Review of Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

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

I’m going to say from the start that there is nothing that is particularly new or unique about Ash Princess, it covers pretty much all the established basics of YA Fantasy, but all to a really high standard. If you’ve got a perfect plain vanilla cheesecake it doesn’t become less delicious just because you’ve eaten plenty before? With Ash Princess, Laura Sebastian achieves just this. From depth of characters, to creative world building and maybe just a few little surprises along the way, it’s an established scenario but one we all secretly love going back to.

The cover on the UK paperback is really creative, it double layer with a cut out crown on a flame background, it really caught Biba’s attention at YALC and was one of my main reasons for picking it up. Whilst the world was mainly contained within the castle walls it never felt stifled by this, the castle itself a myriad of rooms and hidden passages, ornate patio’s and secret gardens. It creates an interesting balance between overlying opulence and grandeur whilst also feeling cold and a little bleak as Theo finds herself shuffling from room to room adorned with her crown of Ashes. There is also a lot of cruelty and slavery within it’s walls, a starkness to the childhood remembered between Theo and Blaise. There is of course a magic system, in Ash Princess this is based on spirit gems tied to the elements, vastly powerful gems reduced to mere trinkets and mined for extravagance over their true capability, Theo’s relationship with the gems was one that I found to be interestingly played and I’m intrigued as to how far her stoicism takes her.

So yes, there is a triangle but characterisation wise it was Theo’s relationship with Cress to be the one I was most pulled in by, I don’t want to say too much about it but whilst they are “heart sisters” and appear to have genuine affection for each other at times, it is also an incredibly manipulative and toxic friendship, I’m expecting great things from Cress to come. There are some clever ways that the characters all tie in with one another too. The story is incredibly well written and other than the fact that i’m not a fan of triangles and toxicity there is very little else to fault with it. It’s got great pacing and it doesn’t run away with itself like a few books I’ve read recently with genuine moments of both humour and dread. Sometimes using an established storyline works wonder and with Ash Princess as the reader you could much of what was coming but there’s something awful as a reader that you know you can’t stop the awful thing from happening which in fact makes the build up all the more heart thumping.

I definitely ended up enjoying this book far more than the reviews would have led me to believe and book 2 will definitely be being added to the heaving tbr!

4*

 

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