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I love the Blood and Ash series from Jennifer L. Armentrout, so when it was announced she was going to be writing a prequel series called Flesh and Fire I wanted to read it. Especially since it hints at things that happen in the original series. Since the main focus of Flesh and Fire is on Nyktos and his consort, Seraphena (Sera). If you’ve read at least A Crown of Gilded Bones in the Blood and Ash series, you’ll already know the outcome of this series as Nyktos states what happened. However, this series focuses on getting to that point where Gods no longer could wander freely between their realm and the mortal one. And the supposed Dark Age mortals went into because of those events. I don’t think that the last part will be covered in this series, but we know it happens due to this series.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout returns with book one of the all-new, compelling Flesh and Fire series—set in the beloved Blood and Ash world.
Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.
However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then…end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot.
Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.
- Published: October 19, 2021
- Page Count: 645 pages
- Genre: Fanstasy Romance
Thoughts on A Shadow in the Ember
Things we know going into the series (kind of spoilers but also not):
- Nyktos and Sera end up together; both are still alive and have had two children (twins) together named Malec and Ires.
- Poppy is descended from Nyktos and Sera (she’s their granddaughter), so we know their powers through her.
- Nyktos can turn into a white wolf.
- The gods end up in a massive war that results in them signing a blood treaty with the mortals, which makes it so no gods who weren’t born in the mortal realm can enter without consequence of being fully drained of their powers.
Initially, reading the synopsis I was like “wait what?” Because we know by the time Poppy meets her grandfather in A Crown of Gilded Bones, Sera who only is known or called the Consort is very much still with Nyktos though she has been in a deep sleep since her son Ires left for the mortal realm. So, hearing that Sera’s goal was to kill Nyktos was a little bit of a shock since we know that doesn’t happen. And since it’s a Jennifer L. Armentrout book, not a Sarah J. Maas book, I knew the initial love interest we met for Sera is Nyktos even if he doesn’t go by that. Instead, he goes by Ash, and Sera doesn’t discover this detail until around the halfway point in the book. Ash is a nickname for one of his many titles.
One of my favorite things while reading the series was picking out all the ways Poppy is similar to the two. She gets her empath abilities from Nyktos but her healing/reviving abilities from Sera. And the inquisitive, reckless, and restless personality from Sera. Something that amuses Nyktos and he comments wanting to tell Sera about when Poppy meets Nyktos in A Crown of Gilded Bones. I thought all those abilities had come from Nyktos, but they didn’t. Sera has the ember of life in her due to a deal Nyktos’ father made 200 years prior to the events of A Shadow in the Ember. Where the firstborn daughter of the line would become the Consort to the Primal of Death, who wasn’t Nyktos at that time. Though Nyktos originally tried to back out of the deal since neither he nor Sera was involved in that deal, he ends up eventually claiming her has his Consort after it becomes unsafe for Sera to remain in the mortal realm. I won’t spoil what happens to cause that, but I approve of what she did. It reminded me a lot of what Poppy did. The two had very similar upbringings:
- The first large portion of their life they were focused to wear a veil with little to no interactions with others.
- Were trained by a older man, who was their father figure to some degree, in how to fight.
- Both were abused by their caretakers/families.
- Both don’t know how to handle touch because no one ever touched them due to being the Maiden.
- Both grew up with little to no personal items despite being surrounded by wealth.
While Nyktos isn’t Casteel, the two do fall in love with women that stab them in the heart. And are slightly (in Nyktos case) turned on by violence. Granted Poppy stabbed Casteel on purpose knowing who he was, Sera stabbed Nyktos after he grabbed her shoulder which scared her causing her to act in self-defense mode instantly. Also, the roles are kind of reversed in the couplings. Despite Nyktos being around 200 years old, he has had no sexual relationships in the past while Sera has. Whereas, Casteel and Poppy were the reverse.
We also learn where a lot of the practices that take place in Blood and Ash come from. The third sons and daughters were given to gods as Chosen. Granted, it no longer is the same practice as it started out due to the ember of life being in Sera instead of the Primal of Life, Kolis. This is a spoiler but I don’t think it would ruin the experience of reading the book. Kolis was originally the Primal of Death but after losing a woman that he instantly fell in love with, he stole the position from Nyktos’ father, so he could bring her back from the dead. However, it didn’t work correctly as the ember of life still resided in Nykto’s father and Nyktos. After the failed attempt, Nyktos’ father took the soul of the woman Kolis was in love with and made it so she was reincarnated over and over, so Kolis could never attempt to bring her back to life again. However, the two things Kolis wants end up being reborn as Sera. She is both the soul that he wants to find and has the ember of life. Not only that, but due to the fact she has the ember of life from Nyktos she is the other half of his soul. The two literally feel a sense of being whole when they are near each other.
We also meet Poppy’s namesake and hear the prophecy that Poppy is told. During Flesh and Fire the characters believe that refers to them, but somehow that prophecy is still believed to be true in terms of Poppy. Penellaphe also describes seeing Poppy and Casteel, so maybe it does apply to them. Or both. That part isn’t made exclusive clear at the end of the book since there’s still more to come. Not only that but Sera is a mortal at this time, and we know she becomes immortal by the time Blood and Ash take place. Granted, we’re told what process has to occur for that to happen. She must Ascend using Nyktos blood.
However, the two are kind of in a rocky position. As Nyktos isn’t exactly happy learning that Sera spent her entire life training to become the object he would fall in love with in order to kill him. Even though she finds she would never be able to go through with it. Not just because the rot happening wasn’t part of the deal, so killing Nyktos would literally do nothing, but she seriously cares for him. Something Nektas, one of Nyktos’s drakens, points out as well. But the only way Nyktos can help Sera Ascend is if he loves her. Which he is quite against ever doing after learning that detail about Sera. I get why he’s beyond angry over that detail, but she also had no idea who Nyktos was before they got together and then never actively tried to do the thing she had been trained to do. We know he was still going to go forward with making her a Consort as it would raise too many questions if he didn’t. And Sera ends up Ascending, so somehow Nyktos will get past that fact like Poppy got past everything Casteel did. But I’m curious how long it’s going to take him. As Sera doesn’t have much time… literally she has a matter of months to Ascend or she will die. Per the fates, she does not reach her 21st birthday unless she Ascends. At the beginning of the book that’s around 6 months but by the end, it’s around 4 or 5 months.
Overall, I would give A Shadow in the Ember a 4.5 out of 5-star rating. I loved this book. I can’t wait for the rest of the prequel series. I know the next book releasing in this world will be back in the original series, so we’ll have to wait to see how the events of the prequel series resolves. I mean we know kind of what happens because of A Crown of Gilded Bones, but that’s not the same thing. Kind of like how The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare has a prequel series called The Infernal Devices. You know who ends up together and who becomes immortal, but you don’t know how any of that happens.
I also love that we got to see the baby Drakens: Reaver (9 or 10 years old) and Jadis (4 or 5 years old). Jadis we know is missing in Blood and Ash series as she disappeared with Ires. Reaver is also intense even as a kid. He’s going to be one of the main drakens for Poppy in The War of Two Queens, as I’ve read snippets of from Jennifer L. Armentrout on that book. He sounds like he’s going to be something. Jadis is a sweetie as she likes hanging out around Nyktos and Sera during the book, so I have a feeling we’re going to grow quite close to her in the Flesh and Fire series. I really hope she’s alright in the Blood and Ash series wherever she is.
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