Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1)by Published 24 Apr 2018
|Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1).pdf|
|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 (Ash Princess Trilogy #1)" Reviews
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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ARC provided by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.
“My name is Theodosia Eirene Houzzara, Queen of Astrea, and I will endure this.”
Friends, I couldn’t put this down. This was such an addicting and captivating read. This was the first book of 2018 that I read in one day, which is saying something because this book is almost 450 pages. I was just so invested with the romance, the rebellion, and the betrayals, that I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
Ash Princess is Laura Sebastian's debut novel, which is a story about a girl named Theodosia (yeah, I’m going to be singing Hamilton all day after writing this review), whose ruling mother was murdered, and their land taken over by another kingdom when she was only six-years-old. the Kaiser allowed her to live, but only so that she could live among them, while they take everything she has ever known away. She is used as a reminder for her people that the Kaiser has enslaved, and when they do anything to rise up, Theodosia takes the punishment. Her back is incredible scarred from the whippings she has had to endure, but the Kaiser also inflicts so much mental and emotional abuse alongside the physical.
“The last person who called me by my true name was my mother, with her dying breath.”
The Kaiser conquered Theodosia’s land because there are caves that run beneath four major temples that her people worship (air, fire, water, earth). And gems come from those caves to give people magic, but they also give people with an affinity for the element(s) a lot of magic. The caves have so much magic inside them, that when Theodosia’s mother would rule, people would go down and stay in the caves, most dying, but some emerging and proving that they are worth the element the god and goddesses gave to them. Now that the Kaiser rules, he forces the slaves down there to mine, but most lose their minds after being around the power(s) for too long, and eventually lose their lives.
Theodosia’s only friend is a girl named Cress, whose father is the one who swiped the blade across her mother’s throat. Inside, Theodosia feels a constant battle about what she can do while feeling so absolutely helpless. Yet, Cress also lost her mother when she was very young, so an unconventional friendship grew from two girls both mourning the mothers they never got to know. I loved seeing their friendship develop and become what it was by the end of the book. But Theodosia is constantly reminded of all the things she lost alongside her mother, but she is forced to do the only thing she can: survive. That is, until one day a boy from her past comes and offers her a way out, and a way to maybe right a few wrongs that have happened to her people.
“A life where a crown—gold or ash—doesn’t weigh heavy on my head.”
As I said above, this is a dark story about a girl who is forced to live among the people who ruined her life and killed her mother. Trigger/Content Warnings for racism, enslaving humans, abuse, torture, graphic beating, humiliation, captivation, gore, murder, death, loss of a loved one, bullying, talk of rape in the past, talk of animal murder in the past, sexual assault (unwanted touching), and rebellion/war themes.
The other thing I’d like to talk about is that the Kaiser and his people are white with light features, where Theodosia and her people have darker features and are said to have a “tawny” skin color. On top of the fact that this is a story about how one empire colonizes another, and puts the remaining population in chains and are force them to work (and die) in the mines harvesting gems.
“Maybe his interest in me isn’t just about saving the damsel. Part of him also wants to be saved. If he’s stained by his father’s sins, then maybe I’m the only person who can absolve them.”
My favorite thing about this book was easily the romance. Now, a lot of books have kind of vague, blurry, love triangles, but Ash Princess just has a blatant one, and I loved it. Theodosia is torn between her childhood friend and first love, Blaise, and a boy whose father has taken everything from her, Søren. It is legitimately friends to lovers and enemies to lovers and my shipper heart was so full of happiness. I personally like the enemies to lovers side of the triangle more, and I was falling off my bed, swooning so damn hard, during the last tunnel scene. Like, that is my romance kink, 100%, and if you’ve read this book you’ll know what scene I’m talking about. The romance in this is perfect, and I will read Lady Smoke at midnight upon release to see how these romances progress, because your girl is invested.
“You could ask me for the ocean itself and I would find a way to give it to you.”
So, you’re probably asking, “Melanie, why did you give it four stars if you enjoyed it this much and won’t stop gushing over it?” And that’s because, I’ll be honest, this story doesn’t bring anything new to the YA Fantasy world. If you read a lot of other reviews on Goodreads, you’re going to notice the same line of “this is nothing new” and it is true. A lot of reviewers are also comparing this to Red Queen and An Ember in the Ashes, but I haven’t read either of those! Basically, this isn’t groundbreaking or even unique, but it’s super well written and crafted and it truly made for an un-put-downable read for me.
Overall, I truly loved and devoured this. This was easily the most addicting thing I’ve read in 2018 thus far, and I completely recommend it with my whole heart. Again, it might not be the most original thing, but that doesn’t make it not worthwhile. I loved the characters, the twists, the plot, the friendship, the perfect romances, the atmosphere, the writing, I loved it all. This will probably be one of my favorite YA Fantasies of 2018, and I hope you all give it a try upon release!
“We are not defined by the things we do in order to survive.”
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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!
EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS BOOK. IT IS PHENOMENAL.
Theo is so strong, and actually a normal character who relates to things normally which i loved, felt i could relate to her a little better. Magic, kings, war and spying. i could barely put it down! I'm so excited for the sequel already and i can't believe i have to wait another year!
And I know it had a love triangle, but it was so believable for me.
And the struggle, omg. And the humiliation. Jesus Christ.
Theo reminds me a little of Tris from divergent but she is such a strong young woman.