A Soul of Ash and Blood is the fifth installment of the Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. However, while it might be the fifth installment, this book is basically a retelling of From Blood and Ash from Cas’s POV. There are moments of the present sprinkled in, so it’s not completely just a retelling, but usually those chapters are fairly short and serve as a transition when something else in From Blood and Ash didn’t involve the two of them together. So, this isn’t going to be a long review by any means as I don’t have a lot of new things to talk about with this tale that I didn’t already discuss when I reviewed From Blood and Ash.
I say this fully knowing I’m about to rant, so this isn’t going to be short by any means.
Only his memories can save her…
A great primal power has risen. The Queen of Flesh and Fire has become the Primal of Blood and Bone-the true Primal of Life and Death. And the battle Casteel, Poppy, and their allies have been fighting has only just begun. Gods are awakening across Iliseeum and the mortal realm, readying for the war to come.
But when Poppy falls into stasis, Cas faces the very real possibility that the dire, unexpected consequences of what she is becoming could take her away from him. Cas is given some advice, though-something he plans to cling to as he waits to see her beautiful eyes open once more: Talk to her.
And so, he does. He reminds Poppy how their journey began, revealing things about himself that only Kieran knows in the process. But it’s anybody’s guess what she’ll wake to or exactly how much of the realm and Cas will have changed when she does.
- Published: July 18, 2023
- Page Count: 566 pages
- Genre: Fantasy Romance
- Trigger Warning: Mentions of self-harm
Thoughts on A Soul of Ash and Blood (Spoilers… Kind of)
I say spoilers, but are they really? Nothing new really happens that didn’t already take place in From Blood and Ash. But there are moments in the present that I’ll be discussing as well, so I figured I give the warning. Though I’m not going to go into too much detail regarding the final chapter.
I should’ve seen this coming when Cas started having chapters in the previous book. Usually, authors do that for one of two reasons:
- A character is going to be out of commission for a long period of time.
- The characters are going to be separated for a long period of time with different things happening in each of their locations.
We got the latter in the last book and the former in this book. Poppy is in stasis completing her Culling after becoming the Primal of Blood and Bone (Life and Death). Nektas recommends that Cas talks to her so when she wakes up she remembers who she is as well as those around her. This is what starts off the retelling of From Blood and Ash from Cas’s POV. He doesn’t go into the events of the other books. Just the first one as they wait for her to wake up, which takes around two days if my understanding of time passing through the present chapters is accurate.
So, there’s not a lot of new information learned, though we can see how everything unfolded from his end as he went from fully planning on using her to rescue his brother to being madly in love with her, desperately trying to find any solution that would accomplish his goals without putting Poppy in harms way. We also learn that Cas often senses a cold touch to the back of his neck whenever he notices his thoughts about her changing. Similar to how he does whenever they share dreams, which I’m guessing is a heartmate thing that Poppy doesn’t experience. Or she doesn’t notice it.
There are a total of twelve chapters that take place in the present. As I mentioned, the majority of them occur in gaps where Poppy had chapters in From Blood and Ash that didn’t involve Cas. We have a few additional ones from his POV of things he was doing around the city when Poppy wasn’t there, but for the most part there aren’t a lot of new chapters from the past. Instead, we get insight from the characters in the present.
Typically, Cas is joined by Kieran or Delano as he’s recounting his memories to Poppy. Though there are also moments with Emil, Malik, and Millie. And they, or rather Kieran, points out that he was well aware of Cas developing feelings for Poppy and that he never blamed Cas for his coping mechanisms when he was initially freed from capitivty the first time. Even though it was weakening him especially as Cas was self-harming. Which was something that we didn’t know he did before.
Apparently, there is more to what happened with Shea that Cas hasn’t mentioned. Something that she did during his rescue besides betraying him, which led him to killing her with his bare hands. However, Cas doesn’t go into details stating that he needs to tell that to Poppy when she’s awake. I’m kind of curious what it could be, as we already got that a lot of details of what happened when Cas initially told Poppy what happened to his first love.
Other than that, we got a moment where Malik and Cas hash out their feelings before coming to an understanding. While yes, Malik could’ve sent word to Cas, it wouldn’t have changed anything besides moving up the timeline of Cas going to the capital. Only he wouldn’t have met Poppy and likely would’ve been killed as Isbeth would’ve forced Malik to choose between Cas and Millie, and only one brother was needed to ascend Poppy. Not to mention, if they had to do it all over again, neither brother would change a thing as they got their heartmate in that process. Cas also realizes that Malik probably doesn’t feel like he deserves Millie after everything he’s done, similar to how Cas felt about Poppy. Only Cas and Poppy worked that out, while Millie and Malik haven’t yet. Is everything perfect between the brothers again? No. But at least they are on better ground and aren’t at each other’s throat anymore.
We also learn that Millie cares for Poppy and doesn’t blame her at all for killing Isbeth. While yes, she had ran it was out of fear that their grandmother would kill her. Though she’s not afraid to die. More what that would’ve done to Poppy considering it would’ve been at her hands. So, when Millie returns with Malik it is after taking out some of the problematic Revenants using draken blood on weapons. I was surprised Cas let Millie stay with Poppy as he talked to Malik. Granted, Delano and Kieran were in the room watching over Poppy after Cas admitted what was happening.
So, there were some nice moments sprinkled in with character development, but almost all of it was a retelling. Which is why I have mixed feelings about this book. Especially when you can see how different Cas is from the beginning of the series to the present. Though a lot of that can be accounted to the fact that Cas was still recovering him his trauma at the time and wasn’t opening up to anyone. Poppy changed that. She reminded him of parts that he lost and had stripped away from him before. While it was nice seeing that growth, did we really need the full retelling of it at this stage in the series? Like a side book, sure, but with mixing elements of the present with the retelling it makes it so you can’t really skip this book. Though I suppose you could just read the twelve present chapters, and skip the others.
I don’t know.
While I did really enjoy it, I also really wanted more of them trying to get the people of Solis on their side, dealing with the revenants, finding Jadis, etc. Not to mention, there’s a new ability briefly explored at the end, which I totally want Poppy’s reaction to. Especially as it’s something she’s wanted ever since finding out that she wasn’t mortal. But we have to wait for all of that for the sixth and (potentially) final book of the series.
As we got none of that in this book as Cas holes himself in the room with Poppy waiting for her to wake up as he recounts the first book. Which makes me feel like this book is a bit of cash grab… which I hate saying. But it kind of is, I could also do a tandem reading guide between this book and From Blood and Ash. Though that would also be a bad idea as there are major spoilers for what happens in the rest of the books. I don’t know, let me know in the comments if you think I should make one.
If that had been the beginning of the book that would’ve been one thing, but I just feel so let down that it was the entire book.
Honestly, I’m not sure what I should rate this book. Because part of me wants to give it a 4.25 star rating as I did really enjoy it, and if I judged it outside of the series that would be what I would give it as that’s generally where I rate the rest of the series. But at the same time, another part of me is screaming to give it a 3 star rating, purely out of the fact it was a retelling disguised as the fifth book in the series. But it’s can’t be read separately due to all the present aspects that happen. So, I’m going to split the difference here and round down to give A Soul of Ash and Blood a 3.5 star rating. Down purely due to all the reasons I stated before and I feel like rounding up is too generous.
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