Friday, March 15, 2019

#Review - Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian #YALIT #Fantasy

Series: Ash Princess (#2)
Format: Hardcover,512 pages
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Library
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic

The sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller that was “made for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sabaa Tahir” (Bustle), Lady Smoke is an epic new fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people.

The Kaiser murdered Theodosia’s mother, the Fire Queen, when Theo was only six. He took Theo’s country and kept her prisoner, crowning her Ash Princess—a pet to toy with and humiliate for ten long years. That era has ended. The Kaiser thought his prisoner weak and defenseless. He didn’t realize that a sharp mind is the deadliest weapon.

Theo no longer wears a crown of ashes. She has taken back her rightful title, and a hostage—Prinz Soren. But her people remain enslaved under the Kaiser’s rule, and now she is thousands of miles away from them and her throne.

To get them back, she will need an army. Only, securing an army means she must trust her aunt, the dreaded pirate Dragonsbane. And according to Dragonsbane, an army can only be produced if Theo takes a husband. Something an Astrean Queen has never done.

Theo knows that freedom comes at a price, but she is determined to find a way to save her country without losing herself.


Lady Smoke, by author Laura Sebastian, is the second installment in the authors Ash Princess Trilogy. The story picks up where Ash Princess left off. Ten years ago, the Kalovaxian's Kaiser murdered Theodosia's mother, The Queen of Fire, and kept Theo around as a sort of hostage. Every time her people acted out, Theo was punished. Those days are now over. Theo finds herself is onboard the Smoke, Dragonbane’s ship, with her Shadows and Soren. 

With the help of her aunt Dragonsbane, her Shadows Heron, Blaise, and her cousin Artemisia, Theo was able to escape the Kalovaxians and her former best friend Crescentia. Also, Theo kind of kidnapped Prinz S0ren as a sort of hostage to use in her plans to back at the Kaiser. Theo escaped to form an alliance with another country in hopes of taking back Astrea and defeat the Kaiser. The only problem is, she may end up having to a husband, something a queen of Astrea has never done. 

Theo has a loyal group of friends that she can depend on. I would put S0ren in that category as well. When she is forced into a sort of bachelorette game show, she must find a way to find the perfect match that she is being forced into in order to gain the necessary support without giving away parts of herself. When Theo visits a camp in a country she is temporarily staying in, she is taken aback by how bad the refugees are treated.This is perhaps the most political statement in the entire book. Note: Not putting the author down!

I have to give the publisher and author credit for putting the world map in front of the book. Trust me, this is really important part of the story. You can see where the countries are, and who chooses to attend to Theo hoping for an alliance. You can also see how isolated Astrea is from the rest of the world. The main positive for me was the character growth of Theo. 

She's a very different character from the one who appeared in Ash Princess. Theo was in a state of self-preservation worrying about how long the Kaiser was going to keep her around. But the continued harsh treatment and exposure to the pain of both herself and her people slowly whittled away this softer exterior to reveal an inner-core of strength that disallowed either to become the playthings of another, ever again. No matter the cost. Her resolve has hardened and, with it, my hope for a fantastic finale to this series.

Admittedly, the most exciting parts of this book were the second half and yes, even the ending shocking as that might be for me to say. When all is said and done, there really is some pretty interesting things that I am looking forward to finding out about in the sequel.


The spiced coffee is sweet on my tongue, made with a generous dollop of honey. The way Crescentia always orders it.

We sit on the pavilion like we have a thousand times before, steaming porcelain mugs cradled in our hands to ward off the chill in the evening air. For a moment, it feels just like every time before, a comfortable silence hanging in the dark air around us. I’ve missed talking to her, but I’ve missed this, too—how we could sit together and not feel the need to fill the silence with meaningless small talk.

But that’s silly. How can I miss Cress when she’s sitting right in front of me?

She laughs like she can read my mind and sets her cup down on its saucer with a clatter that rattles my bones. She leans across the gilded table to take hold of my free hand in both of hers.

“Oh, Thora,” she says, her voice lilting over my false name like a melody. “I missed you, too. But next time, I won’t.”

Before her words can make sense to me, the lighting overhead shifts, the sun growing brighter and brighter until she’s fully illuminated, every awful inch of her. Her charred, flaking neck, burned black by the Encatrio I had her served, her hair white and brittle, her lips gray as the ersatz crown I used to wear.

Fear and guilt overwhelm me as the pieces fall into place in my mind. I remember what I did to her; I remember why I did it. I remember her face on the other side of the bars of my cell, full of rage as she told me she would cheer for my death. I remember the bars being scalding hot where she’d touched them.

I try to pull my hand away but she holds it fast, her storybook-princess smile sharpening into fangs tipped with ash and blood. Her skin burns hot against mine, hotter even than Blaise’s. It is fire itself against my skin, and I try to scream, but no sound comes out. I stop feeling my hand altogether and I’m relieved for a second before I look down and see that it has turned to ash, crumbled to dust in Cress’s grip. The fire works its way up my arm and down the other, spreading across my chest, my torso, my legs, and my feet. My head catches last, and the final thing I see is Cress with her monster’s smile.

“There. Isn’t that better? Now no one will mistake you for a queen.”

My skin is drenched when I wake up, cotton sheets tangled around my legs and damp with sweat. My stomach churns, threatening to spill, though I’m not sure I’ve eaten anything to spill, apart from a few crusts of bread last night. I sit up in bed, placing a hand on my stomach to steady it and blinking to help my eyes adjust to the dark.

It takes a moment to realize that I am not in my own bed, not in my own room, not in the palace at all. The space is smaller, the bed little more than a narrow cot with a thin mattress and threadbare sheets and a quilt. My stomach pitches to the side, rolling in a way that makes me nauseous before I realize it isn’t my stomach at all—the room itself is rocking from side to side. My stomach is only echoing the motion.

The events of the last two days filter back to me. The dungeon, the Kaiser’s trial, Elpis dying at my feet. I remember Søren rescuing me only to be imprisoned himself. As quickly as that thought comes to me, I push it away. There are a good many things I have to feel guilty about—taking Søren hostage cannot be one of them.

I’m on the Smoke, I remember, heading toward the Anglamar ruins to begin to reclaim Astrea. I am in my cabin, safe and alone, while Søren is being kept in chains in the brig.

I close my eyes and drop my head into my hands, but as soon as I do, Cress’s face swims through my mind, all rosy cheeks and dimples and wide gray eyes, just as she looked the first time I met her. My heart lurches in my chest at the thought of the girl she was, the girl I was, who latched on to her because she was my only salvation in the nightmare of my life. Too quickly, that image of Cress is replaced with her as I last saw her, with hate in her cold gray eyes and the skin of her throat charred and flaking.

She shouldn’t have survived the poison. If I hadn’t seen her with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it. Part of me is relieved that she did, though the other part will never forget how she looked at me when she promised to raze Astrea to the ground, how she said she would ask the Kaiser if she could keep my head after he executed me.

I flop down on my back, hitting the thin pillow with a thud. My whole body aches with exhaustion, but my mind is a whirl of activity that shows no sign of quieting. Still, I close my eyes tight and try to banish all thoughts of Cress, though she lingers on the edges, a ghost of a presence.

The room is too quiet—so quiet it takes on a sound all its own. I hear it in the absence of my Shadows’ breaths, their infinitesimal movements as they fidget, their whispers to one another. It is a deafening sort of silence. I turn onto one side, then the other. I shiver and pull the quilt tighter around me; I feel the fire of Cress’s touch again and kick the quilt off entirely, so that it falls in a heap onto the floor.

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