It’s about time I an A Shadow in the Ember review. I put off reading A Shadow in the Ember for longer than I expected but shorter than I intended.
You see, I don’t really like prequels.
That’s odd, cause I wrote one.
But it’s more about rewinding time. I don’t like it.
I still haven’t brought myself to read The Assassin’s Blade regardless of where you want to put it.
Characters grow and develop the more books you read, and going back in time to read a prequel before all that development…
It just doesn’t sit well with me. Just like it’s hard for me to watch the first Harry Potter movie. Harry and Ron are so mean to Hermione at the start. It just hurts to read/watch.
Thankfully, A Shadow in the Ember is several hundred years earlier, so these are totally different, yet somewhat tangential, characters.
A Shadow in the Ember Review – Spoiler-Free
A Shadow in the Ember is the first book in the Flesh and Fire series. Not to be confused with the Blood and Ash series, even though the second book of that is A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire.
They’re obviously related, and Jennifer L. Armentrout is no stranger to spin-off series. You can check out my full list of Jennifer L. Armentrout books in order for more details.
A Shadow in the Ember follows Seraphena, or Sera for short. Two hundred years before her birth, her ancestor, the King of Lasania, made a deal with the Primal of Death that the firstborn daughter of his line would be bound to the Primal as his Consort.
So this caused some issues for me at first.
The really boring and confusing first chapter aside, the fact that the royal line hadn’t had a daughter in 200 years astounded me. Secondly, for about half the book I confused a consort with an escort. Like, mistress, hooker, etc.
Come to find out, consort is another word for wife or husband.
Why do we have to be all confusing? Can we not just say wife?
Yes, yes, I now understand that word in particular relates to a royal spouse. But still, it definitely threw me for a bit.
Long story short, when it’s time for Niktos to claim Sera, he rejects her and upsets the whole plan Sera’s family had for killing the Primal and reversing a terrible curse upon their land.
The whole book is about their relationship from Beginning to End and this is very most definitely heavily romance involved in a fantasy world. Perhaps even more so than From Blood and Ash.
There’s lots of sexy time for those into that sort of thing (I skip over it), strong warrior woman vibes, and loads of jaw-dropping twists topped off with the hidden magic trope.
A Shadow in the Ember is what every fantasy fan wants in a novel all wrapped up in a pretty bow ready to surprise you like it’s your birthday and you’ve got 36 presents to unwrap.
A Shadow in the Ember Review – Spoilers
I feel like to tell you much of anything about A Shadow in the Ember beyond what the back of the book says is a spoiler, so I left the above section pretty vague.
Everything that here follows is the spoiler section of my A Shadow in the Ember review.
Be fair warned.
If you proceed and have not read the book, you may be spoiled.
Sera vs. Poppy
It’s honestly a bit hard for me to draw this comparison since it’s been awhile since I’ve read my last Blood and Ash book. But what I recall, I like Sera a lot more than Poppy.
Both are able-bodied, but Sera just has more spunk to her.
After only meeting the mysterious god who eventually is revealed to be Niktos (no surprise there, though JLA tried to make it a surprise) a few times, she stabbed him in the chest. Something which she totally blames him for and makes no apologies.
Thankfully, Niktos is a Primal and not affected back flesh wounds, even from a shadowstone dagger which is meant to kill gods. In fact, the only way to kill a Primal is if they’d been weakened by their kryptonite.
What is their kryptonite? Love.
It’s hard for my brain to wrap around how love would weaken someone. In fantasy, Love is frequently portrayed as the strongest of “elements,” and it is so here too.
At the very end of A Shadow in the Ember, we learn that Sera is fated to die at the age of 21. But Love from Niktos is strong enough to derail fate.
Anyway, let’s get back on track. Niktos brings up that Sera stabbed him at least a dozen times throughout the novel. It was cute the first 5-6 times, then got old fast.
Sera also has a tendency to wander away. In fact, she’s guarded in her room no less than 6 times and every time she finds a way or excuse to slip off on her own, and she usually ends up in trouble.
The only mark against Sera, is that toward the end, I would say after the 50% mark, every time she got into trouble, the only way out was if Niktos came running. And he did every single time. He always got her out of it. It became predictable and repetitive.
Gosh, I sound like I hated A Shadow in the Ember, but just the opposite. Moving on.
Niktos vs. Casteel
Casteel is an easy winner for me here. Probably because he was always kind, loving, and romantic to Poppy.
Nevermind that Casteel initially wanted to bargain Poppy for his brother, or that he sprung marriage on her. He did always genuinely care for Poppy, even if he made some mistakes.
I loathed the portion of A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire where Poppy hated Casteel (which was like half the book or more). And that same trope is flipped on it’s head in A Shadow in the Ember.
When Niktos learns that Sera was raised and trained for one thing (to seduce him and kill him), he goes all moody and broody.
Sera pretty much comes right out and says “that was before I met you, I fell in love with you, like seriously, I was never faking it. When I first met you, I didn’t even know you were you.”
But he, and his friends, are all like “I can never trust you again, ever. I will never love you.”
Even after Sera saves him, helps his friends, and shows the utmost loyalty to him. He’s still on stand-offish. I can’t stand it.
I can’t stand it in a good way I guess. I mean, it drives me nuts, but it’s like, good drama. Does that make sense?
“We hates it, Precious!”
But we loves it, too.
But I guess I like Casteel because I empathize with him as a male rejected, whereas I think Niktos is an idiot for acting like that to Sera.
Niktos vs. Niktos
This is an interesting section to write about in my A Shadow in the Ember review.
For this, I’m comparing Niktos in The Crown of Gilded Bones to Niktos in A Shadow in the Ember.
It had been about 11 months since I’ve read The Crown of Gilded Bones, but I remember Niktos being in it. I read about 60% of A Shadow in the Ember and decided I needed to back and reread the Niktos section in TCGB.
First, I’ll say I remember that section being a lot longer than it was. Truthfully, Niktos is only around for like 3 pages, and he doesn’t say a whole lot. And thought Sera was mentioned, but only by “my Consort.”
What I did learn was that Niktos is the King of Gods later in the timeline, which is a title designated to the Primal of Life. So that through me considering he’s the Primal of Death. I also learn that “his Consort” is still alive. Which, if it’s Sera, she’s a mortal, so of course something needs to happen to change that.
Well, we learn at the end of the A Shadow in the Ember that Sera has an ember of Life in her, and that mixed with a drop of Niktos’s blood that she consumed while having sexy time with him, is basically going to make her a Primal in the next book. But not just any Primal, the Primal of Life.
So I’m a bit confused on the whole King of Gods thing. I assume this will get cleared up as the series progresses.
My main reason for writing this section was because Niktos sounded like a grumpy old codger in The Crown of Gilded Bones, and nothing at all like his endearing persona in A Shadow in the Ember.
This is probably because he said he only had one decent bone in his body, and he treated only Sera with kindness and respect. This was also revealed to us at the end of A Shadow in the Ember as resulting because part of Niktos’s magic was in Sera and they felt “right” around each other because of it.
I guess that doesn’t transfer to descendants, but Poppy is a descendant of Niktos. You’d think he’d be nicer to his progeny, but I guess not.
I give my A Shadow in the Ember review 5/5 stars. I hand out 5 stars way too easily, I fully admit.
I’m not picky. If I enjoyed a book and desperately want the next book, I usually give it 5 stars. And that’s where I am here. The next book, A Light in the Flame, is due out in the Fall sometime.
You can bet I definitely won’t be waiting as long as I did on A Shadow in the Ember.