Ash Princessby Published 24 Apr 2018
|Publisher||Delacorte Books for Young Readers|
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" Reviews
I hope you will not fall off your chair if I tell you that you have read this story before.
Maybe once, or twice, or a hundred of times, but you most certainly have.
Girl loses kingdom and family. Girl wants kingdom back and boy helps her. Girl manipulates her way surprisingly mainly into—instead of out of—trouble.
Nothing stands out. Not even the idea of multiple gods and goddesses and gems that hold power that can be used by and on people. There is the illusion of a world-building but it is just that… an illusion.
So while you’ve read this story before, it’s true that you haven’t read it from Theo’s point of view. In the beginning, I was sure I would love it. After all, unlike most fantasy YA heroines, Theo *pretends* to be weak and a damsel in distress.
The pretending entertained me. Except, when you think about it, whether she is aware of her own manipulative actions (like faking fear to let a guy protect her) or not, it remains that she isn’t acting all that differently from other fantasy YA heroines.
I simply don’t care. Now I don’t mean that I want Theo to crumble and turn to real ashes, but if my powers of prediction are correct, that is not going to happen. Otherwise, there’s no story to tell, and so I don’t care to read the whole trilogy. (Pssst… I can also read hands, for a small fee.)
Oh, wait, did I forget to mention that there’s a love triangle? Surprise! Now you’ve fallen completely, haven’t you? Well indeed there is. A very—wait for it—predictable and annoying one.
What a waste of a really amazing cover (oh and potential). Though, was there potential to begin with? The only reason I read it is because I have a thing for princess stories or so I have claimed recently.
But now I feel like a fraud. Grrr. I might have to rethink my preferences.
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So glad I read this book. Really enjoyed the politics, magic and character in this one. I also could not predict what was to happen in the story. Something that is rare for me these days. Regardless if it took me a week to finish I would happily read this one over and over.
This was a pretty dark and politically twisty fantasy, and I was pretty sold! I mean, I actually thought it'd be much darker (omg I'm so sorry) aaand I loved the beginning and less so the end (Y U EXIST LOVE TRIANGLE) but it had powerful magic and freaking awesome world building and I am so there for this.
✓ Seriously tho: world building!
It actually takes time to show us languages and cultures and there were a lot of "fantasy" words flying about, but I didn't get confused! (A MIRACLE. Sometimes I get confused about how to spell wednesday so this is like amazing for me.) I felt really sucked into the world after only a few chapters. Plus it had a lot of fantastic details so everything seemed super vivid!
✓ It has a lot of "prettiness" in it to balance the horror of the conquerors.
It's absolutely about a conquered nation, and Theo is basically a trophy, tortured daily for the crimes of her people but kept alive despite the horror she has to go through. So she's like lavished in pretty dresses and wears pretty makeup and goes to banquets and has books. Her BFF is one the daughter of a very powerful dude and she's all pretty and light and flippant. But then in the background you have the conquered people being murdered and enslaved in mines and Theo's being whipped if they rebel. And I just??? I loved that contrast.
Actually the magic gets a yes and no from me because I reeeally enjoyed it, but also lol lol elemental magic? STILL??? One of these days someone's going to **GASP** think up something new and we will all fall into our tea and sandwiches in shock.
which actually brings me to...
✗ Look, tbh, it was very predictable if you read a lot of fantasy.
It was hugely The Winner's Curse...like every few chapters I kept thinking "wow this is the Winner's Curse." But minus the (a) scheming, and (b) interesting dual narrators. So maaaybe this is because I read too much, but literally nothing surprised me and by the last 100pgs I was getting kind of um, erm, bored.
✗ LOVE TRIANGLE, WHY THO.
I'm not frikkin' kidding, I am so sick of these. I think my #1 problem is this tried not to be a triangle, but it still was. It was just irritating. Theo has feelings for her childhood friend, Blaise, and also the prince she's supposed to kill, Søren. Both were about as dynamic as an undercooked noodle. Like seriously, if you asked me to ship someone I couldna do it, my friend.
Søren's just sitting here being the "misunderstood chivalrous prince" and Blaise is just here being the "tortured angry rebel boy" and I wanted them to POSSIBLY HAVE PERSONALITIES TOO.
