Title: Ash Princess
Author: Laura Sebastian
Published: October 31, 2017
Length: 13 hours 18 min
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Ash Princess is the first book in its title series following Princess Theodosia.
Ten years before the start of the story, Theodosia’s mother, The Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes by the Kaiser—and her kingdom fell to the tyrant. For a decade, while her people were slaughtered and enslaved, Theodosia lived as a prisoner in her own palace, beaten and looked down upon by the Kaiser and his court. But after a traumatizing event, Theodosia’s heart is set aflame with vengeance for her mother and kingdom.
Ash Princess was the first fantasy novel I ever listened to as an audiobook, and the experience can be simply summed up as pleasant. Fantasy stories tend to be lengthier and have heavier world-building, so it was nice to give my eyes a break from stumbling over all the exposition and wordiness. In the case of Ash Princess though, I do not think I would have had that problem even if I read it. The prose flowed smoothly and was detailed without being littered with flowery descriptions.
As for the story, it felt like I had read it before. There was the cruel dictator, the rightful heir to the throne, and the pesky love triangle authors love to throw in for drama. But, I was able to forgive the cliche plot because Theodosia’s character made it so much more powerful.
Theodosia had a strong moral compass and sense of duty to her fallen kingdom. Her actions always seemed true to her character as she repeatedly sacrificed her safety for her subjects. She wasn’t fearless though. She doubted many of her decisions, thinking about taking the easy way out, but acted in her people’s interest anyways because she ultimately believed it was necessary. It was tedious listening to her question her every action, but it was a realistic representation of how an actual teenage girl would react to the high-stakes situation.
Although Theodosia had the most compelling characterization, the other characters still had noteworthy traits. Prince Sauron, one of the two love interests, was the idealistic prince—a golden boy. On the other hand, Blaze, the second love interest, was the hardened rebel. I felt myself seesawing between the two with Theodosia as their backstories and motivations were unveiled. I wanted all the characters to have a happy ending, but it wasn’t that simple.
My only grievances with the story was that the love triangle seemed to take precedence over the whole rebellion-against-the-kaiser plot line. Additionally, there was a lot of talk about magic-granting gems and a society of guardians, but almost zero showing. It felt like all the hinting at magic was to make the story seem more fantastical than it really was.
Ash Princess tweaked favorite YA fantasy cliches to paint an engrossing, character-driven story about loyalty, selflessness, and duty. I’d recommend this book if you’re a fan of headstrong female protagonists, court intrigue, and… love triangles 😬.