Title: Ash Princess
Author: Laura Sebastian
Series: Ash Princess Trilogy, #1
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Release Date: June 14th 2018
The queen you were meant to be
The land you were meant to save
The throne you were meant to claim
Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. Ten years later, Theo has learned to survive under the relentless abuse of the Kaiser and his court as the ridiculed Ash Princess.
When the Kaiser forces her to execute her last hope of rescue, Theo can’t ignore her feelings and memories any longer. She vows revenge, throwing herself into a plot to seduce and murder the Kaiser’s warrior son with the help of a group of magically gifted and volatile rebels. But Theo doesn’t expect to develop feelings for the Prinz.
Forced to make impossible choices and unable to trust even those who are on her side, Theo will have to decide how far she’s willing to go to save her people and how much of herself she’s willing to sacrifice to become Queen.
From author Laura Sebastian comes Ash Princess, a nail-biting YA fantasy debut full of daring and vengeance.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Thoughts On…
Ever since her country was invaded and her mother killed before her eyes Theo has learnt to survive under the abuse of the Kaiser. She has spent ten years with her eyes down, blind to the abuse her people are going through, knowing there’s nothing she can do to help them. Still she hopes someone out there will save her and she doesn’t realise that hope was still alive until the Kaiser forces her to kill Ampelio, one of Theo’s mother’s guardians and the last person still free who Theo believed could have saved them all.
Ash Princess has similar elements to a lot of YA fantasy books out there, but there were small ways the story stood out. It’s the death of her last hope that spurs Theo into action, she can’t wait anymore for someone to save her and if she wants change she needs to bring it about herself. There were a lot of heavy scenes in this book, the abuse Theo faces at the hands of the Kaiser isn’t glossed over but it added a darker side to the story and to Theo’s character development.
Working with Blaise, Art and Heron, three rebels who escaped the mines with Ampelio and infiltrated the palace, Theo plans to bring down the Kaiser from the inside. She wants to use the Prinz to incite a civil war between the Kaiser and Soren, however the more time Theo spends with him the more she realises the impossible choices she will face, and soon she starts questioning what she’s willing to sacrifice for her people.
The blurb for Ash Princess makes it seem like the romance between Theo and Soren plays a larger part, and while the feelings she develops for him cause her to hesitate there’s more than just Soren on her mind when she wonders what it is she’s really doing. I thought the plot was kind of slow in this book; the main story arc was Theo slowly acting against the Kaiser, using his son to create tension between the two for her benefit, and it was only really in the last few chapters that things picked up.
Theo has been captive for ten years, and she’s adjusted to her life under the command of the Kaiser. Before she was forced to kill Ampelio Theo was meek, she accepted her life and her punishments just hoping to remain alive day after day, but when she kills her last hope something in Theo breaks and she’s not content with just remaining alive anymore.
However just because she’s ready to start fighting back against her captors it doesn’t mean Theo has the skills needed to make her move. She relies on Blaise, Art and Heron to help her but there are still times when Theo flinches away from doing what they ask of her. However the more time she spends acting as a queen rather than a prisoner, the more she starts seeing the truth of the Kalovaxians she called her friends, the more confident she becomes in doing what needs to be done.
One aspect of the story I wish had been developed a little more was Theo’s and Cress’s friendship. Despite being on different sides and despite Cress’s father killing Theo’s mother the two girls are best friends, heart’s sisters, but acting against the Kaiser means acting against Cress.
Cress wants to marry Soren. Her whole life she’s been told she will one day be prinzessin, and Cress is already half in love with that idea and half in love with Soren despite not interacting with him much. However Soren is the key to Theo’s rebellion, and she’s forced to choose between her best friend and her people. I wish that conflict, the friendship between the two girls and how it was tested as Theo rejects the meek girl the Kaiser created and embraces the rightful queen she is, had been highlighted more.
There is a love triangle in this book between Theo, Blaise and Soren, but it doesn’t take the centre stage in the story. For Theo her priority is revenge against the Kaiser, and Soren is her key to bringing his father down. The feelings she develops for Theo are pushed to one side in the name of that revenge, something easily done when he reminds her just how similar he can be to his father.
It was the world building where this book fell down slightly for me, however there were a couple of aspects that were well-written, mainly the culture of the Kalovaxian and Astrean people and the differences between the two. The Kalovaxians are a brutal people, waging war, conquering countries until their resources are plundered and they move on to the next country, and from the Astreans they’ve taken the Spiritgems. The Kalovaxians have been wearing them as jewellery but Astreans view them as something holy. Theo’s religion was also a nice touch; she believes her mother and everyone else she’s lost waits for her in the After, but after everything she’s seen the Kaiser do to her people she wonders if the Gods are real if they can let that happen.
Despite the slow plot Ash Princess was interesting enough to keep my hooked until the end, but there were parts that felt too much like other YA fantasy books I’ve read and ended up being a little forgettable. I would have liked to see more of Theo’s and Cress’s friendship, and more of the world outside of the castle but based on the way this book ended I’m hoping that’s to come in Lady Smoke.
What did you think of Ash Princess? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.
All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.