A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane
Series: A Gathering of Dragons #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: February 4th 2020
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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 had so much hype ever since A Heart of Blood and Ashes got on my radar. I’m always on the looking for an epic fantasy romance, and this one sounded so promising. Plus, I’d read Milla Vane years ago not just under her pseudonym Meljean Brook (The Iron Duke is still one of my favorite fantasy romances!), but also when she published a novella under MV in an anthology. So I knew she could write incredible fantasy worlds – and she didn’t disappoint with this first A Gathering of Dragons book. It was a fantastic start to a new series that I already need more of!
An enemies to lovers romance, slow burn, political intrigue, spilled blood, and barbarian warriors – this fantasy romance has it all. AHoBaA kicks off with the murder of our hero Maddek’s parents, who were king and queen of their barbarian kingdom and part of an alliance council that formed out of a truce between all five kingdoms. Now Maddek is next in line for the throne, but first he wants revenge against the rival king he believed killed his parents… starting with their daughter. But Yvenne offers herself up as his bride instead, because the one thing she wants most in the world is her corrupt father’s death. Neither of them expects the insane amount of chemistry to build between them or that they would start falling for one another.
This book was SO FREAKING GOOD! It was a little slow to get into in the beginning, with all the world-building and info dumping we’re getting hit with straight off. There are a ton of characters and kingdoms to keep track of. But once I hit my reading stride I couldn’t put this book down. I’ve been wanting a new, epic fantasy (romance) to get obsessed with, and AHoBaA hit all the right buttons for me. Alpha, barbarian warrior; heroine who uses her words and brain to kick ass; a delicious, sexy slow burn in a marriage of convenience; and some epic world-building. The pacing is fairly slow but it’s never boring. I loved the amount of steam we got as well as a good dose of angst between our main characters. I was HOOKED onto the romance – I was so glad that despite everything going on, Milla Vane made the romance the main focus of the story.
I do have to say, sadly, there are no actual dragons in this book (they used to exist, but not anymore), but there are Dragons! They are basically Maddek’s bodyguard/friends. Other than that, I can’t wait to read more of this fantasy world. I’m so glad we don’t have to wait too long for the next book (only five months!). Even though this first book concludes Maddek and Yvenne’s romance and revenge subplot, there is still an over-arcing plot that deals with a dangerous, powerful being that’s about to wreak havoc. I’m so looking forward to where Milla Vane will take us next.
Also, if you want to see the map of this world, Milla Vane has one! Sadly it didn’t make it into the book.
Reading Order: A Gathering of Dragons series
#1 ~ A Heart of Blood and Ashes: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads (Feb. 4, 2020)
#2 ~ A Touch of Stone and Snow: Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads (July 7, 2020)
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