Title: Ash Princess
Author: Laura Sebastian
Series Status: 1st book in an Untitled Trilogy
# of pages: 432
Publication Date: April 24th, 2018
My rating: 4/5 stars
Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Queen of Flame and Fury, 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.” Pretending to be empty-headed and naive when she’s not enduring brutal whippings, she pushes down all other thoughts but one: Keep the Kaiser happy and he will keep you safe.
When the Kaiser forces her to execute her last hope of rescue, Theo can’t keep her feelings and memories pushed down 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. Or for her rebel allies to challenge her friendship with the one person who’s been kind to her throughout the last hopeless decade: her heart’s sister, Cress.
Cornered into 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.
* I received a free copy in exchange for a honest review *
This was such an exciting read to finally have after seeing all the hype beginning to circulate around it. After being lucky enough to receive an ARC I can see it’s pretty worth it.
Before I begin with the actual review, I want to place in trigger warnings since the main character does have to deal with a large amount of physical and mental abuse (which was pretty graphically described). There also a heavy placement on race and slavery- it is part of the main plot- that continues throughout the story (something that I am unable to speak on but is important to be mentioned ).
Starting with the characters who originally were not that likable and while even at the end I wasn’t fully on board with them they definitely had tons of growth which was nice to see. The main character, Thora (Theo/Theodosia), started off as a girl who is just trying to survive in this world she’s been thrust into but quickly is able to find the strength to fight back. Her main rebel counterparts Artemisia, Heron, and Blaise are all starkly different in personality but were a wonderful group that managed to provide her the support she needed. Then there was one of the love interests, Soren, who is the prince and heir that is suddenly back in the palace and attempting to please his father as well as the rest of the people at court. Soren was my main drawback when it came to characters because he felt like an unfleshed character who only appeared when the story needed him. This wasn’t helped with the blossoming romance between him and Theo which only further showed that he wasn’t his own character. He had few character traits other than the “dashing prince who appears to save a damsel in distress” trope, which became a large part of the story. While I enjoyed the characters overall I felt his was heavily underdeveloped.
The plot was filled with tons of tropes and while I was completely aware of them all I found myself not disliking them as much as I would have thought. Sebastian manages to keep to classic tropes but I think that she handled them well. While the plot had many tropes to it, it also had a slower but more well thought out plot to it. The whole story has a couple of small points leading up the actual end but I found that she managed to flesh out the story and give necessary backstory and details on the plot so that it was more plausible by the end.
Something that I had hoped would be a bigger part of the story was the magic system (although by the end of it leads me to believe it will be in the next installment). There are only small mentions of it and even smaller examples of the actual magic taking place and I found myself longing for a more detailed story and example of what this power could actually mean. The information that is provided though seems pretty interesting and was exciting enough that I keep wanting more of it.
Then there is the pacing which is slower but was something that made me enjoy the story more. Instead of a fast paced fantasy with nothing fleshed out and outlandish plans being made with no explanation, for the most part every plan gets pretty fleshed out and has thought and calculation behind it. This was exciting because it made me have more respect for the characters by actually hearing reasoning behind what they were going to do.
Sebastian’s writing style was a unique and beautifully captivating. She managed to have me drawn in by the first couple of pages and I found that she had a vivid way of conveying things that made me really enjoy her writing style.
Overall this was a pretty great read, even if it was trope filled, and managed to captivate me from the beginning.