Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian
Release date: April 24, 2018
An e-galley was provided by Random House via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: At first glance, Ash Princess could come across as a stereotypical YA fantasy. There are many overthrown princesses in YA stories and there's a lot of elemental magic. Yet, somehow, Ash Princess manages to set itself apart, even if it's just a little bit.
I thought there was great character depth. I got to know Theo, Blaise, Søren, and Cress all pretty well. And characters like Elpis, Artemesia, Heron, and the Kaiserein didn't remain two-dimensional either. Listen, the Kaiserein was awesome. She's not a perfect person by any means, but I wish there'd been even more of her, because I felt like she was a very layered character that didn't get explored to her full potential. I am excited to see what we get from Cress in future books because I can tell her story is only just beginning.
The world-building felt a little weak to me at times. Hopefully that'll get extra attention in books two and three, but I wanted a little more development for the various cultures. Theo's kingdom definitely felt Greek to me, and the Kalovaxians read as Germanic or even Russian to me, but that wasn't quite enough world-building for me. The magic system also felt underdeveloped, but I'm optimistic about that being explored further.
There is a teeny bit of a love triangle, and I am nervous about where that will go in future books. I have my hopes for the romance, and the hopes don't involve the prince.
Ash Princess has a fair amount of violence. Theo is whipped regularly, and there are deaths. The Kaiser is definitely not a nice guy.
The Verdict: I enjoyed myself while reading this book. That's always a big plus for me.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: I'd like to!