Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Hello Readers,

Ash Princess is a darker book than the typical YA fantasy. As a debut novel I would say Ash Princess is well written and well-paced. Laura Sebastian does a amazing job of painting a picture of Theo’s  (a.k.a. Theodosia, a.k.a Thora) world. Ash Princess sets the tone of the novel right from the first scene brutally recounting Theodosia's memory of her mother's murder and that darkness is embedded into Theo's life ever since. Theo is forced to live with her mother’s murder and her kingdom is overtaken by The Kaiser. It is a fantastic book that drags you into the story and keeps you there the whole way through the book. Having said that I think Laura does a really great job of balancing the darkness of the story. Ash Princess is a dark world it covers some heavy subjects (slavery, murder, torture, etc) and nods at some others that happen off the page (rape).  The stakes feel higher, Theo's problems seem larger, and her risks greater.

Ash Princess is about 16 years old Theo who is the rightful ruler of Astrea or she would’ve been had the Kaiser not invaded and brutally murdered thousands and Enslaving her people. Theo's mother, the Queen, was murdered in front of her eyes when she was 6, the country was conquered, the land was taken and resources pillaged. she’s then humiliated and subjected to torture for 10 years under the “care” of the conquerors. Theo has lived under the thumb of the Kaiser, simply waiting for the day she either loses her life or escapes. They torture her as they want her to completely forget who she is, and in mockery of her heritage. Theo is known as the Ash Princess. Any acts that challenge the Kaiser's rule results in Theo being cruelly punished.

Being Known as the quiet, obedient Lady Thora to the Kalovaxians, shes kept in the palace by the cruel Kaiser as a reminder of the Kalovaxian rule, Theo has put up with all this horror she's done nothing but survive until one of her punishments reminds her of who she was meant to be. Now she wants her revenge for herself, her mother, and her people. She soon finds the backbone to resist and fight back. Theodosia is not alone, there are others who will do anything to remove the violent oppression under which they live. Even while plotting and acts of defiance Theo still remains a very good character

Theo’s character development is really something. Theo suffers from PTSD throughout the book at the start she is very broken but focused on just keeping herself alive. Although Theo is a little indecisive at times, I like how tough and strong she is, even when she feels she isn’t. Rebel leadership takes its toll on Theo, she experiences inner turmoil as to the price and consequences of her actions and decisions. Theo  quickly realises this can’t be it and She is still full of love and compassion despite the atrocities she’s been subjected to. There has to be more and when she finds out she has a few allies close by she starts to plot for a better future. It is not surprising after the life she has led that she should struggle, not to mention that she is young and facing a steep learning curve, and there are expectations of her.

I think this is a good start to a trilogy and that there are some great ideas within this book. Laura has done a fantastic job with both the world and the characters, and this really showed throughout the book. I was really impressed with the world building Laura has made a conscious effort to research  the world she created with almost everything thought out even the intricate details and belief systems. There is a magic system, based on elemental magic, and this added to the story but didn't overpower it, and was also simple enough to understand without too much explanation. Within the kingdom, there are powerful caves with magical gems, although one has to earn the ability to use the gems. The Astrean belief system revolves around gods with the powers of the earth, air, or water, and Astreans. Astreans are loyal to their gods, although the question of why the gods have abandoned them is brought up more than once. We were also given a complex political system with a strong focus on slavery, as well as the racial divide, with the Astreans and Kalovaxians being polar opposites in terms of their descriptions

The ending does two things: it gives readers a nice resolution to the story but also sets things up for the next book in the series. I can’t wait!!

L x