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Ash Princess


Ash Princess

If you love RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard or TRUTHWITCH by Susan Dennard, pick up ASH PRINCES by Laura Sebastian.

ASH PRINCESS tells the story of Theodosia Eirene Houzzara, a young princess who at the age of six witnessed the murder of her mother and her people. Her country, Astrea, was conquered by the Kalovaxians and she was made a prisoner in her own home. For 10 years she was publicly humiliated and beaten for every ounce of rebellion she or her people showed. She would be whipped in the throne room in front of the royal court, she was forced to wear clothing which would display the scars on her back, and at parties, she was forced to wear an ash crown, a mockery of her late mother, the Fire Queen. The psychological effects of this treatment had made her submissive and she remained this way until she was forced to kill someone she loved dearly from her past. ASH PRINCESS depicts the makings of a rebellion with the oppressed, led by their rightful queen, overtaking the oppressors.

"Sebastian makes Theodosia relatable and flawed, and none of her characters are stereotypical, cardboard cutouts."

This novel is not fast-paced nor filled with action scenes of battles, but instead illustrates the undercover work and manipulation that is necessary for a revolution. Theodosia colludes with her former best friend and love interest Blaise and his group of Astreans to defeat the Kalovaxians from the inside. Theodosia’s goal is to manipulate the Kalovaxian warrior Prinz Søren and yes, you guessed it, she ends up falling in love with him. This novel follows many of the YA fantasy genre stereotypes specifically with the love triangle. You have the safe best friend vs. the brooding, handsome outsider and throughout the novel she can’t really decide who she likes more. Usually I hate these storylines, but it’s tolerable here. This is primarily because Theodosia doesn’t go weak at the knees for either of these men and makes decisions independent of their feelings.

This novel resembles the “strong-willed and uniquely special girl is thrust into intrigue/adventure/etc. by unforeseen circumstance” trope, but it is more than that. Sebastian makes Theodosia relatable and flawed, and none of her characters are stereotypical, cardboard cutouts. Even Sebastian’s minor characters are fleshed out. I personally enjoyed Theodosia’s complex relationship with Crescentia, the daughter of the Kalovaxian general, Theyn. Their dynamic was intriguing as Crescentia, also known as Cress, seems to have genuine love for Theodosia, but also treats her like a pet. Her friendship with Theodosia relies on Theodosia’s obedience. So when Theodosia begins to pursue her own agenda, their relationship becomes rocky. The state of their relationship at the end of this novel makes me eager to see what Sebastian will do with this duo in the sequel.

Theodosia’s romances pale in comparison. I am neither attached to Blaise nor Søren, and I couldn’t care less who she ends up with. Although these two men are interesting as separate individuals, I felt only some chemistry between these two and our protagonist. The romances are mediocre, and honestly? That’s what I prefer. Romances should stay subplots. The focus of our protagonist should be on accomplishing her goals, not choosing which guy she likes best.

Another thing to note when reading this novel is the power dynamic between the oppressor and the oppressed. I immediately recognized the Astreans were brown-skinned and dark-haired whereas the Kalovaxians were white and light-haired. Also, it was emphasized throughout the novel the power of names. Theodosia or Theo are names which made our protagonist feel powerful, like a queen. Whereas her nicknames, Lady Thora and Thora, symbolized the weaker, submissive version of her whose whims were privy to the commands of the Kaiser. I was engrossed by Theodosia’s internal and external battle with saying her name.

Finally, an important aspect of this novel is the Astrean belief system. It revolves around gods who can bless certain Astreans with the powers of earth, air, or water. Stones called spiritgems enhance the powers of these individuals. Theo is descended from Houzzah the Fire God, and it is slightly hinted at that she may have powers. You do not need to have powers to wield spiritgems. The Kalovaxians wear spiritgems as decorative baubles and their abilities are enhanced. However, they would be less powerful than a blessed Astrean who wields spiritgems. This is essential knowledge when dissecting the treatment of Astreans by the Kalovaxian people.

Overall, this novel was phenomenal and its flaws did not interfere with my enjoyment.

Reviewed by Melat E., Teen Board Member on April 26, 2018

Ash Princess
by Laura Sebastian