Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Review: Ash Princess (Ash Princess #1) by Laura Sebastian

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: April 5 - 14 2018
Date Released: April 24th 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Fantasy
My Rating:

"Princess. Prisoner. Orphan. Rebel.

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia's 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.

"Tense and imaginative. Ash Princess is a smart, feminist twist on a traditional tale of a fallen heroine, with plenty of court intrigue, love, and lies to sweeten the deal. Good luck putting this one down." Virginia Boecker, author of the Witch Hunter series."


2018 is really setting the bar for debuts, I keep reading great book after great book and Ash Princess has joined my list of 2018 faves. Ash Princess was a chilling, dark take on your princess-takes-back-stolen-throne tale and I loved every moment of it.

Princess Theodosia watched her mother be murdered in front of her and she’s lived with her mother’s murderers for the last 10 years. She’s a prisoner in her home and literally had her identity physically whipped from her. Her spirit is basically broken but she still gets up each day with that tiny spark of hope left in her and faces her tormenters. Her strength lies not in her ability to fight (because she can’t) but in the way she strategises and plans. All her time in the palace watching has taught her people’s tells and she uses those to her advantage. Theo also understands the true meaning of being a ruler – her life is not her own, her life belongs to her people. And so she gets up everyday knowing her people are still out there and enslaved. I deeply admired the strength of her character, her bravery, political savvy and selflessness.

Theo’s best friend, Cress, was an interesting character to read about. The daughter of the man who murdered Theo’s mother, Cress is actually Theo’s closest friend in the palace. She’s all about looking pretty and pretending all the horrors her father and the man he serves aren’t happening. She doesn’t really have a choice and tries to combat the cruelties the Kaiser inflicts on Theo by protecting Theo from others and ensuring she gets nice things. I didn’t know what to make of her but I do think she’s smart – she knew she couldn’t win so she plays the game her way. Cress is smarter than she looks but at the end of the day she’s still kind of petty and all she wants is to be the next Kaiserin which is how she was brought up. I appreciated her attempts at kindness but at the end of the day I do think her upbringing and Kalovaxian background overshadowed the tyranny of her people.

There’s a love triangle and you can picture me wrinkling my nose because I’m not a fan of them. This one is ok and understandable but at the same time not entirely necessary. I mean I obviously have a ship WHICH I HOPE SAILS. Like ohmygoodness my ship better sail because I’ve had so many ships sink already but if it doesn’t then I just want Theo to be queen standing on her own two feet k thanks. I looove the guy I’ve got my money on because he doesn’t try to hide his feelings, he’s honest and upfront about them which gives me all kind of mushy feels ya know?

All of this plays out in the palace of Theo’s birthright, stolen from her by the tyrannical Kalovaxian Kaiser. The guy is a horrifying piece of work, ruling through fear and brutality. He’s disgusting and a very straightlaced villain which I’m hoping Sebastian expands on in the future stories – I’d like to know a bit more about how he became the way he is so his character has more dimension. The Theyn, Cress’s father and the Kaiser’s right-hand man definitely intrigued me though. He does as ordered but there are signs he doesn’t enjoy the blood like the Kaiser does. Then there’s the Kaiserin who seems to be not all here as well as the legendary Dragonsbane. All these characters play an important part in the unfolding of Theo’s plan as she manipulates people like pieces on a chess board.

I found the world Sebastian built to be quite intriguing. For now, the magic is very light touch but it definitely has potential. The fantasy world and the people seem to draw on our various cultures – the Kalovaxians are German inspired while the Astreans play homage to Grecian culture. I liked that Sebastian mixed the cultures a bit though, as the Kalovaxian titles are German-based but the culture had a lot of different Scandinavian/northern Europe touches whereas the Astreas were more Mediterranean. Major props to Sebastian for making the Astrean society a matriarchal one.

Sebastian has taken a seemingly common plot and made it her own. I loved the workings of Theo’s mind and the way everything unfolded. There’s a shipworthy romance, political strategizing, interesting characters and a world I can’t wait to see expanded upon. Theo might have been given the title Ash Princess to shame her, but with the power of her mind and belief in her people, she’s rising up and she’s going to set the world on fire.

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