The Darkest Bloom

The Darkest Bloom
Shadowscent Book One
Written by P. M. Freestone
Fantasy, #LoveOZYA
448 Pages
Thank you to Scholastic Australia
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★★★★★
Across the Aramtesh Empire, scent is everything. Prayers only reach heaven on sacred incense, and perfumes are prized status symbols. Seventeen year old Rakel has an uncanny ability with fragrances, but her skills aren't enough to buy her dying father more time.

Ash bears the tattoos of an imperial bodyguard. When his prince, Nisai, insists on a diplomatic mission to an outer province, Ash is duty bound to join the caravan. It's a nightmare protecting Nisai on the road. But it's even harder for Ash to conceal a secret that could see him exiled or executed.

Rakel and Ash have nothing in common until smoke draws them to a field of the Empire's rarest flower. Nisai's been poisoned, flames devour the priceless blooms, and the pair have suspect clinging to them like a bad stench. Their futures depend on them working together to decipher clues, defy dangers and defeat their own demons in a race to source an antidote before the imperial army hunts them down.
Rakel Ana is an aspiring perfumer, currently selling her fragrances and scents on the black market to afford her fathers medication as the Affliction slowly claims his life. Since her mother passed away shortly after childbirth, Rakel and her father have struggled to make ends meet, moving out to the pastoral landscape outside of the city for a simpler life, growing up alongside childhood friend Barden who now is in the employ of the palace. Her father, once a decorated soldier for the Aphorain Province, survive on his meagre pension and barely scraping by. As his body is claimed by rotting flesh, Rakel has no other option but to use her skills as a Scent Maker and apply to become an apprentice perfumer of the capital, a position typically reserved for the children of the wealthy and prestigious families of the Aramtesh Empire.

Punished for insolence, Rakel is forced to serve under the prestigious Scent Keeper Sephine, a woman she blames for the death of her mother when she chose not to save her life. While Rakel worries about her ailing father, the palace becomes embroiled in a deadly scandal, the grounds have been set ablaze, Crown Prince Nisai has been poisoned and the only person who can cure the prince may have been the cause of his demise. When Rakel is found in the gardens with the Crown Prince's personal guard and an unconscious Crown Prince Nisai, she becomes a scapegoat. Together with personal guard Ash, Rakel is on the run to find a cure for the Prince and clear her name before it's too late.

The Darkest Bloom was a delightful surprise! Told in dual points of view from the perspective of Rakel and Ash, both with a vested interested in saving the life of the First Prince and heir to the Aramtesh Empire, Prince Nisai. I love narratives where strangers are thrown together for a common goal and although Rakel and Ash appear to be akin to chalk and cheese, they have more in common than first thought.

After a chance meeting on the streets of the capital, Ash was rescued by the First Prince who insisted on bringing the then young orphan to the palace in what was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Ash begun training as a Shield, a personal guard to Nisai while becoming his closest companion. Perhaps even a case of unrequited love as Ash hints at his bisexuality later in the narrative. Ash and Nisai share a secret that slowly unravels as Ash shares his story. Their secret only strengthens their bond as Nisai will do anything to protect his friend, Ash returning the sentiment in kind. Their bond was beautiful and although Nisai spends the majority of the narrative unconscious, we see how affectionate the two young men are through Ash's memories and point of view.

After Rakel is aided by a mysterious rescuer and upon fleeing the dungeons, Ash quickly tracks her down and with only a riddle from the Scent Keeper to go by, the two decide to venture to find a cure to wake the unconscious prince before time runs out. Along their journey, they must gather five ingredients from the vast corners of the empire, avoiding capture by the Rangers, captained by Nisai's half brother who is seeking justice for the poisoning of his sibling.

It was beautiful and so incredibly atmospheric. Using scent to guide readers throughout the narrative of adventure and a slow burning romance, reminiscent of the earlier Throne of Glass novels. Where The Darkest Bloom differentiates is that the narrative has a distinct feeling of sensuality. The romance is secondary to the storyline but I loved the intense attraction as Rakel and Ash learn more about one another. It ends n a cliffhanger that teases readers of what's to come in book two, I'm excited and can't wait! Captivating and beautifully written, enthralling and enchanting until the final page. 

20 comments

  1. Very nice review! You provide quite a lot of detail and draw the reader in so they want more.

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    1. Thank you! It's such a wonderful read, I hope you'll enjoy this one as much as I have!

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  2. I'm glad this was a pleasant surprise for you. I'm intrigued that it uses the sense of smell so much in the book. Thanks for sharing - I hadn't heard of this one before. :)

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. It's amazing Lauren and one of my favourite reads this year. Apparently it's quite cheap on The Book Depository at the moment if you wanted to grab a copy. I think you'll really enjoy it.

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  3. Okay, that is one gorgeous book cover! Omg!
    Your review is so glowing, Kelly!
    I'm adding this book to my wish list. It sounds so compelling and intriguing. I don't think I've ever read anything that focuses on scent before. That's an awesome take to have.
    This book sounds so great, and I am glad you enjoyed it!

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    1. It's beautiful Star. It reminded me of the earlier Throne of Glass novels, it's a fantasy paranormal blend, diverse characters and a brilliant adventure. I can't wait for the next installment!

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  4. I just checked Book Depo and they have this only for $11. Definitely buying! I absolutely love how original this sounds. I don't think I've ever read anything quite like this. And even though you mentioned that the romance takes a backseat, I'm still curious.

    Lovely review, Kelly.

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    1. The romance is there but for the majority of the narrative, it's a building attraction but I love a slow burning romance. It's such a great red Joy, can't wait to see what you think of it!

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  5. I am taken with how you described the narrative having a sensuality about it. That sort of delicious writing I think can create so much and make readers feel so much in a narrative like this.

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    1. Because it uses scent throughout the narrative, it gave it a really lovely sensuality. Most definitely one of my favourite reads this year.

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  6. Well you have me all kinds of interested in reading this from your review. You write the best reviews and I am all ready to shell out some cash to read this. The story sounds so good and I am really interested in reading about the relationship between Ash and the Prince as there seems to be a serious connection there. And this is a book I can actually buy and not pay a small fortune for!

    Excellent review I can't wait to read this.

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    1. Joy had a look on The Book Depository and it's super cheap on there! It's such a great read, it reminded me of the excitement I first felt reading Throne of Glass, except Ash is gentle and a much more intriguing character. I think you'll really enjoy this one!

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  7. I love how unique the story sounds. That cover is gorgeous too!

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    1. The cover is absolutely stunning! It shimmers with a touch of golden foil on there.

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  8. This isn't a book I would normally read, but it sounds really, really interesting and unique. Your review made me want to check it out. Hugs, RO

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    1. It's such a wonderful read! I hope you can pick up a copy, I would love o see what you think of it!

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  9. I love a good atmospheric and descriptive book, this one sounds fantastic.

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    1. It's incredible Lily, one of my favourite reads this year!

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  10. This one sounds so lush and detailed. And the relationships complex and lovely.

    Karen @ For What It's worth

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    1. I loved the subtle romance. They begun as strangers who didn't trust one another and soon became friends with an attraction. It's such a lovely companionship Karen, really enjoyed it.

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