Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Release Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy / Epic
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.
Story Locale: fictional Kingdom of Astrea
"I will not anger the Kaiser and he will keep me alive." Theodosia
Ash Princess is the first installment in debut author Laura Sebastian's Ash Princess trilogy. 16-year old Theodosia Eirene Housara is the main protagonist for this series. When she was 6-years old, her country was invaded and conquered quickly by Kalovaxians. The Kalovaxians executed the Queen, who just happened to be Theo's mother, took away Theo's name and title, & renamed her Thora or the Ash Princess.
Thora is a clear reminder for her people that the Kaiser defeated them quickly, and he can do anything he chooses to continue to enslave them. Thora refuses to make any waves. She takes lashings every time one of her people, Astreans', rebels or fights back against the tyrannical rule of the Kaiser. She believes that if she angers the Kaiser, he will no longer have any use for her and kill her. Theo's body shows the signs of torture she has faced for the past 10 years.
How anyone is able to continue to live through such mental and emotional abuse is one of the reasons I choose to keep my review where it is. Theo must wear an Ash crown every time there is an important event she is forced to attend. Even though she is the rightful Queen of Astrea, Thora has pretty much given up hope that anyone will save her. That is until she is forced to kill one of the last people in the world she thought would be able to save her from her imprisonment, and the boy from her past who she had lost all hope of ever seeing again.
Theo's only friend is Crescentia. But, Cress's father isn't innocent of what happened to Theo or her Kingdom. While their relationship is the only thing that really gives Theo hopes of continuing to breathe, it's not something one should hang their hat on. Ash Princess has the most obviously love triangle you can find in any book. There is Theo's childhood friend and first love Blaise, and then there's Søren, the boy who will one day be Kaiser. There is no such thing as the perfect romance. It is what comes when the final page of the series is turned and the protagonist chooses who she wants to spend her HEA with.
This is a curious land. It is a land where Spiritgems used to be sacred things, before Astrea was conquered by the Kalovaxians who thought they could use them for power and magic. The gems came from the caves that ran beneath the four major temples— one for each of the four major gods and goddesses of fire, air, water, and earth. Before the siege, the devout would spend years in the cave of the god or goddess they swore allegiance to. Now, the Kalovaxians use the Spiritgems as fashion accessories and to show their status in this society while Theo's people slave away in deep caves.
We've all read this sort of story before (Red Queen, An Ember in the Ashes), and we'll read it again because the Young Adult Fantasy genre is red hot right now according to most publishers you talk to. It is a story about a girl who loved her Kingdom, her mother, her status, and her reason for living until it was abruptly taken away from her. Girl chooses to fight back for her Kingdom using the resources at hand. A prince who would be Kaiser, a former best friend who is still alive, and Astrean Guardians who know she is the true Queen of the land.
Oh yes, let's add this to ensure I cover all the bases:
Trigger/Content Warnings for racism, enslaving humans, abuse, torture, graphic beating, humiliation, captivation, gore, murder, death, loss of a loved one, bullying, talk of rape in the past, talk of animal murder in the past, sexual assault (unwanted touching), and rebellion/war themes.
Series Overview: Spring 2018: Ash Princess (Bk 1); Spring 2019: Lady Smoke (Bk 2); Spring 2020: Ember Queen (Bk 3)