Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Review: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Book: Ash Princess

Author: Laura Sebastian

Series: Ash Princess Trilogy #1

Publication: April 24, 2018

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.

This book's set up had key elements I love in fantasy: tyrants, protagonists forced to do unspeakable horrors, suppressed powers, and a revolution in the wings.

The Kaiser's actions were definitely antagonist-worthy. He enslaved all of Theo's people, forced her to bow and scrape to him, continuously shamed her, alienated her, and so forth. He's definitely someone I would want to smack, a tyrant who's fall will bring me much delight.

I'll be honest, from the cover's gritty crown (also, does anyone notice it looks a lot like the Red Queen cover?), I had been hoping for a tough and rugged princess. To my surprise and disappointment, Theo was far from that, a dainty thing who chose not to feel the any anger in her situation. I understand that she did it as a means to survive, but she really internalized her submission, which was what threw me off. Had she been harbouring honest resentment, I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more. She also kept flipping through self doubt on whether or not she would be able to kill people, which I found a bit annoying. It was a bit obvious from the start she would be a liability to the mission the entire time. However, I will admit that Theo's manipulation of the prince Søren to advance her goals was clever. However, I wasn't overly fond of her painting herself as the portrait of a damsel in distress... I mean, yes, it makes sense for her to that in her situation, but at the same time, it kind of made me sigh in disappointment. It was obvious from the very start that she would not be able to kill him, let alone harm him, even if he was the Kaiser's son.

This is also the first book I've read in a while that has an obvious love triangle. Though there is an aspect of it that makes it clear immediately who Theo's going to choose, watching her with both the boys made me cringe a bit on the inside.

I was also slightly disappointed by the lack of magic involved in the book. It was present, and the magic system itself was partially developed (I really enjoyed the concept of magical stones being misused as simple jewelry), but it was just missing from the main action. The ending does have a promise of more action and doing of things than this book, so there's that.

Though I enjoyed the book's concept and world, the actual story itself left me a bit unsatisfied. Maybe I'm just not a political fantasy person...

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