And we’re back again with a The War of Two Queens review! If you missed my previous review of A Shadow in the Ember, be sure to check it out.
I initially picked up From Blood and Ash based on all the hype that had built up in my Facebook group, YA Fantasy Addicts. I didn’t expect much, but it ended up becoming a favorite series of mine and I’ve read every book including the spin-offs.
The War of Two Queens was probably my second most anticipated book of the year, behind House of Sky and Breath (which was fantastic, by the way).
Thank you to Jennifer L. Armentrout and Blue Box Press for providing me with an advanced reader copy.
As a heads up, we’re going to divide this The War of Two Queens review into two parts. The first is going to be spoiler-free, and the last half of the review will be very spoilery. I will give you ample time to click away before accidentally happening upon these spoilers.
The War of Two Queens Review – Spoiler Free
All right, so I was fresh off of A Shadow in the Ember when I started reading The War of Two Queens, and I struggled to get into it at first.
Before I tell you why, let me answer the question: “Do I need to read A Shadow in the Ember before The War of Two Queens?”
Yes you do.
Okay perhaps you don’t “need” to, but you will most definitely “want” to because there are a lot of people, places, and details that will just make so much more sense in The War of Two Queens if you read A Shadow in the Ember first.
But as I mentioned I struggled to get into it at first and that’s for a couple of reasons.
First, it’s been a year since I read The Crown of Gilded Bones and I forgot pretty much every character except Poppy, Casteel, and Isbeth.
And The War of Two Queens gives you absolutely no help in remembering. It picks up a few weeks after the end of The Crown of Gilded Bones, but hits the ground running as if no time had passed.
This means that Poppy doesn’t give you any sort of recap. I felt this would have been very helpful. It wouldn’t have even been forced.
Shortly after the start of the book, the rest of the Atlantian forces arrive to start their siege of Solis. It wouldn’t have been hard for Poppy to recount the details of the end of TCOGB to a general and feel totally natural.
The other reason was that A Shadow in the Ember was just so amazing that The War of Two Queens just wasn’t doing it for me. And in fact, I still like A Shadow in the Ember far better than any of the four main novels in the primary series.
What is The War of Two Queens About?
Contrary to what the name implies, there isn’t much of a war going on. More on that later in the spoiler section.
The bulk of this book, like say 75-80% of it is about getting Casteel back. Because if you recall, he gave himself to Isbeth to allow Poppy to go free at the end of The Crown of Gilded Bones.
I don’t really like this trope in books.
We see the hero or hero’s companions being taken into captivity in books like Throne of Glass and Red Queen.
The problem is that we spend way too much time on just trying to get the companion back that we’ve essentially wasted a book or half a book doing nothing but getting back to where we were before the person was taken captive.
It always feels like a big waste of space to me.
Thankfully, The War of Two Queens does enough while trying to free Casteel that the plot is progressed quite a bit. That doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the primary plot of freeing him, but it makes it somewhat tolerable.
A lot of info bombshells get dropped in The War of Two Queens, so pay attention and don’t rush through dialogue.
And if you ignored my earlier advice, I’d strongly recommend reading A Shadow in the Ember first.
This section is a recap of characters in case you need the refresher. I know I would have benefited with it.
The opening scene reacquaints us with Casteel, Isbeth, her handmaidens, and Callum. Isbeth, of course is Poppy’s mother, a demis (a false god, not an vampry as they’d suspected), and one of the queens in this War of Two Queens.
One of her handmaidens becomes important later in the story and her name is Millicent. Take note of her.
Callum is referred to as “the golden boy” I think because of his hair. He’s a Revenant (as is Millicent, which basically means they can’t be killed by anything except draken fire or draken blood. In fact, Callum dies a half dozen times throughout the book at the hands of the heroes, but always recovers in about 5 minutes. This adds a lot of humor to some tense scenes.)
After the opening scene with Casteel, the POV switches to Poppy.
Here’s a brief glimpse at the major characters in no particular order.
Kieran is the royal advisor and Casteel’s best friend. He’s a wolven, and you should hopefully remember him or recall him very quickly.
Frequently around Poppy are her close friends and guards: Naill, Delano, Emil, and Vonetta. They’re all wolven, which means they can shift into large wolves. Vonetta is Kieran’s sister.
Valyn is Casteel’s father and joins them shortly after the opening few chapters. If you recall, he used to be King but Casteel and Poppy deposed him and Castee’ls mother after some deceit was discovered regarding Isbeth and Malec.
Speaking of Malec. In The War of Two Queens, you’ll frequently see the names Malik and Malec.
Malec is the son of Nyktos, a god, and the twin brother of Ires (Poppy’s father). He’s also Isbeth’s heartmate. Casteel’s mother imprisoned him and hid him away centuries earlier.
Malik is Casteel’s brother. The Atlantians believed him to be a captive of Isbeth, but at the end of TCOGB we discovered that he was healthy and roaming around of his own free will complicit in Isbeth’s schemes.
