Release-Day Review: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane (Gathering of Dragons #1)

A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane // VBC

A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons #1)
Milla Vane
Published: Feb. 4, 2020 (Berkley)
Purchase at: Amazon
Review Source: Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by: Amy

Rating (out of 5): 5 stars

After the Destroyer came and decimated the Western realms, its people had no choice but to form a tentative alliance against him. Now, decades later and growing a bit complacent, some of the Kingdoms have begun garnering for more power within the alliance.

Maddek, who has been away defending their boundaries against invasion, returns at the news of his parents’ deaths. Framed as an execution for wrongdoings, Maddek knows this to be a lie and that his parents were really murdered. Unfortunately, the alliance prevents Maddek from being able to openly retaliate, so he does the next best thing.

Maddek decides to take to wife the daughter of the King responsible for his parents’ deaths. Using her as a tool to gain power to the traitor’s Kingdom. Turns out, Yvenne is okay with this because she wants to see the downfall of her tyrant father just as much, if not more, than Maddek, but she also isn’t going to sit meekly by while Maddek’s plans take fruition. Challenging each other every step of the way, they’ll both need to discover what it takes to rule a Kingdom or die trying.

A Heart of Blood and Ashes marks the return of Milla Vane (aka Meljean Brook). There was no way I was not going to read this book. Many might remember the short story in the Night Shift anthology. If not, or if you haven’t read it yet, it’s not a problem. A Heart of Blood and Ashes takes on a whole new set of characters, although it is set in the same world.

This is a long, almost circuitous story that builds upon the world and mythology with each pass of the circle. Adding new information as we go. I enjoyed every word. It’s, at times, brutal, violent, tense, sexy, tangled and myriad other descriptors.

Mainly focusing on Maddek and Yvenne two opposites coming together with the same goal: to usurp her father King to thwart off the trouble he’s causing with his bid for more power and—more simply—revenge. I liked that in order to accomplish their goals they each much adopt the other’s strengths. Yvenne, a woman kept locked away for most of her life, must gain physical strength. She already possesses strength of mind and character, but she needs to learn to utilize her body’s capabilities however they present themselves. Probably most importantly, though, Maddek needs to learn how to really lead, how to rule, and one thing that Yvenne has done in all her years locked away is observe and learn. She knows what the people want, what they need, so she teaches Maddek about caring for a Kingdom with equal parts ruthlessness and compassion.

The story goes round-and-round reinforcing these edicts, building upon them and in the process, building upon the relationship between Maddek and Yvenne. Even though they are allies of a sort doesn’t mean they are not also enemies….at least at the beginning. Slowly they let their respective guards down and realize that they can have so much more than an alliance, they can be partners they can love each other, they can build something sold. It’s beautifully developed with such care, and a suspension of vulnerability on both their parts.

If you can’t tell, I loved this book. I want to spend a week just reading in this world, I want the next book NOW! While Maddek and Yvenne’s personal conflict is contained within Blood and Ashes, the return of the Destroyer is on the horizon and I think it’s fair to say that overarching storyline will impact how the series proceeds. And, luckily, it seems like we won’t have long to wait for the second book.

 Content: Graphic sex, violence

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