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A generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil – until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.

Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king’s daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.

Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones—because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own… 

Title : A Heart of Blood and Ashes
Author : Milla Vane
Series : A Gathering of Dragons (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 555
Genre : fantasy romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .75

Hollis’ 2.75 star review

This was a little all over the place for me.

First off, it’ll feel long.. because it is long. Almost six hundred pages. No wonder my eyes glazed over or I skipped ahead for some scenes; I feel better knowing it was actual length and not just me being bored for why I just gave up every so often and skimmed. I did feel the worldbuilding was almost solid but often I would just be confused by references, sometimes even character names (and they weren’t similar), or often not care enough to reread to understand. This isn’t just a romance dressed up by a fantastical setting. It really feels like Vane put in the work to create this world, with lots of stakes and history, but other than the broad bones, I just couldn’t keep track of things. Might just be me.

Or maybe it was compounded by the style? Because the writing.. it seemed like she was trying for something formal or old time-y but every now and then it was just too Yoda-like (which could be a major boner killer when things were getting spicy.. though that happened so much you’re bound to enjoy at least a few without picturing an old wrinkled green creature). Not to mention a lot was repetitive or rehashed over and over. All factors, I think.

It had a solid hate to love foundation, though, and the push and pull of the partnership, how it evolved, was done very well. It did not feel contrived but very realistic. Also, I liked Yvenne, our queen-to-be a lot. Whereas while I think there was some character growth for the male protagonist, whose name I already forget (Maddek!), he was definitely frustrating to endure at times.

Another check in the good box column, though? Hey, here’s a fantasy that talks about periods.. and more than once! We love to see it.

I can see why this hits all the right notes for so many of my friends, I do. But it wasn’t quite as smooth a ride for me. I’m curious to pick up the others in the series though because I did see potential in this.. and also, why not.

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