, or the characters, made while progressing through the story that has little to no evidence to support the assumption?" And this has revealed more twists for me than I expected. The downside to this is that if I'm proven right, I'm actually a little disappointed. I want the author to truly surprise me. Or in the best-case scenarios, I want the author to allow me to be right on a few things and yet totally surprise me in other ways. Mostly, I was unsurprised with The Crown of Gilded Bones.

I mentioned the pacing earlier. And the book did feel slow to me. I picked it up despite the length and despite knowing that I wouldn't post my review of it until months later (for All Things Halloween) because I expected to blow through it. I can't really explain why but I kept putting The Crown of Gilded Bones down. Partly this was because I found myself under a lot of stress in real life. We started our home renovation, Husband quit his job and found a new one, as well as having a 4 month-old baby. It was a stressful time. Sometimes I found myself escaping into the book, but sometimes, I felt like The Crown of Gilded Bones was adding more stress to me. And when a chapter break would come, instead of feeling excited and propelled forward....instead of feeling a desire to keep reading, I often felt a desire for a break from the story.

Favorite quotes:

-"There will always be people who need to be reminded of history."

-"Unrest and unease are two very powerful destabilizers of any society. No matter how great one is, they can be taken apart piece by piece from the inside, often tweaking the foundation to the point of collapse before anyone realizes what is happening."

-"The heart doesn't care how long you may have with someone. ... It just cares that you have the person for as long as you can."

-"You are Casteel Hawkethrone Da'Neer. A son. A brother. A friend. A husband. ...You are a King. My king. And you will always be my everything, but never will you be a thing."

And a little bit of A Song of Ice and Fireness coming out in this quote...

-"Make sure she knows that I am the Chosen, the One who is Blessed, and I carry the blood of the King of Gods in me. I am the Liessa to the wolven, the second daughter, the true heir, owed the crowns of Altantia and Solis. I am the Queen of Flesh and Fire, and the gods' guards ride with me. Tell the Blood Queen to prepare for war."

The last thing I'll say is that I felt a little political commentary in this book. It felt close enough to the story to be about the story, but I wondered if it were placed strategically to be a little bit about some of the current political issues we face. I find this irritating no matter what the political stance may be. Thankfully it wasn't a huge piece of the story.

All in all, The Crown of Gilded Bones gets 4 Stars from me. It was slow to get started. Since I incorrectly assumed it was the series ender, the pacing never felt right to me. I often wanted to put the book down, which I find never to be a good thing. The romance is still between two characters that I really like, but because they were in a good place I didn't find that piece of the story to propel me forward. Even still, I do want to know what's going to happen next. How is this all going to wrap up? Have you read The Crown of Gilded Bones? What did you think? Let me know!

This review is part of my All Things Halloween event--a month of fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, mystery/thriller, etc reviews and books.

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