Title: Ash Princess
Author: Laura Sebastian
Publisher: Delacorte Books (Macmillan Children’s Books in UK)
Date: 24th April 2018 (14th June 2018 for UK)
I was lucky enough to have been approved to read an ARC of Ash Princess from Macmillan Children’s Books on NetGalley. While this book doesn’t come out until June, I thought it best to post my review now for those who are in the US and those who can buy the book on Book Depository. I was drawn to this because it sounded like some other YA fantasy books that I loved in the past and I wanted to see if it would live up to them. In the end I found myself really enjoying Ash Princess and while it had a few tropes (love triangle anyone?) I didn’t actually mind them. If anything, I thought it was quite refreshing.
When she was six years old, Theodosia saw her mother brutally murdered when her kingdom was invaded by a tyrant known as the Kaiser. Since then he has kept her captive and either slaughtered or enslaved her people. Whenever they tried to start rebellions he took it out on her, whipping and beating her to send a message to her people. To them she is just the Ash Princess, a mockery, but she can only keep up the pretence for so long. When her last hope dies, she seeks out revenge and with the help of her people she concocts a plan to murder the Prinz. But as she grows close to him she realises that her feelings may not be as fake as she wants them to be. In the end, only she can decide what she will do to save her people.
There are a few traits of this story that relate to another famous series, but it was also unique in its own way. It starts off a little slow, as most fantasies do, but the world is slowly built up and we gain an understanding of what happened to Theo’s home, Astrea. Sebastian creates a brutal world where there is no hope until one girl decides to fight back. Throughout the book we find out more about the world, but one aspect I enjoyed was the magic and how it came about. Some Astreans have magical powers gifted from their Gods and they are enhanced with gems that come from the mines, which of course the Kaiser would harvest for himself, even though they cannot wield the magic in the same way.
I will warn you that there are some tough topics in this book, which include abuse, slavery and hints of rape. There were scenes that were tense and horrible to read, especially towards the end of the book, but they led to Theo’s penultimate decisions. Race plays a part as well, as the Kaiser and his people are fair haired with pale skin and the Astreans have olive skin with dark hair, something that is pointed out a few times within the book.
Unable to keep the name Theodosia, she became known as Thora, as the Kaiser wouldn’t allow her to use her royal name, and instantly we know that her life is one that has been spent walking on eggshells, cowering from the Kaiser and his men, and one that was torturous. But as the story goes on we see her finding the willpower to fight back and to be stronger than she has been. There was definitely some great character development and I enjoyed seeing her embrace her heritage.
The other characters in this story were likeable, especially Cress, the daughter of the man who killed Theo’s mother, but who treated her like a sister. Their friendship was sweet in places, especially in the beginning. However, as Theo became closer to the Prinz, you could see cracks start to form. Soren, the Prinz was a complicated character. I wanted to like him, but at the same time I was always waiting for him to become his father. The love triangle enters the story with Blaise, an Astrean who lived at the palace when Theo was young. As far as love triangles go, this one wasn’t hard to stomach and I’m looking forward to the second book where I’m sure it will feature more.
Overall, I found myself flying through Ash Princess and when I was past 75% I didn’t want to stop reading! The ending was great and sets up the second book up perfectly. It will be intriguing to see what happens to all the characters and how their stories will weave in to each other. Ash Princess was a great debut and manages to reach four stars in my opinion.