Title: Ash Princess
Author: Laura Sebastian
Publisher: Pan Macmillan – Macmillan Children’s Books
Pub date: 14th June 2018
‘The queen you were meant to be.
The land you were meant to save.
The throne you were meant to claim.
Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, 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.
When the Kaiser forces her to execute her last hope of rescue, Theo can’t ignore her feelings and memories any longer. She vows revenge, throwing herself into a plot for freedom with the help of a group of magically gifted and volatile rebels.
Forced to make 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.’
I’d been wanting to read Ash Princess for months, so I was very grateful to receive an e-ARC!
I’ve read a lot of series openers lately that have the majority of the action occurring in the last third of the story, which is certainly one way of making sure that the reader wants to pick up the next book in the series, and while Ash Princess is not exactly the exception to this, it’s quite evenly-paced and weaves enough plot threads together to keep you engaged without too much heavy-handed foreshadowing. It’s never entirely clear who you can trust, including Theodosia herself, being a somewhat unreliable narrator as she begins to cast off the mask of the person she pretends to be and become the person she could be. It feels very much that the Theodosia of the novel’s conclusion is not the woman that she has always been beneath the mask – it is not some miraculous transformation into an immediately more powerful, grown-up and indestructible creature – but that she is learning and being influenced by outside factors whether she likes it or not. It’s a refreshing change from characters who ‘find themselves’ and instantly become superhuman and beyond reproach.
Yes, there are some predictable elements. The romance, for example. I really hope it doesn’t develop into a love triangle that becomes a heavy focus of the story. I found Theo’s friendship with Cress, their power struggles and shifting opinions of each other, to be much more interesting and I hope that the events at the end of the novel aren’t magically fixed in the next instalment.
There are darker elements to the story that some might not find easy to read about, but they are not an unrealistic portrayal of what tends to occur when countries are invaded and people subjugated. I feel it would have been much more callous to ignore these elements and gloss over them for the sake of a lighter story. The decisions Theo makes in response to how she’s been treated may make her unlikable at times, but they also show what she has learnt at the hands of her oppressors and that there is not always a clear cut choice between right and wrong. It’s good to have a protagonist who can do ‘wrong’ and both regret it and decide to live with it.
I look forward to the next book!
I received an ARC of Ash Princess from NetGalley and the publisher.