Friday, April 20, 2018

Book Review: Ash Princess

Title: Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1)
Author: Laura Sebastian
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy | Romance
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Source: Publisher
Format: eARC

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 (goodreads).

If it wasn't for the love triangle, Ash Princess would have been a 5-star read. 
Plot: Ash Princess had my attention from the start as it introduced Theo (or Thora). Theo was the only survivor of the royal family during an invasion and was kept around to be abused, tortured, and remind her people that they were subservient to their Kalovaxian attackers. After years of physical and verbal abuse, Theo had learned to keep her head down until a childhood friend sought her out to lead a rebellion. 

Ash Princess was a slower paced adventure but I couldn't put it down for one second. Sebastian gave ample background to the setting and conflicts without having to resort to infodumping. Each chapter included pieces from Theo's past which helped the reader put the pieces together without losing interest in the current happenings. 

While the overall plot sounds pretty black and white and typical to YA fantasy readers, know that the execution set Ash Princess apart from other fantasy novels. While reading this, I couldn't help but compare As Princess to The Winner's Curse because it explored power dynamics and the fallout of war. Know that this book does not hold back, it will upset you and it does not shy away from hurting characters, as is expected in war. 

Characters: To all of my character-driven readers, this one is for you! Ash Princess examined a truly vulnerable character and acknowledged her emotional side and explored the repercussions of her actions. When the book opened, she was in a broken state as she suffered abuse and insults daily from her invaders who were living in her castle and killing her people. As the story continued, Theo began to explore a different side of her and actually embody the queen that she thought her mom would have imagined for her. What was unique about Theo was that she had three identities that she had to play, there was Thora, the broken and meek ash princess; there was Theo, the girl before the Kalovaxian invasion; and finally there was Theododosia, queen and liberator of her people. I was drawn to Theo's depth and I think most readers will root for her from the start; I think Theo may be one of my favorite YA princesses. 

I mentioned earlier that this was almost a five-star read, but damn if that love triangle wasn't exhausting. Theo committed to murdering  Prinz Soren to cause internal conflict within the Kalovaxians, but of course, she started to fall for him as they spent time together. Then there was Blaise, her fellow rebel and childhood best friend. If the love triangle were more in the background, I wouldn't have minded as much, but almost every chapter had Theo sizing the male leads up and flip-flopping on her feelings. In my opinion, one half of the love triangle felt shoed in as that potential coupling didn't have as much chemistry, but I guess we'll see how this plays out in the sequel. 

Worldbuilding: I am a major sucker for languages and it always excites me when authors explore the language and dialects used in their worlds because it adds another level of depth to the world. I would love to see all of the research and paperwork that went into creating the world of the Ash Princess because it was done so well! Sebastian gave her characters customs and expressions which helped make all of the characters three dimensional. I also liked that Sebastian hinted at the relationships between other kingdoms and I can't wait to see that explored further. 

Short N Sweet: The characters made Ash Princess memorable and I can't wait to see how their story continues in Lady Smoke.


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