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BOOK REVIEW: A Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash #3) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

"My first. My guard. My friend. My betrayer. My partner. My husband. My heartmate. My everything. Casteel Da’Neer bowed before me and stared up at me as if I were the only person in the entire kingdom."

The Blood and Ash series has been showing up on Goodreads, Instagram, TikTok, and about everywhere else that you can talk about books for more than a year now. I was slow to the train of actually diving into the series, and it has been sitting on my TBR shelf for I don't even know how many months. This summer I finally took the plunge and began the series....and holy cow, can I just say that I am hooked?? I haven't done a review yet on the first two books, as I was going to wait until I finished the whole series to do so, but I just finished the third book today and cannot help but write a review, it was that good!

As I mentioned, A Crown of Gilded Bones is the third book in the series, and picks up immediately after the second book. I will do my very best not to give any spoilers away so that I do not ruin the series for you. As soon as Penallaphe, or Poppy, as she likes to be known by her friends, enters the Kingdom of Atlantia, she realizes she has been betrayed by one she became to trust or respect. While reeling from such a betrayal, Poppy must meet her in-laws, and set out on a journey to free her brother, and her heartmate, Casteel's, brother from the Ascended. It will be a dangerous mission, even with her and Casteel's plan. Yet, they are running into obstacles in Atlantia, Casteel's home, and Poppy's rightful homeland.

You see, Poppy is the Chosen; she has been Blessed by the Gods and is the people of Atlantia's true ruler. However, for as many people that are pleased for her to rule over the kingdom, for she has the blood of the Kings of Gods within her, there are that many who refuse to see her as their ruler, and feel she is their destruction. Poppy, never being given choices in her life, now has to choose to take her place as the rightful Queen of Flesh and Fire, or forsake her birthright. All while the biggest threat awaits them in the west, where the Queen of Blood and Ash awaits, waiting to carry out revenge that she has been planning for hundreds of years. And through this long, yet short journey, Poppy learns more and more about her heritage, her parents, the history of Atlantia, and the history of the Gods.

This book was very plot heavy, and at times felt like there was a lot of unnecessary description, information, and even characters. But, despite all of that, this book was so epic! I was so surprised, yet excited, for some of the revelations that we come across (mainly towards the end of the story) that I literally was gasping out loud and screaming at my eye balls to read faster so I could see what all was going to be discovered. I am not kidding when I say that your mind will be blown when learning more about Poppy's heritage and relations, and how they fit into the story! I feel that this book is a builder of sorts for the overall series. We are getting more mythology surrounding the Gods, seeing more of the world they are living in, more major plot twists, and more friendship and banter.

All I can say about Poppy, is that she is a badass main character! She grew up always in the shadows, with barely any interactions or friendships. With each book, she is finding more of herself, making choices when once she was never given any. She is choosing for herself love, she is choosing for herself if she wants her birthright, or if she just wants to run away with Casteel and have just love. She is becoming strong, and trusting in herself. She is independent (which she has been since the first book), yet is learning to rely more on Casteel and those in her trusted inner circle. Poppy is discovering this deeper power within herself, and trusts herself to use it for good, not for wrongdoing. Her inner thoughts are amusing and very insightful. For as much as she is coming into herself, she still has sweet moments of embarrassment or uncertainty. By the end of the book, I see a strong woman who realizes that she is beneath no one, but is just as strong, if not stronger, than anyone else within her world. I love her as the heroine and cannot wait to see what she is about in the next book!

As for the character interactions - I adore Poppy, Casteel, and Kieran's friendship. The banter that they all participate in with each other, their unspoken love and amusement with each other, and especially with Kieran and Poppy is so sweet. I love how Kieran and Poppy are getting closer and can rely on each other but also have their amusing annoyances that they call each other out on. On top of that, I love the friendship and respect that Poppy is forming with the secondary characters such as Delano, Vonetta, and Niall. They are coming to mean so much to Poppy that I feel they will be important in some way to the story before it ends.

Speaking of character interactions, Poppy and Casteel's love for each other is written throughout this whole book. You see it in the subtle ways that Jennifer writes about a look they share, or a look that Casteel is giving Poppy. You hear it in the words they say to each other...

“I love you, Penellaphe. You. Your fierce heart, your intelligence and strength. I love your endless capacity for kindness. I love your acceptance of me. Your understanding. I’m in love with you, and I will be in love with you when I take my last breath and then beyond in the Vale.” Casteel lowered his head, pressing his lips against mine..."

...and you feel it in the actions that they both partake in to protect the other from danger or harm.

“You are the foundation that helps me stand. You are my walls and my roof. My shelter. You are my home.” His lashes swept up, the amber of his eyes churning wildly. “As you are mine, Poppy.”

I normally am pretty stingy in highlighting quotes in books, it has to really stick out to me or affect me in some way to make note of it. It is not often that I go back and read every book that I read (I would never be able to read new books if I did that!), so highlighting them is not something that brings a lot of meaning to me. However, I cannot tell you how much I highlighted and saved in this book alone! So much information, so many twists and shocks that I never saw coming, and so many meaningful moments between characters that I could just not stop myself. A few additional quotes that really stuck out to me aside from the above are:

“‘With the last Chosen blood spilled, the great conspirator birthed from the flesh and fire of the Primals will awaken as the Harbinger and the Bringer of Death and Destruction to the lands gifted by the gods. Beware, for the end will come from the west to destroy the east and lay waste to all which lies between.’”

“Bravery is a fleeting beast, isn’t it? Always there to get you into trouble, but quick to disappear once you’re where you want to be.”

“Make sure she knows that I am the Chosen, the One who is Blessed, and I carry the blood of the King of Gods in me. I am the Liessa to the wolven, the second daughter, the true heir, owed the crowns of Atlantia and Solis. I am the Queen of Flesh and Fire, and the gods’ guards ride with me. Tell the Blood Queen to prepare for war.”

Overall, this was an amazing book! I am so invested in this storyline and cannot wait to start the next book in the series to see what happens. And knowing that there is a prequel series to this one just has me even more excited. I gave this book 5 stars because it had me invested from page 1 to see what will happen. It had me feeling all of the feels from sadness to anger to excitement to love and even shock. I cannot wait to see how everything will play out as this book felt like it was setting us up for an epic battle or moment of some sort. I hope I convinced you to give this series a try, and that I was able to entice you without giving anything away. The War of Two Queens, here I come!!

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