When Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian was released in North America on April 24, 2018 it became an instant New York Times Bestseller – and with good reason! Ash Princess is an epic new fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people, perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sabaa Tahir, that delivers on all aspects!
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 by Laura Sebastian is an original take on something that has been done before that gives breath of fresh air and a new feeling to the same old over used storyline. Theodosia is a strong female lead, the Kaiser is a fearsome foe, and the twisting, winding politics that surround every move Theodosia and her allies make are as murky and dangerous as any.
Instead of the heroine being kick-butt because she can wield a sword or because she has some magical power, she is kick-butt because she uses her intelligence. Theodosia is smart and crafty and bids her time, planning and concocting schemes to get her out of a terribly dark and dangerous situation – and to free her people from over a decade of oppression. But beyond this, Theodosia is marred by a common human flaw – guilt and doubt – that makes her journey utterly human, and thus even more powerful. Stuck between feeling that not all Kalovaxians are evil and the Astrean people need her help, Theo is riddled with guilt and unease throughout the novel as she lies to everyone about her true feelings.
Furthermore, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the upfront brutality of the world Sebastian wove in Ash Princess. The story is set in a harsh world, where the downtrodden Astrean people have been enslaved by the Kalovaxian invaders who have usurped the crown and the highjacked the country for trade and resources. The Kalovaxians slaughtered the queen of Astrea (Theodosia’s mother) and all of her loyal guardians – but kept the beloved Princess Theodosia hostage, to publicly punish in retaliation each time the Astrean rebels fight back. Ash Princess has some truly brutal scenes, and there are undoubtedly some scenes which delve quite deeply into the physical and emotional abuse Theodosia has endured during her time as a hostage to the Kaiser. But overall this book is dark and deals with some heavy material in a way that is respectful without hiding from the truth in the brutal world Sebastian has written.
Finally, despite the slightly slower, ambling nature of the plot, readers will undoubtedly find it difficult to put down Ash Princess. The drama and high-stakes nature of the story, coupled with building suspense and dangerous plot twists at just the right moments, makes for an engulfing read. Really, Sebastian did not shy away from the hard stuff, and it made for such a compelling read from beginning to end.
Overall, I really enjoyed Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian. From the intriguing and hear-wrenching experiences Theodosia endures, to the brutality of the world Sebastian has woven, to the consistency and quality behind the writing of the story, Ash Princess left nothing to be desired – expect a speedy sequel (5/5)!