Book: Ash Princess
Series: Ash Princess Trilogy, #1
Author: Laura Sebastian
Genre: YA Fantasy
My rating: ★★★★
Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess–a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.
For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.
Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.
For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.
Ash Princess is a story about betrayal and rebellion. While the beginning may have been a bit of a slow burn for me, I became fully invested when the plotting and scheming started. I do want to say to please proceed with caution, as this book has a lot of physical abuse/torture.
When Theodosia was just a small girl she witnessed her mother, the Fire Queen, brutally murdered. Her land was taken and her people were slaughtered by the Kaiser. The Kaiser spared Theo to keep as a reminder to those who want to rebel: any time a rebellion takes place, he would punish (whip) Theo in public. For ten years Theo endured this abuse, all while living in her palace; the palace she lost to the Kaiser after he murdered her family.
Now, did I think this book was original or brought something new to the table? No. It very much reads like a YA fantasy and it has your typical YA fantasy tropes. But with that being said, I still really enjoyed it. There were dark politics, betrayals, and swoon-worthy romances. I couldn’t put the book down once I finished a chapter. It was a solid page-turner.
- The twists. Theo is not stupid, and she is quite the badass. With the help of her “Shadows”, she is able to perfect the art of lying and manipulation. She is cunning and sick of everyone’s sh*t. There were times I felt the plotting-after-plotting was a bit excessive (and Theo could be rather indecisive), but it still kept me on the edge of my seat. It brought so many twists to the story and I could not put it down!
- Cress is a girl who is the daughter of the Theyn; the man who murdered Theo’s mother. While Theo feels pure hatred toward the Theyn, she has conflicting feelings for Cress over their friendship. Theo has found a lot of comfort in Cress even though Theo recounts how she feels more like Cress’ pet than a “sister”. Cress was not a very likeable character for me for most of the book, but I loved her character arc. Cress is a dark horse and I want more!
- Soren is the Prince (in the story he’s called a Prinz, and, um, LOL.) While there is a very obvious love triangle, I was rooting for him. He has done some horrible things under his father’s reign, but he is very complex and has so much character growth. I truly feel like his heart is in the right place and his relationship with Theo is very organic. I am all about a swoon-worthy-murdering prince, apparently! (I mean, the part on the boat and the tunnel? AMIRITE?).
- The love triangle. I actually didn’t hate this love triangle, even though I saw it coming from a mile away. You’ll meet Blaise, Theo’s childhood friend who tries to help her out of the castle. I’m sorry, but I found Blaise to be so boring. Was he just shoe-horned into the story for the purpose of a love triangle? I felt zero chemistry between Theo and Blaise. If you’re a major hater of love triangles then I do not recommend this book for you. But! Let me just say I am really excited to see where Blaise’s story goes in the next book.
- Lack of gem powers. A major plot point in this book deals with gems that can give people certain enhanced powers. And while these gems are mentioned so much, we see very little of what they can do. However, I think we’ll be seeing more of these powerful gems explored in the sequel.
- A bit trope-y. As I said earlier, there were a few tropes or a mash-up of several YA books present.
If you’re in the mood for some royalty rebellion, dark politics, and some swoony romance then I highly recommend Ash Princess. It also sets up for the sequel very nicely, and I cannot wait until that book comes out!