Before you read ahead, be aware that Laura Sebastian’s “Ash Princess” is not your typical damsel-in-distress book with an overwhelming love triangle, and instead examines the high price of governance by fear and absolute power, and whether a son should pay for the sins of the father.
As we head into the first few chapters, the reader is introduced to an entire set of new continents playing a role in the story of our princess, Theo. Playing the story out in your mind’s eye is easy with the world building, plot and pacing – despite not having a lot of action-packed scenes.
“Ash Princess” is definitely intriguing, especially with the slow build up and political whispers to committing treason. However, this book does come with some trigger warnings and a few horrifying scenes.
Sebastian’s novel focusses on a conquered country where the original inhabitants are all slaves to the new regime. A lot of the main characters are, or were, slaves and are not afraid to share their experiences, which include being beaten, starved and raped.
There are definitely no on-page rape, or attempted rape, scenes in the book, but there are some scenes where, according to Sebastian, “the unspoken threat of it hangs over Theo’s head”. There are however, according to the author, scenes with uninvited and inappropriate touching.
While at times difficult to read, especially through some of the scenes, the violence and physical abuse are necessary to the character development of our hero. I understand that while this is not common practice in today’s modern society, “Ash Princess” found its roots in real history and does not gloss over the consequences of war and colonization in our own world.
Theo experiences so much pain in this novel, from seeing her Mother die before her eyes, to being made to stab those she cares about in the back (At one point, quite literally), and from having a decade-long friend stab you in the back (We’ve all experienced this though, unfortunately).
Despite all of the graphic and heart wrenching scenes, “Ash Princess” is well worth the read – It even has the potential to be the next ‘Throne of Glass’, as our protagonists from both of these novels experience a lot of similar experiences.
Because of this, and my love for Aelin Ashryver Galathinius a.k.a Celaena Sardothien, I am eager to see what Theo decides to do, and who to become, as she embarks on her mission to save her country, and its people.
Theo makes me believe even more in Aelin / Celaena’s mantra: “I am [enter name], and I will not be afraid”.
While Theo is not exempt to being the betrayer, I was quite surprised to see a protagonist actually do what needed to be done – Unlike other characters, who have a hard time accepting this reality, and questioning their own motives.
I just hope that Theo learns to see past her horrors, and realise that she is allowed to be happy too. In this instance, I’m rooting for her and her unexpected love interest to become an OTP, as they say. And just as the phoenix rose from the ashes, she too, will rise.
I can imagine that some scenes were not easy to write, just as they were not easy to read, but “Ash Princess” is a novel that you struggle to put down – Especially once you realise that you have suffered through similar pain (Although, perhaps, not necessarily to this extreme).
I’d give “Ash Princess” 4 out of 5 stars, and a definite recommendation to add this to your TBR – But keep an open mind when you open the pages.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.
Thank you @panmacmillansa for sending this beauty to me!
Check Out Pan Macmillan at their website https://www.panmacmillan.co.za/ or follow them on Instagram:(@panmacmillansa
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.