Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Random House Children’s – Delacorte Press, via NetGalley for an honest review.
Plot: 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.
Though I DID read this MONTHS ago, I didn’t review it right away, which in turn has caused me to re-read it so that I could properly refresh myself.
So, my review for Ash Princess…better late than never, right?!
10 years ago, Princess Theodosia Eirene Houzzara’s country was invaded by the Kalovaxians. Her people were slaughtered and enslaved, her home overrun by her enemy, and her mother’s throat was slit before her eyes. Now at sixteen, Theodosia wears a new name, Thora the Ash Princess. She now lives among the people that brought destruction upon her kind, the Astreans, and endures torment and abuse to just live another day. But life as the Ash Princess doesn’t come without it’s catches. Her best friend is a Kalovaxian named Cress who is the daughter of the Theyn, the man that killed Theodosia’s mother; she is whipped and beaten by order of the Kaiser when rebel Astrean groups attack, and she is guarded at all times to ensure that she stays loyal to her enemy. But everything changes when the Kaiser forces Thora to kill a man from her childhood, a man loyal to her mother. Soon Thora finds herself in a position to strike against the Kaiser, and to exact revenge on the people that stole everything form her. But sometimes not everything is fair in love and war, and Theodosia must make a choice when it comes to what she thinks is right.
“My mother was known as the Fire queen, regal and strong. But I am the Ash Princess, a living joke.” – Thora, Ash Princess
Okay guys, Check. This. Out.
If any of you know me, you know that I LOVE a great fantasy read about royals and a little bloodshed. It just makes my blood thrum with happiness! Ash Princess does just that by giving the reader a little romance, suspense, turmoil, a question of morals vs. karma, magic, and of course some killing to keep in interesting. This is definitely a story you will have no problem devouring and speeding through, but be warned that it might feel a little “young” depending on your age/preference (despite the killing, etc.) which I will get into in a moment.
Firstly, more about this story! Theodosia (Thora) is sixteen years old and living in her palace that the Kaiser and the Kalovaxians took over ten years prior. After Theodosia’s mother was killed, the Kaiser gave Theo the choice to die or live amongst her enemy. She chose to live, thus thrusting her into the lions’ den and leading a life pretending to hate her own people. The Kaiser is a brutal man who takes what he wants and has no remorse for what he does. He uses Theo as a tool against the Astreans by publicly whipping and beating Theo every time rebel groups try to fight against the Kalovaxians.
When the reader is first introduced to Theodosia, she is living as Thora the Ash Princess. Thora is a timid, meek and subservient girl. Her spirit is broken, and she seems to have given up on ever being rescued and freed from her cage. Though she does have a friend in the palace, Cress, it is still a friend she can’t speak freely to. She is forced to censor herself and put on an act to show the Kaiser that she is loyal to the Kalovaxians, and it is truly sad to read. But what I liked about Thora was that even when she had metaphorically locked Theodosia away, there were still moments where she showed the reader that she hadn’t completely lost herself.
‘“You requested my presence, your highness?” I ask, dropping into a curtsy so deep I am flat against the ground. Even after a decade, my bones still protest the posture. My body remembers-even when the rest of me forgets-that I am not made for curtsying.’ – Thora, Ash Princess
But after the Kaiser forces Thora to kill one of her own, things start to change drastically. Thora finds herself among rebels that want to rescue her, but instead she makes the decision to stay and work as a spy. Now I can’t go in to too much more detail because I don’t want to give away the good stuff, but I CAN tell you guys about this little romance we have brewing!
Insert: A Love Triangle. Or…is it?
Soren, the Prinz of the Kalovaxians and the son of the cruel Kaiser. He has just come back from apprenticing under the Theyn for 5 years, and APPARENTLY he is a legendary and fierce warrior. Soren proves to be the opposite of his father, and seems like he might genuinely care about changing the world. Blaise is our other male in this triangle, and he is an Astrean who grew up with Theodosia. As part of the rebels plan for Theo, she must basically make the Prinz fall in love with her. Of course along the way some true feelings arise between Theo and the Prinz, but not without some moments happening between Theo and Blaise as well. I can honestly say guys, I am TORN on this one. Usually I ALWAYS favor one character over the other, but I don’t in this story! Will she choose Blaise? Will she choose Soren?? Well I don’t know, because the author left me with this annoyingly HUGE cliffhanger!
Now there is also some magic that is happening in this story. For the Astreans, Spritgems were sacred gems that made up the four elements: Fire, Air, Earth, Water. The gems would give the wielder an extra boost of power to use with their magical element, and were considered very sacred. A select few Astreans would spend years in temples praying to their gods in order to be blessed. Some would be blessed with powers and become guardians, while others would go mad. Once the Kalovaxians took over, they forced the remaining Astreans into the mines to mine for the Spiritgems, while disgracing their beliefs and using the gems as jewelry. Wicked, right? Of course, our poor Theo was forbidden to be around any sort of gems. But if you are wondering why this poor girl is called the “Ash Princess”, the obvious reason is this: the Kaiser forces Thora to wear a crown of ashes every time they throw a party. Now if that isn’t the most legendary and cruel symbol of someone destroying your entire life and forcing you to show it off, I don’t know what is.
The only qualms I have with this story are this: it feels a little TOO young at times, and some things aren’t fully explained. Now I know that our main character is sixteen, but there are some HEAVY things happening in this story that make this character grow up fast. My issue is that Theo, Blaise, and a few of the other characters act and speak in such an adolescent way…that I found myself getting confused. The author is pulling me back and forth between them being mature, and not mature, and I am just not sure which direction I should be going in. If this supposed to be a YA read, or a Teen YA read?
My other small problem is the author not fully explaining things, or not fully building up moments. For example: Blaise tells Theo that she always gets a certain look on her face when she is about to do something rebellious. Theo retorts that he can never stop her anyways. As the reader, I don’t recall this happening much at all? I feel like I am being told something rather than just coming to that conclusion on my own. Another example is when it is said that Soren is a legendary warrior. This seems so shocking to me because I can’t help but imagine Soren as a teenage boy, not a fierce and feared man. There was no context that proves he should be anything else than what I am visualizing, so it left me a bit confused.
Those things aside, I think this is a really great read. I am sitting her twiddling my thumbs waiting for the next book, which I know will be a while from now. Sorry for that LONG ass review, but there was just so much to talk about! Though I did have a few annoyances while reading Ash Princess, I wholeheartedly recommend it if you love YA/Fantasy reads. I am a sucker for anything with royalty and fantasy, so if you are the same then you will REALLY enjoy this book.