Kingdom of Ash and Soot – C.S. Johnson | ARC Review


By: C.S. Johnson

# 1 in the Order of the Crystal Dagger series | 352 Pages | Pub. July 3 2018

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Kingdom of Ash and Soot At a Glance

  • Overall Rating: ★★★ 
  • Heroine:  Survivor by Destiny’s Child
  • Dude: Can I go on walks with him in Prague!??
  • Romance: Sweet and slow burn
  • Brutality: I’ll never trust wine again

Pairs Well With



*From Goodreads

“I want to be free.” The words came rushing out of me before I could think through their implications and consequences.

“There are two things you need to know about yourself if you want to be free—what you stand for, and what you stand against.” Lady Penelope held up her hands, brandishing a pair of daggers that had been hidden in her skirts. “This world lives enslaved to its destruction, and so long as you are living, as long as you are fighting, you will be free.”

I gazed at the daggers, transfixed. Each blade was clothed in a leather scabbard, but the silver and obsidian of the daggers’ hilts winked at me, as though it was calling for me.

PRAGUE, 1870.

For the last ten years, nineteen-year-old Eleanora Svobodová has worked as a servant in her stepmother’s household. Along with her older brother, she dreams of the day they will be free to live life on their own terms.

But everything changes when their estranged grandmother comes to Prague on behalf of Queen Victoria. Throughout Bohemia, a string of murders and secret whispers hint at a larger coup. As the leader of the Order of the Crystal Daggers, an ancient order of spies and soldiers that protect kingdoms and their rulers, Lady Penelope is determined to mete out the perpetrators. Now, Eleanora must make the choice between a life of intrigue and saving the lives of others.

Can Eleanora find a way do the right thing and still find freedom?

With a fun blend of historical fiction, true love, castle intrigue, and family dysfunction, The Order of the Crystal Daggers is the latest adventure series from C. S. Johnson

Our Spoiler Free Review 

We received an ARC of this book from Prodigy Gold Books in exchange for an honest review. Thanks again, Prodigy Gold Books!

Overall Thoughts

This story is an interesting twist on Cinderella that adds in history, political maneuvering and assassins. If you love a good regency novel with multiple balls, discussions of what is proper behavior for young ladies, and a sweet romance then you’ll enjoy Kingdom of Ash and Soot. It’s a quick and easy read that adds in just the right amount of intrigue and mystery to keep you guessing.

The Setting

Who doesn’t love a story set in Prague? Monsters, that’s who! I loved how this story didn’t take place in the typical European cities featured in historical fiction novels – Prague was a refreshing change of pace. The descriptions of Prague in 1870 are beautiful and heartbreaking. You’ll probably find yourself wanting to visit Prague Castle at Christmas and wanting to slap people for their anti-semitic views.

The Characters

Like any Cinderella retelling you get the classic characters, Cinderella (Eleanora), the evil stepmother, and an evil step-sister. But Kingdom of Ash and Soot goes a step farther and gives you a creepy evil step-brother, and a solid brother character that you can’t help but love as well. Then Johnson adds in a somewhat insane Grandmother that can’t seem to learn her granddaughter’s name, a group of assassins, a friend group with a Zorro like character, and a bunch of plotting nobles. 

Our main character Eleanora was likable but annoying and naive at times. I need a little more character growth from her in the next books. But who really made me rage in this book was her grandmother Lady POW. I wanted to POW her in the face multiple times and I can tell this chick is gonna be bad news throughout this series. Ferdy, our love interest, was sweet, and I admittedly fell for him but ultimately he broke my heart with his behavior at the end of the story.

Pacing and Writing

I enjoyed the mystery and intrigue present in Kingdom of Ash and Soot. But where this novel fell short for me was in the pacing. The book lost its momentum after a bit and was a little slow. I honestly thought I would drown in descriptions of ball gowns and rules for how to behave as a proper lady (barf). I would’ve enjoyed a bit more action and a faster-paced adventure. The writing was pretty but I struggled to connect the dots between all the different plot lines and got lost between the political maneuvering in Prague and how it connected to the group of assassins from England and everything else happening. I would’ve enjoyed more explanation of that than ball gowns.

The Ending

The ending was perhaps a little predictable to everyone except Eleanora who is a little naive but it was intense and enjoyable. I enjoy a good cliffhanger and this one did not disappoint!  I’m intrigued enough by this book and the ending to give the next book in this series a chance!

Have you read Kingdom of Ash and Soot? Let us know what you thought in the comments! 

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10 thoughts on “Kingdom of Ash and Soot – C.S. Johnson | ARC Review

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