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.
Title: Ash Princess
Author: Laura Sebastian
So this book had an unfair advantage right from the start with me.
I’m a person who likes certain plot points in books, so much that if they’re in a book that was fairly mediocre, it automatically makes me like it a heck of a lot more. Here are some examples:
Boarding school settings
Court intrigue and drama
Magical chosen ones (I know, I know! But only if they’re done well)
Main character either realising they’re part of a different species or becoming one during the book
Badass women who take down the patriarchy (I’m a bit of an SJW so this is a duh one)
Things like that. I would say they’re guilty pleasures, but I don’t feel guilty about them.
Ash Princess has: court intrigue and badass women so already it’s two points ahead before even being opened. (Also I think there are hints about ‘magical chosen one’ stuff in the book but maybe that’ll be explained more in the second book.)
So taking this into consideration, I’ll start with the thing I wasn’t a fan of:
There were hidden tunnels all throughout the castle, all of which had secret openings and had never been discovered by the invaders.
Would it have been so bad for the rebels to have helped the Princess escape through one of these at any point throughout her abusive childhood? She could have been raised as a rebel princess, working on strategy and maybe even some powers, building up to take back her country eventually.
I just thought that leaving a young girl to get systematically abused and emotionally broken for years when there is a way out was a pretty harsh thing to do. Sure, there were some good reasons why it could be hard: her shadows following her every move, the rebels being quite a small group until later on in the invasion years, and she was technically ‘safer’ in terms of purely being alive in the castle I suppose. But it gave the book a bit of a bad undertone for me.
Also, is Theo knew about them herself, I have a hard time believing a young girl wouldn’t think to even attempt to escape through them once. Maybe just a blocked up tunnel to show how she tried to do this in her youth would have helped me believe it a bit more?
So yeah, that was pretty much my main gripe about this book. The rest was pretty good!
Things I liked:
Though we didn’t get to hear or see a huge amount about the other cultures in this world, considering we’re stuck inside a castle with no outside communication for a lot of it, we did get a map and some descriptions of the places that the invaders took over on their way to Theo’s country.
I liked how the main exports of the countries were mentioned, and how the invaders jumped from country to country using up all of the resources and taking any valuable exports for themselves. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this developed, maybe some more history thrown in to give us a solid grasp on the cultures and traditions of each place, in the future books.
Theo starts out extremely downtrodden and broken from an entire childhood of whippings, beatings, and psychological abuse from the same people who killed her mother. This makes complete sense, especially considering a more strong-minded person in her situation would have probably done something to get themselves killed by her age.
The slow build of her confidence from beginning to end of the book was good, if a smidge fast in some places. I put that down to her mum’s influence and memory, so it’s understandable, and I look forward to even more character development in the next books in the series.
I’m not a huge fan of these usually, preferring a slow build romance with one person to a ‘who shall I choose’ scenario. I swear, I don’t know anyone who’s ever had that dilemma in real life, so I’m not sure how it got so prominent really.
Saying that, this one was handled nicely I think. No insta-love for either guy, just a few butterflies and some guilt. I assume this will come to a head in the later books, but I’m glad it held off for the first book. It would have felt too crammed in if the author had also tried to cover a realistic romance alongside her emotional development and the court scheming. That, or it would have been a much longer book!
Overall, I really liked this book and enjoyed it, it stuck in my head long after I’d read it. I liked the flawed main character, and her loyalty to her country, and look forward to seeing more of her growth and adventures in the future.