Book: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
Reviewer: Whitney Garcia
Age/Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Preferred Reading Environment: On the couch or in bed
Reading Accoutrements: A fuzzy blanket or a warm cup of tea.
Content Notes (trigger warnings and such): Torture, Whipping, and Beating are described.
I came across Ash Princess as a recommendation on my Goodreads account. I am a sucker for a royal fantasy novel, especially with a female protagonist. What really grabbed my attention and made Ash Princess stand out to me was that the main character, Theodosia, was not a typical cliché princess. She had endured many years of torment and brainwashing, and not only had physical battles to fight, but mental ones as well.
As a young girl, Princess Theodosia watched as foreigners invaded her country, murdered her mother, and captured her loved ones. Theodosia was spared and kept as a prisoner by the Kaiser, who had sieged Astrea for its beautiful magical jewels. The Kaiser named himself ruler of Astrea, and kept Theodosia as a pet. For over ten years, Theo (her nickname) watched as her people were enslaved and treated like trash. On the outside it would appear Theo was treated like any noble girl: pretty dresses, parties, and gossip. The truth is she endured many years of torture and torment. She was taught to hate her heritage and be ashamed of where she came from, taught that her people were weak and deserved their situation. Some days, Theo believed what she was told, until she was forced to do the unthinkable by the Kaiser. That day awoke a desire for revenge and a hope, not only for escape, but to take back her country and free her countrymen. Theodosia refused to be an Ash Princess any longer; she chose to be a Queen.
The writing style was good and simple. I was disappointed that Sebastian created a love triangle for Theo between an old childhood friend and the Kaiser’s prince son, because it’s so overdone in YA fiction. For me it’s an unrealistic scenario in terms of young love. I think it’s okay to only have one love interest. Even none at all can be refreshing and relatable. Some teens do love the multiple love interest angle – the drama and excitement! – and I understand why the trend is so popular (if I were still a teen, I’d swoon). I will say the book began at a good pace, reliving Theo’s childhood and painting a picture of her day-to-day life in the palace. I appreciated the time to develop Theo as a character. However, doing so left many of the suspenseful parts feeling rushed and clumsy. It also left some of the characters one dimensional, even a Prince who was a main love interest. Unlike Theo, the Prince is cliché; he hates his father (who can blame him?), doesn’t want to be a prince, and believes he will not be a good Kaiser.
What I really appreciated about Ash Princess was the portrayal of mental illness. The author did not skirt around the fact that Theo might have Stockholm Syndrome or major anxiety from her circumstances. Many of the other characters who had been slaves also expressed the effects of their mental states after the siege. This brought out real emotions and made me get personally involved in the story and hope for a happy ending.
Ash Princess had its lows and highs, but overall I enjoyed it. This book has a sequel (I’ve already read it) and is part of at least a trilogy. I would recommend it, and not just for teens!
I love fantasy for many reasons but mainly for the variety of different sub genres. Do you have a favorite type of fantasy? Is it romance, historical, or maybe a cross with Sci-Fi? Let me know!