The War of Two Queens Spoiler Review
Heads up, everything hereafter is a spoiler in my The War of Two Queens review.
Turn away now.
Yes, that means you if you don’t want to see spoilers.
Have I given enough space for this warning?
I can only hope so.
The War of Two Queens spoiler review begins now.
I’m sorry, but I hated the execution of the whole rescue. It doesn’t really affect my rating of the book, I’m just ranting.
Poppy has this fantastic plan to infiltrate Carsodonia, find Casteel, and free him with Isbeth none-the-wiser. Of course, not everything should go to plan. There needs to be hitches.
But Isbeth’s minions capturing Poppy and crew before they even get halfway to the city? Then escorted in as “guests” again? I just felt like we were repeating plot points from the last book and once again wasting time.
Speaking of repeating plot points.
The War of Two Queens mentions a lot that Poppy stabbed Casteel in the chest, and that she likes to stab things. That is exactly how A Shadow in the Ember describes Sera.
I felt it cheapened both characters for them to be described in exactly the same way and have their significant others constantly bring it up as an affectionate thing and then both mention it as a turn on for them.
It’s like, did Jennifer L. Armentrout forget she was supposed to be writing about new characters?
I’m not the only person who felt this way.
And then when Poppy rescues Casteel, they don’t even escape on their own merits. Isbeth lets them go.
They get placed in yet another precarious situation where Poppy is unwilling to sacrifice a single soul despite war being messy and accepting casualties.
Literally they could have ended Isbeth and all the Revenants in one fell swoop and ended the war saving millions of lives with the sacrifice of two people (the man and woman who harbored them).
Who died anyway by the way.
But the worst part is that Poppy and crew only escape because Isbeth lets them leave.
I just felt like it cheapened the whole rescue to have them at Isbeth’s mercy both upon entering and exiting the city.
But we needed to get Malec and bring back Kolis somehow, so JLA forced the plot to fit what needed to happen.
On Poppy being a Primal
I was content believing that Poppy was a god. Even though that was a huge leap from where the series started in terms of hero power potential.
With all the other gods asleep, she was still the most powerful being in the war, but at least she wasn’t the most powerful like ever.
But then we get the bombshell that she’s actually a Primal. Oh, and Nektas definitely foreshadowed that she’d become even more powerful than the Consort.
Which by the way is Sera from A Shadow in the Ember if you missed that.
The fact that Nektas revealed that Sera eventually becomes the most powerful being of all is a huge spoiler for the Flesh and Fire series (to me, and I didn’t appreciated it).
I like a powerful hero just like anyone else, but I grow tired of the “secretly the most powerful being of all” trope.
The Draken, Namely Reaver
I love the draken.
Reaver is an arse.
But he’s probably my most favorite character in The War of Two Queens, and I love his interactions with Kieran.
There’s a lot of great banter there.
Nektas is probably my favorite draken, and he makes an brief appearance in The War of Two Queens, but you’ll mostly learn about him in A Shadow in the Ember.
Reaver is 10 years old in A Shadow in the Ember, so it’s definitely interesting seeing him as an adult after having read a whole book with him as a child.
The draken are so overly powerful that they are guaranteed to assure an Atlantian victory, so of course Jennifer L. Armentrout wipes out 80% of them in one fell swoop just so it wouldn’t be “too easy.”
Which again felt like a cheap move to me. Either don’t bring them all back or leave them alone. Bringing them all back just to wipe most of them out instantaneously was such a waste.
And it’s repeatedly mentioned that only a draken can kill a Revenant, but when it comes down to it, the draken do very little Revenant killing, despite having many opportunities to do so. I was disappointed by this.
Final Thoughts on The War of Two Queens Review
I know this review was mostly negative in it’s tone. And that’s only because I needed to get those items above off my chest. They were things that were bugging me that I needed to talk about.
So, please, drop a line down in the comments and let me know if you agree with me or disagree.
But I did end up loving The War of Two Queens. I felt like maybe the A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire was the best book so far in the Blood and Ash series. A Shadow in the Ember being the best in the whole Blood and Ash/Flesh and Fire series.
I loved Poppy and Casteel’s relationship, Kieran and everything he is to Poppy and Casteel, as well as Reaver.
Heck, I actually loved Millicent and can’t wait to see more Malik and Millicent in the next book.
I loved the twist about bringing Kolis back. It ups the stakes and comes up with a baddy worse than Isbeth. At the same time, the series is already 4 books long. I would have been happy with ending Isbeth and finishing up the series in this book.
Kolis could have stayed in the Flesh and Fire series for Nyktos and Sera to deal with. Now who knows how much longer the series will stretch out.
Either way, I’m excited to read the next book in whichever series.
The War of Two Queens gets a solid 4/5 stars for me. Losing a star for the slow start and repeated plot points/character developments.
If you need something to read while you wait for the next book, check out my list of books like From Blood and Ash.