Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

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Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Olivia Tierney
Reviewed by Olivia Tierney
Summary: A gripping story rife with political intrigue, betrayal and hopeful beginnings which you will struggle to put down. Sebastian's debut Ash Princess is in a world of its own with superb characters and a terrifying plot.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: June 2018
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1509855209

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My name is Theodosia Eirene Houzzara, Queen of Astrea, and I will endure this

For the last decade, Theodosia has lived at the fragile mercy of her vicious enemies. From the day her beloved country, Astrea, was invaded by the Kalovaxians and her mother, Queen of Flame and Fury, was brutally murdered directly in front of her, she has been forced into a life of submission and desperate survival.

Growing up at court, Theodosia has learnt from brutal beatings to play the part of the docile and dutiful Thora – a vulnerable girl who will forever be a symbol of the past. A frivolous empty-headed girl who poses no threat to the Kaiser and his crown. But although she has endured painful humiliation both physically and mentally, the Ash Princess has never fully given up on finally being rescued. In her ruined home, she has waited as the days grow longer and her hopes of a better future dwindle, with only her best friend Cress, the daughter of her mother's killer, able to bring her comfort.

But when Theodosia is forced to execute her only chance of escape, everything changes. With the realisation that she is her last hope of freedom, old memories awaken from their slumber and bring a powerful anger laced with ice cold determination to the surface. With newfound courage and bravery, she swears an oath of cruel revenge and devises a plan to seduce and poison the Kaiser's heir to save Astrea's dreams of resurrection. A plan which becomes ten times easier when Theo realises she's not alone anymore. With the help of several gifted rebels with their own hallowing pasts and hungry for vengeance, Theo will remember her place as the leader of her people and will resolve to fight tooth and nail for the chance to make their world a better place.

However, the threads of betrayal become tangled when Theo unexpectedly starts to develop feeling for Prinz Søren and is asked to prove her loyalty to the cause by condemning her beautiful best friend to death. Theo will have to decide which paths she is prepared to travel for her country and the extent she is willing to sacrifice for freedom. And she will have to dig deep to find the ability to thwart the cunning Kaiser, who has meticulously built his empire up from the ground and will do everything it takes to keep control.

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 in each and every page documenting Theo's life ever since – making Sebastian's debut incredibly entertaining to read. The tone and the pacing of the book is just right too, revealing the torture Theo has had to suffer over the last decade bit by bit. This helps open up her character to readers and expose the bare bones of her personality. Another great feature, is her transition from a broken shell of a girl who had forgotten her own name to a strong formidable ruler with razor sharp edges which is exceptionally written.

I loved that the book is scattered with Theodosia's concealed manoeuvrings and intelligent schemes. I also really liked her calculating manipulation of both her Kalovaxian friends and enemies. When she put her mind to something, there was no holding back and no dithering with inner turmoil. She is truly a love-to-hate heroine after my own heart. She used everything she had at her disposal to survive and it was brilliant. She was strong than I first thought and I was so glad I was wrong because she carried the story like all heroines should.

I will admit it is similar to other YA fantasy plots with an imprisoned princess, malevolent evil ruler and forbidden romance, but it does hold it's own. There is also quite a bit to be desired in terms of world building, but it doesn't hinder the enjoyment of the story, and it'll no doubt be expanded upon in the sequel.

Many thanks to the publishers for providing the Bookbag with a copy to review!

Dark and powerful, Ash Princess is not for the faint of heart, but I can promise that if you read it, you won't regret it! A great character driven story with lots to enjoy!

In terms of further reading, The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton is a beautiful book with a strong heroine that you both love and hate – be prepared have devour in days!

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