7 April 2019
Theodosia is a prisoner in her own castle. She’s been whipped, beaten, and humiliated by the Kaiser and his followers. Her mother’s throat was slit before her eyes. She’s been forced to murder her own father. Her culture has been diminished and is now treated as a novelty. And she’s had enough. After an old childhood friend returns and asks for her help in the rebellion, Theodosia steps up to the opportunity. Meanwhile, the Prinz, Soren, has shown an interest in her, so it’s decided that she’ll seduce him and allow him to believe he’s her knight in shining armour. After a month, she’ll escape the clutches of the Kaiser and finally be free. Except, her best friend in the palace, Cress, complicates their seemingly meticulous planning.
Though I do agree with most of the comparisons of Ash Princess’ plot to other fantasy books, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. This was mainly because of Theo and her character development. When we first meet her, she isn’t docile and submissive, but she is stagnant and unsure of what to do. She’s withstood and overcome so much trauma – physical and emotional – in her life, it’s admirable that she was even standing. Though she could make idiotic decisions at times, like thinking her friend, who belongs to the people that overtook her country and tortured her, would understand her people’s plight. Or that she trusted a slave she barely knew after being betrayed in the past. However, I loved how strong she was. She displays evidence of PTSD, which I think was explored excellently. I couldn’t imagine myself surviving one-tenth of the things she experienced. The disposition of her mind towards the end of the novel is admirable, and I can’t wait to see what she gets up to in the sequel.
I appreciated the side characters, and I thought most of their development was interesting. Søren was obviously a favourite of mine. The moment we saw him at the beginning, I knew exactly what would happen. He’s a bit too naive and I don’t think his development will progress like I’m secretly hoping, but I liked him. Blaise, however, was bland to me. His entire personality revolved around being Theo’s childhood friend and possibly having gone mine mad. It was difficult for me to believe Theo was in love with him when he seemed more like a comfort from her old life than someone she genuinely had feelings for. If you can’t tell, I want Søren to come out strong in this love triangle.
Cress is an interesting character that misleads you in the beginning. I believed she would be a vapid, ambitious follower the entire novel. Theo suggests that all she wants is pretty dresses and a Prinz for a husband, but the malicious Cress we experience at the end was intriguing. I’m sure she’ll be a villain in the second book, which I’m not complaining about.
The world was easy to grasp and the exposition wasn’t paused to explain it to the audience. I felt elements of The Winner’s Curse and The Kiss of Deception in the way Theo’s people were treated and the vicious dictator who enacted the abuse. When reading the title, I never expected to be introduced to such a brutal world. Within the first chapter, we’re greeted with slit throats, decapitated heads, pools of blood, and hanging bodies. I liked how the author didn’t hold back to how brutish and vile the world is under the Kaiser’s reign. Even if the plot was similar to other fantasy books, I thought the magic system was distinct in itself. The people attain magic through gems and can’t use them unless they’re trained, otherwise, they’re dishonouring the gods. The magic did take a back seat in this novel, but I expect it’ll be expanded within the sequels, especially with Cress’ development.
I loved the writing, particularly how dark and intense it could get at times. It has that poetic theme throughout it that most YA fantasy books maintain. Where the main character has a persona and she pauses for one or two sentences to reflect on her journey and mentions that name in it. Like a superhero or something. I don’t know why I felt like pointing that out, but I find it funny.
A fair warning for people considering this book: there was a love triangle. And I didn’t mind it. However, I know others despise it. Read at your own risk.
Ash Princess depicts a brutal, hellish world where an orphaned girl can only survive, and do nothing else. But what happens when she finally gains the courage to rebel? Even if you think you’ve read this story before, the book is engaging and hard to put down. You’ll be captivated by Theo’s story and desperate to stay up all night to finish