✗ Theo could've done with, um, a personality too.
lmao I'm so sorry. I just wanted more from her?! She was struggling with the horrifying PTSD of her situation but yet I felt I more got told that than actually SAW it. And otherwise she was just good and nice and determined !! to !! succeed !! (And I think this is why it kind of soured for me, becuase I was hoping for a scheming book but Theo was just good™ and pure™ so. (PS. Yes I'm a Slytherin and Gryffindor books tire me.)
✗ And oops I thought it'd be darker.
It basically references darkness that has happened, but it's not really happening on page. So IDK. We get introduced to this captive princess who could literally not BREATHE WRONG or she'd be whipped (slaves of her people were killed for looking at her too long!) and then by the end she's frolicking off for midnight sailing with the prinz?!? Inconsistent much?? The world WAS definitely dark and brutal though. Just not the, ya know, plot or anything.
✗ Honestly I kind of just wanted more??
It's long. It's basically 80% set in the same rooms in the castle. No one is conniving for freedom, and rebellion just sort of topples around. I wanted schemes and RISKS and I wanted people to go through with the "bad" stuff they'd have to do to do good. But instead it all seemed to skirt into "safe" zones and IDK. Maybe I should go sit in a box in the corner. I am a demanding fish.
ALL IN ALL: This one had such a stunning world and sooo much potential and some twists at the end that had me going OMG YES. It's a book that screams for the sequel that's for sure!! (Are we getting more pirates in bk 2?!? I will die of happiness!) It's about wicked conquerors and the glitter and jewels people will pile on top of festering poison and murders and I was definitely intrigued, iffff a little unenthused about the characters and laying on the floor throwing a tantrum at having to suffer that love triangle. BUT I still mostly enjoyed it!
Is it better to have your life ended by someone who hates you or someone who loves you?
Ash Princess has a heroine desperately trying to reclaim her stolen throne, a mindlessly evil tyrant who stole said throne, and a love triangle... What's that, you say? You've heard this one before? Yeah, me too.
That being said, to give credit where it's due, it stands out for being compulsively readable and entertaining.
Plot and character-wise, it resembles many other YA fantasies. But I was just complaining in my review of Sky in the Deep about how I keep reading a lot of “shallow and emotionless” YA fantasy books, and this happens to be one that breaks the pattern. I can't deny it is very compelling, though it relies heavily on violence, abuse and misery to keep us turning the pages.
I'll spare you a plot summary - you can probably guess it anyway - and just say there's a rightful queen held captive by the conquerors of her kingdom who must assist the underground rebellion and reclaim her throne. Whilst fighting off the hot dudes along the way, of course.
Many are comparing this to Red Queen, which I did think was shallow and emotionless. Instead, I’d compare it to Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes - both books are heavy on the violence, feature slavery as a theme, have a love triangle (sort of) and an evil tyrant driving the drama and action. They are also similarly paced and engaging.
Aside from an awkward infodump in the first chapter, it goes down smoothly. The violence and unfairness make it easy to keep turning the pages. Shortly after the book opens Theo is forced to murder her father, and nothing gets me reading like a nice dose of fury at the injustice of it all. Theo's undercover manipulations are also fun to read.
Some of the major plot aspects seem illogical, such as why the new king (called the Kaiser 🙄) would leave the rightful heir alive. The book tries to explain it away but it doesn't really make much sense. Surely if you want to dampen any hope of reinstating the rightful monarch then you would just kill the rightful monarch.
I should warn that it is at times grim and gory. Slavery is a norm; beatings, torture and rape (non-graphic) are common. The divide between the dark-haired, olive-skinned Astrean people and the pale-skinned, blonde-haired Kalovaxians is clearly along racial lines.
BUT what can I say? It is also an entertaining pageturner. If you have room in your heart (and on your bookshelves) for another fantasy with princesses, evil rulers, rebellion and romance, then you could definitely do worse than this one.
TW: graphic abuse and torture; rape (non-graphic); racism.
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Please tell me "Prinz" is a typo in the synopsis and that it's not how they spell prince bc I don't think I could cope with that tbh xD
pssssstt i know it's german for prince now. thanks(: