Serena’s Review: “The War of Two Queens”

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Book: “The War of Two Queens” by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publishing Info: Blue Box Press, March 2022

Where Did I Get this Book: bought the ebook

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: From the desperation of golden crowns…

Casteel Da’Neer knows all too well that very few are as cunning or vicious as the Blood Queen, but no one, not even him, could’ve prepared for the staggering revelations. The magnitude of what the Blood Queen has done is almost unthinkable.

And born of mortal flesh…

Nothing will stop Poppy from freeing her King and destroying everything the Blood Crown stands for. With the strength of the Primal of Life’s guards behind her, and the support of the wolven, Poppy must convince the Atlantian generals to make war her way—because there can be no retreat this time. Not if she has any hope of building a future where both kingdoms can reside in peace.

A great primal power rises…

Together, Poppy and Casteel must embrace traditions old and new to safeguard those they hold dear—to protect those who cannot defend themselves. But war is only the beginning. Ancient primal powers have already stirred, revealing the horror of what began eons ago. To end what the Blood Queen has begun, Poppy might have to become what she has been prophesied to be—what she fears the most.

As the Harbinger of Death and Destruction.

Previously Reviewed: “From Blood and Ash” and “A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire” and “The Crown of Gilded Bones”

Review: This was another massive book, so as much as I wanted to get my review out as close to the release day as possible, here we are, a few weeks later. It was partly the length. But it’s also partly that I (and a lot of others, it seems!) had a lot of thoughts and feelings about this book, so it’s taken a bit to get my mind in order with what exactly I wanted to say about this book. But, be warned, there will be spoilers for the book in this review, so read on with that in mind. Let’s dive in, shall we?

Casteel finds himself in the last place he ever wanted to be: trapped in a dungeon and in the grasp of the cruel Blood Queen. But he’d do it all again, at least Poppy is free out in the world. For her part, Poppy is lost without Casteel. Newly made queen of a people and country that barely know her, let alone trust her, she knows only that she must save Casteel as soon as possible. She is joined by Kieran, Casteel’s best friend who hurts almost as much as she does with Casteel’s loss. Together, they will work to save their King and overthrow the Blood Queen once and for all.

The way I’m going to review this book is as follows: I’m going to start with a review of the objective state of this book, then move out to my own interpretations, and then briefly discuss the fan reaction. So, first off, my general impression of this book. Anyone who has read my reviews of these books before will note that I’ve always been hesitant to say much in favor of the general quality of the writing and world-building in these books. They’ve all been bloated, poorly edited behemoths of books. I’m not sure if it’s because of the popularity of the series or what, but it seems that the publisher has taken a very hands-off approach to editing this series. This book showed many of the same flaws.

The pacing was snail-paced, with very little happening for huge chunks of time. What we do learn about the world comes through exposition. And there are so many “reveals” about the world and Poppy’s own heritage that it is well past the point of ridiculousness. I will say that I thought there were more actual grammatical/spelling errors in this book than the others. But for the most part, if you’ve read the other books, you’ll know the flaws you’re working with and none of them are improved in this book. Four books in, these flaws of bad world-building and endless secrets begin to feel as if the author just never planned her series. At some point, the story needs to move past the “discovery” phase and into the “action” phase. Either way, none of this is truly shocking. Indeed, I’ve said repeatedly that I’m really only there for the romance. And that’s where we get to the subjective portion.

This book gives us Casteel’s perspective for the first time in the series. And I think this was actually part of the problem. What should have been an exciting addition (finally the heroes perspective!) was actually a flaw that made what was happening in the rest of the story all the more uncomfortable and unlikable. We have Casteel’s thoughts almost entirely focused on Poppy and how glad he is that he is the one locked up and suffering instead of her. And Poppy? Whelp, she’s off sharing a bed with naked Kieran, developing feelings for him, and getting asked why her husband’s best friend is acting like her husband by family friends. Her answer? “It’s complicated.” Yeaahh, it reads pretty bad and checks all my marks for emotional cheating in my book (honestly, bordering on actual cheating with that naked sleeping scene). On there own, these actions are pretty condemnable from a partner who is in an established exclusive relationship. It’s all the worse when contrasted with Casteel’s thoughts of her. So, subjectively, this ruined most of the series for me. Like I said, I was here for the romance, and this effectively crushed that. Even when Poppy and Casteel are reunited, Poppy’s mentally bemoaning Kieran not being around. It’s uncomfortable, unlikable, and decidedly NOT what I want from my “soulmates” romance stories.

And this last bit gets to the general fans reactions and the author’s approach with this series. Look, we here at The Library Ladies believe in “Every book its reader, and every reader their book.” But the converse of that is true: some people make choices of what to read based on what is and what is not in their books. For romance readers, this is almost even more important than for general fiction readers. There is an unspoken but strong understanding between the author and the readers of what they are there for, be it happily ever afters, smut, etc. And this book was marketed, spoken about by the author (she repeatedly said that Cas and Poppy were the main/only relationship for the last several years), and then set up for THREE BOOKS as an exclusive soulmates-style romance.

If the author had wanted to write a polyamory romance, that’s fine! There are readers for it, and I’m sure many would have gobbled it up! Many are probably already loving the series anyways! The problem is what I said before: that’s not what this series set out to be (or at least there’s no rational interpretation of the previous books or author’s statements that could lead you to thinking otherwise). So when devoted fans get to book four and see what looks pretty clearly like emotional cheating and then a polyamory relationship, they’re going to feel misled and cheated by the author. What’s more, I’ll go as far as to say that had the author set out from the beginning to write a polyamory book (beyond the fact that she failed to truly set that up in any real way), this was a truly bad way to go about it. I can’t imagine anyone from that community would like the parallel drawn here between their accepting and consensual love with the kind of emotional cheating that Poppy and Kieran were getting up to behind Casteel’s back and without his knowledge. This is not good representation and instead plays into very negative stereotypes about the entire lifestyle.

