Kayleigh Donaldson and Bree (Half of Kit Rocha) both recommended A Heart of Blood and Ashes last year and it became one of those books that I knew I would love but the thought of reading it just seemed exhausting. Why am I like this? I impulse bought it at the grocery store months ago and then stuffed it on my shelf where it languished. I saw the sequel on NetGalley and requested it even thought I doubted I would be approved. And then I was approved. Obviously I needed to finally crack the spine on the first book and get it read. I read it in two days. Friends, I knew I would be mad at myself for not jumping into this book sooner. I am.
I can’t believe I’m the first person to review this here. Get on it people.
The plot is like Conan the Barbarian meets A Song of Ice and Fire, if the Wildings and the kingdoms of Westeros were allies, set during the Cretaceous period with a smaller cast and a lot less rape. There is still a little rape, but way less than your average Game of Thrones episode. There are no dragons outside of a legend in this first book of A Gathering of Dragons, but it could happen in later books. There are gods and goddesses, demons, sorcerers, wraiths, revenants, and a really bad dad. The dragons referred to in the series title are groups of warriors who work together to protect.
Maddak is the commander of the army of the Alliance, and the son of the king and queen of Parsathe – a nomadic warrior people who are considered barbarians by their allies. When Maddak finds out his parents have been killed (apparently justly) by the King of Syssia (a member of the Alliance) he vows revenge, but he is forbidden from seeking revenge against the king and his sons. While he is trying to decide what he values more – vengeance or the Alliance his parents worked so hard to maintain, he is told that the king has a daughter who lured his parents to their death. He quickly gathers a small group of his warriors And goes off to seek vengeance on Yvenne. Yvenne has more reason to want vengeance on her father. Maddak agrees to Yvenne’s proposal that they overthrow her father together.
Though the focus of the book is Yvenne and Maddak, Milla Vane creates a fascinating world rebuilding from the violent catastrophe of the Destroyer’s march through the kingdoms. The series will build this story of coming together or falling apart in the face of news that the Destroyer is returning. In A Heart of Blood and Ashes, there is an existing alliance created in the aftermath of the Destroyer, but the Alliance is being used as cover for one family’s grab for power. Maddak and Yvenne’s struggle is to trust each other enough that they can build a greater alliance to stand against the looming threat.
A subset of the enemies to lovers trope is where at least one of the enemies wants to murder the other for revenge, but comes to learn that the supposed enemy isn’t their enemy after all. This is basically the plot, and Vane does it really well. This book will completely suck you in and you won’t want to leave.