A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane
Narrator: Nicole Poole
Series: A Gathering of Dragons #1
Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Format: eARC, Audiobook
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler » No « Hide Spoiler
Content Warning: View Spoiler » Gore, Death, Violence, Rape, Torture « Hide Spoiler
Length: 15 hours and 16 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Goodreads Challenge, Holly's 2020 Reading Challenge
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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…
I’ve been waiting for Milla Vane (aka Meljean Brook) to return to writing for years. When this book popped up on NetGalley, I actually squee’d out loud. Then I started it and…wasn’t in the mood. It had nothing to do with the book, I just wasn’t feeling a dark epic fantasy at that time. Fast forward to this month; I saw the audiobook and decided to purchase it. I’m really glad I did. I ended up loving the narrator.
Maddek is determined to avenge the death of his parents at the hands of a neighboring kingdom. When the traditional path is closed to him because of the alliance, he decides to take his revenge in another way…by killing the heir to their thrown. The problem? Yvenne is nothing like he expected. She’s small, weak and nothing like the warrior queen he expected. She’s also just as determined to bring her father down as Maddek is. Though he trusts her not at all, he agrees to take her as his wife if it means being able to kill her father and brothers.
The overall theme of this novel is very dark, and so are the actions of both characters. Maddek was bent on revenge and could see nothing else. Yvenne was determined to kill her father and claim her kingdom. She was also determined to make Maddek into a king, whether he wanted it or not. Yvenne was fierce, for all her physical frailty. I loved how she stood up for herself, and wielded her tongue like a weapon. I liked their dynamic, though his vow that he would rip her tongue out if she spoke of his mother was frustrating. I understood Maddek’s need for vengeance, but I didn’t love the way he treated Yvenne. I wish he’d have wised up a little sooner. In the end, I forgave him because Yvenne did.
I did think it moved a bit slow in parts and the world-building took some time, but I enjoyed the book as a whole.
3.75 out of 5