This was a huge disappointment for me. Objectively, it has the same flaws as we’ve seen in the rest of the series. Subjectively, the romance was the only reason I was really still here, and that was badly damaged/ruined by the emotional cheating from Poppy. And thirdly, the author seems to have broken a social contract with her readership by creating a soulmates romance story, publicly calling it such for years and writing three books setting that up, and then blindsiding them with a poor representation of a polyamory relationship at best or emotional infidelity at worst.

I’ll probably check out the reviews of the next book when it is released, but I’m probably out. These books were huge time commitments, and I’m the type of romance reader who reads for the happily ever after. And emotional infidelity isn’t it, friends.

Rating 4: A case study in how to turn your rabid fan base against you and misunderstand why they’re there in the first place.

Reader’s Advisory:

“A War of Two Queens” is on several lists, but I think it most deserves to be on this one: Most Disappointing Sequels/Prequels.

8 thoughts on “Serena’s Review: “The War of Two Queens””

  1. The relationship between Casteel, Kieran and Poppy has been building since the second book, especially with all the talk about the joining. It’s been clear the direction this has been going in, so not sure how you were thrown off in this book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! I wasn’t so much surprised by the actual joining itself, either the physical act (though I think it could have been written better) or the magical motivation for the decision. It was more the strangeness of the relationship between Kieran and Poppy while Cas was a prisoner. And even a few of the comments/thoughts by Poppy after they were reunited. To me, the physical act of the joining was very well foreshadowed. But this strange element of their relationship, to me, read a bit more like emotional infidelity at worst and at best as emotional wishy-washiness on Poppy’s part that was unlikable. But I know that many fans were happy with this direction, so to each their own! Thanks for reading! – S


  2. Casteel has been gently broaching at least a threesome since book 2. And I don’t think Kiran and Poppy cleaving together in the way they do for emotional support is half as far fetched as other things in this series.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Casteel has been gently broaching at least a threesome since book 2. And I don’t think Kiran and Poppy cleaving together in the way they do for emotional support is half as far fetched as other things in this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! I’m don’t think Kieran and Poppy’s interactions are far-fetched at all. I do think it was inappropriate, especially for a couple (Poppy/Casteel) that had in no way established together that they have an open relationship. I have zero problem with far-fetched things! Indeed, I’m not sure how you can be a fantasy fan and have problems with that! I just, personally, found this particular swerve in Poppy’s behavior to be unappealing. The threesome itself is definitely a take it or leave it thing for different readers. I’m glad you enjoyed it though! – S


      1. While I appreciate and understand your point of view, I actually really like how it evolved. As has already been stated, the whole Cas/Poppy/Kieran thing was put into our heads since early on and I think it was a slow and easy transition to it. I’m kinda surprised at myself since I’m normally a “only one guy to one girl” kinda gal but the joining and how it went felt right to me. Poppy and Kieran’s relationship has grown over the four books (well I guess 3 since he wasn’t really in most of book 1) and they really emotionally bonded over the grief of Cas being held prisoner. To me it felt like she kinda eased us into it since we pretty much saw this coming. I don’t know, I guess I just really like the relationship between Cas and Kieran and it feels like Poppy gets to share in that. Cas is super possessive of Poppy except with Kieran, and I think it’s because Kieran almost feels like an extension of Casteel. It is still heavily Cas&Poppy so not sure if we are ever gonna have them all together again or just a one time thing from the joining. Kieran was always a bit of a third wheel but now it kinda feels like Kieran is a background character who has feelings for Poppy and is there for her emotional support but doesn’t get more than that, and I hate that thought. It feels like an injustice to Kieran imo either he has someone who loves him equally or he has a bond to Poppy but is nothing more than to protect her as his queen and friend. I hope future books either go in one direction or the other: he becomes more included and the relationships feel more equal (I doubt that tho since Poppy & Cas are heartmates), or less included and is just more of a companion. Keeping him at what feels like just the bff side character after what has transpired feels wrong to me, like he’s just the family dog to a married couple (if that makes any sense)


      2. I think you’re spot on. I still stand by the fact that having outside characters say “um, hey, what’s up with you and this other man who’s not your husband” is a sign that the emotional support you’re building might be straying across a line into something inappropriate. But I really like your comments about Kieran in general and I think you’re so right. Partly, I think I just really liked the Kieran/Casteel relationship on its own (so rare that you see a friendship between two men this strong in a fantasy novel) and I almost didn’t want Poppy encroaching on it. In some ways, I feel like that lessened what was a great m/m relationship on its own. But I definitely agree with what you’re saying about Kieran now seeming to be the epitome of a third wheel. Kieran the way he is now just feels like another accolade that Poppy can lay around her neck. Look, here’s another super hot guy that loves me too! I really like Kieran as a character, and honestly, I wish the author had just left him out of some this purely because I would gobble up a spin-off series about him and his own devoted love interest that is only his, not some weird sharing thing where Casteel will always come first for Poppy and Kieran, yeah, is just kind of there, like the family dog as you said so well! Thanks for your comment! So fun to talk about this book with other fans! – S


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