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A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons #1) by Milla Vane [arc review]

A Heart of Blood and Ashes, Milla Vane
I've been dying to read this book ever since I heard about it. When the arc arrived I almost fell off my chair though, the book is huge for a massive market paperback. I knew it would take me a while to finish it... it took more than a little while...


Blurb:
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…
 

The Review: 2.5 Stars

This is not going to be the easiest review to write. I liked the book, a lot. But I also really disliked it at times and I certainly wish it was way shorter. 

Maddek is a great warrior and great commander. The book starts with him learning of the death of his parents and he is blinded by the need of vengeance from that point onward. He is unable to see truth from lie and although he does care for heroine, he is also very disrespectful and rude. He doesn't rape her and never would, but he certainly thinks about it and talks in  a manner reminiscent to it. At times, that was ok, she was obviously into him and liked his crass language. Other times it was painful to read. In short, Maddek is a great warrior, but certainly not a great man. 
Yvenne is the last heir of Nyset and she has been locked away, hurt, and tortured her whole life. She wants vengeance against her father just as much as Maddek. But she wants more from Maddek than he is willing to give too... She takes a lot of crap from Maddek because of her romantic feelings for him. Yvenne is physically weak and cannot fight, but that does not make her weak in mind and spirit. She was a strong character through out, loyal and honorable. 
There was a lot of chemistry between them and plenty of hot steamy scenes. Most of them were nice to read. Some however were cringe worthy ...

I absolutely love a good romantic fantasy and those are not easy to find, A Heart of Blood and Ashes had a lot potential for that alone. But, the fantasy elements were minimal. The subtitle "A Gathering of Dragons" does not, as you would hope, refers to mythical dragons. Rather is the title given to the group of warriors that protects their king. Cool title, cool idea, very clever explanation of the job of each individual... but also disappointing. The magical system is interesting enough, but I confess I skimmed read a lot of it because I just wanted the darn book to end. Which leads to  another negative: the book was unnecessarily long. I get it, the first book in a series is often a tad long because of the world building necessary for the next books, but even with that in mind it was just too much. I was bored to death far too often and ended up skim reading way too much.

So as I said, I liked the book. Maddek and Yvenne had an interesting relationship and the members of the dragon were all fabulous secondary characters. But if the second book comes out and it is anywhere near as long as this one I am passing. I can handle some awkward scenes here and there, unnecessarily long books?! not so much.


Find the book at: GoodReads - Amazon - Inklings Bookshop





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