“The last person who called me by my true name was my mother, with her dying breath.”
about damn time i whip out this review so today I’ll be reviewing Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian! A review copy was provided by Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review. (To my AU/NZ pals: I’ve got a giveaway for a copy of this book on my IG (@bibliomeds)! Do check it out!)
Let’s get into it!
*Trigger warnings*: racism, torture, bullying, discussion of rape, sexual assault (unwanted touching) death, violence, slavery, mental/emotional and physical abuse.
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Publication Date: 24 April 2018
Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Firstly, I want to say that I was SUPER DUPER excited to read this one, it sounds so epic and promising, and if you don’t know already – I’m all about intriguing plots with smart heroines, rebellions
that can go wrong in any second, thrilling romance with, of course, some unexpected betrayals and ass-kicking in between. Did Sebastian’s debut deliver to my hype? Let’s dig a little deeper and you shall find out.
Ash Princess, you guessed it, is actually a girl named Theodosia, or Theo. Theo’s mother was once the Queen of her family’s kingdom, before she was brutally murdered (in front of Theo) by the foreign army that invaded her country. And instead of killing Theo on the spot, the Kaiser (the “ruler” of the foreign nation), decided to keep her alive and use her as a reminder to her people that they are nothing but slaves to the Kaiser. So, ever since the age of 6, Theo suffered tremendously from the brutal punishments inflicted by the Kaiser.
World-building wise, I personally think it could be done better. When I read it, I kind of had to really wrap my head around and link in the fantasy bit with the political bit. I mean, the elemental powers (air, fire, water, earth) are cool, so DON’T get me wrong – but it just seems a bit mundane and so secondary. I think it’s mostly because Theo, our MC, can’t bloody use any powers
which really bugged me at times. Okay, Theo isn’t exactly “ungifted”, so here’s a clearer explanation: she isn’t ALLOWED to use any powers because she was told that if she uses the powers that are not given/blessed to her by one of her Gods, she doesn’t get to go into the After (aka their version of the afterlife, and where she will see her mother again). So that’s that. Aside from that okay i used that three times already soz, the description of the surroundings and atmospheres were good, I had a good idea of how things look from Theo’s eyes.
I would like to make a point about the description of the people: light skin colour for the Kaiser and his people vs the oliver/ darker features of Theo and her people. This story is about a nation colonising another, and making all the remaining population their slaves and force them to work and die in poor working conditions – I didn’t know about this until I read it. So do keep that in mind.
“I should have done more, fought harder, wavered less, but I tried.”
Plot wise, this novel is daaarrk man. I mean I get it – it’s about a girl being forced to live a false difficult life among the people who basically ruined her and everything that she cares about (a nutshell for ya
you’re welcome). She is constantly reminded about the death of her mother and how she has nothing to stay hopeful for. UNTIL, *drumroll*, one night when a boy she knew from her childhood offers her a way out, or better, to right a few wrongs.
Romance is on the blurb… so yes, I’m gonna discuss it lightly without giving
anything too much away. When I first read that this book has romance, I was like “HOLY FAM SIGN ME UP FOR THIS SHIT HASHTAG NEED”. But after a few chapters in, I ended up being like “OH BOY I HAVE A BAD FEELING ABOUT THIS HASHTAG HELP ME”. Sooooo, basically there’s this solid love triangle involving a reserved/friendly/protective/capable dude and a sweet/mysterious/handsome/popular-but-keeps-to-himself dude. Yeeeeah, I think this one would be a hit or miss depending on your stance on said troupe. Me? I can’t say I don’t like the romance, nor I can say I love it. I do have a preference tho wait do I?. But aNYwAys, I am keen to see what happens in the next book, ’cause your girl needs answers.
The story is original, but not super original – I see bits of resemblance to Red Queen and An Ember in the Ashes so read at your own risk if you didn’t enjoy either of those! Also, there are quite a few repetitively used themes and lines
oh my gosh those lines and if you’re like me where you can’t bloody stand those, you might be better off giving this a miss. But, all in all, the twists were good and I am glad I finished it – the last 100 pages were fantastic and had me glued to the page. Unfortunately I wasn’t as impressed with the story as I wished, BUT it was a unique and refreshing read about a broken girl finding her way to herself with her own strength.
© Bibliophilic Med Student 2018. All Rights Reserved. Please do not use without permission. All opinions are my own and you can find me on Instagram @bibliomeds and Twitter. You can also follow me on Goodreads.