Title: Ash Princess
Author: Laura Sebastian
Pub. Date: April 24, 2018
Rating: ♥♥♥♥ -4.5
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 wear 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 that 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.
LIFT UP YOUR HEAD, PRINCESS.
IF YOU DON’T, THE CROWN FALLS.
Like with the majority of my reviews, the first part will be spoiler free, with a designated spoiler section after.
I’m not going to lie, when I first saw the gorgeous cover of this book, I didn’t care what the story was about, I just wanted to read it. Yes, I judged it on its cover. Based on the title alone, I figured this was going to be some kind of Cinderella retelling. I finally read the synopsis, I didn’t care I had been wrong, and could not wait to pick this book up.
When I finally got the chance, I devoured it. I loved this book so much, and my only big gripe is that book 2, Lady Smoke isn’t out yet. I cannot wait to see what happens next, and where the story goes.
This book contains abuse.
And I have a feeling that this is going to be a rather long review because I enjoyed this book so much, I have a lot to say.
Ash Princess follows Thora (Theodosia) who has been stripped of everything – her name, her country, her people, her family – and crowned the Ash Princess. She learns quickly to not cross the Kaiser or the Theyn, two very powerful men. She submits and learns to live as a quiet shadow, never trying to cause disruption in fear of catching the Kaiser’s eye and the Theyn’s whip.
A captive in her own court, Thora exists, quiet and submissive, seemingly more interested in gossiping with the Theyn’s daughter, Crescentia (Cress). Her life is like walking a tightrope, never knowing what might set the Kaiser off. Then one day, Thora is forced to do the unthinkable, and it changes her, reminds her of who she is. She isn’t Thora, that was a name forced upon her. She was Theodosia, heir to her country.
I loved this book, and when I go to the end, I just wanted to keep reading, give me more of the story. I don’t want to say “I enjoyed her relationships with other characters” because some of those relationships were strictly abusive, but the way she interacted with the characters was enjoyable because (to me) it felt real. You have this young girl taken captive, who is beat and tormented into submission, and it takes one act that pushes her too far, and she’s scheming the downfall of the people who took everything from her. I also liked how some of (not all) of her perceptions about the people who have subjugated her aren’t accurate, at least not completely.
I liked that she could see that not every single “bad” person was actually bad. Complicit, yes, but I felt like there were very few actual “bad/evil” characters. No one is this or that, but a combination of these things, and that made them feel more human.
If you want a story about a Princess, a fight for a kingdom, a rebellion and love – I think you will enjoy this story.
Now time for the spoiler part –
The first thing I want to touch on is the “Love Triangle” in this book, and how I don’t think it’s a love triangle.
There are two attractive guys in Theo’s life. Prinz Søren and Blaise.
Prinz Søren is the heir to his father’s throne, but nothing like his father. He can see the injustices that Theo has endured and wants to change things.
Blaise is a childhood friend from her past and provides a stability and comfort she hasn’t had since the conquering of her kingdom.
I feel like Blaise and Prinz Søren take up two different parts of her heart. I think she actually loves, or nearly loves Søren, and I think that her feelings for him scare her. He’s the “enemy” and I think that scares her and she clearly doesn’t like manipulating him and taking him captive at the end of the book.
As for Blaise, I think he’s just comfort, and going beyond a childhood love, a love for the past, the comfort and familiarity. Yes, they kiss, and he holds her while she sleeps, but I don’t think she harbors any romantic love for him. I agree with Theo when she says that Blaise isn’t loyal to her but to her father’s loyalty to her.
Now maybe in book 2, there will be some sort of romance between Blaise and Theo, but I’m not sure there will be. Theo can’t be the queen her people want her to be, she has to be the Queen she wants to be. Her people want nothing but revenge but sinking that low would just mean she’s no better than the Kaiser.
Moving past the non-triangle love triangle, I really loved Søren. I liked that he was absolutely different from his father, but he wasn’t perfect. He still made mistakes, he is absolutely a child of his upbringing. But the choices he sets to action, they aren’t easy for him, and while, yes, he makes them, they come with a personal cost. He wants to change the way things are done, and his people will listen to him. There are enough of his people who prefer him over his father and would rather see him on the throne. Theo sees this in him, his kindness, his caring, but she can’t ignore the mistakes he’s made.
I think my favorite part in this whole book was the boat scene between Søren and Theo. That scene felt so real, and the emotions felt honest. To me, that was the point where I fell in love with Søren and I think it was the same moment Theo fell in love with him too.
I think Theo is good at thinking of the long haul, instant revenge, split second reactions aren’t going win any war. They might win battles, but ultimately they won’t work. Theo knows this, and that’s why she’s willing to keep Søren alive rather than just killing him. It’s why she waits to poison Cress and the Theyn. It’s why she bides her time.
Speaking of Cress, I didn’t like her, and I really didn’t like her when she started treating Theo like shit. Cress infuriated me. For all her talk about when she becomes Prinzessin Theo’s life will be so much better – but in reality, she’ll still be a prisoner. Whereas Søren actually wants to change things, Cress just wants to stay in her frilly safe castle with her fancy dresses and Spirit Gems.
I can’t wait to see the evolution of the Spirit Gems and how they are used by those who actually know how to use them – I’m sure that will come in book 2.
But back to Cress, she was such a bitch. Thora was literally just a doll to her, someone to gossip with, dress up, degrade. I had hoped that she would be more aware of the injustices, but nope, she was just as complicit in the subjugation of Theo as the Kaiser and Theyn was. Though, a little tendril of happy shot through me when I found out that the Theyn wasn’t all bad, that he didn’t necessarily like hurting Theo, and only did it because the Kaiser demanded it of him. I had a little warm feeling in my chest when Cress told her that she was only alive, because the Theyn convinced him to not kill a small defenseless child. I feel like in another life, another world, one where the Kaiser didn’t exist, the Theyn might’ve taken Theo in as a ward/daughter, would have protected her rather than whip her.
I can’t wait to see Theo take down the bitch Cress, and I’m sad and upset that the Encatrio didn’t kill her. The minute she decided to basically blackmail Theo into not loving Søren, I knew she needed to go.
Overall, I enjoyed this book so much, and can already tell that it’s going to become one of my favorite fantasy trilogies! I cannot wait for Lady Smoke coming in Sprign 2019!