Author: Laura Sebastian
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Audiobook Length: 13 hours 18 minutes
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.
Ash Princess is the first installment of the trilogy of the same name and has been on my radar for quite some time. This high fantasy series follows Princess Theodosia (Theo) of Astrea, who lost her mother and her kingdom during an invasion by the Kalovaxians when she was six years old. The story begins with sixteen years old Theo as a prisoner of the Kaiser, the current ruler, and has kept her alive since he enjoys torturing her. While there are no instances of on-page rape, it is discussed as some characters mention their experiences. Additionally, there are moments of physical and psychological abuse among many other triggers, so it is best to pay attention to the trigger warnings before reading.
As Theo tries to survive in her prison, she devises a plan to seduce Soren, the Prinz and the son of the Kaiser, in order to complete her revenge. While I enjoyed Soren, it was difficult to comprehend him observing Theo being tortured by his father before and then just seamlessly moving into a budding romance together. The story is told primarily from Theo’s perspective, so this portion could have been improved by adding some from Soren. As it was written, I needed a little more exploration of Soren’s motives. Along the way during Theo’s plan, Blaise, Heron, and Art (part of the rebellion to restore Theo to power) are introduced. This story does have a love triangle. While it was okay in this one, it will be interesting how it plays out between Theo, Soren, and Blaise as the series moves forward.
The story does a good job of setting up the characters and the main big picture conflict. Since this is the beginning of the trilogy, there are smaller plot points wrapped up, new ones introduced towards the end, and some development with the arcing plot. I wish that there was a little more exploration into Theo developing her skills as she seemed to go from prisoner to seducer and spy more quickly than I would have liked. I understood the need for the sake of the plot, but I would have liked a little more setup. While I love the concept of a royal taking back her kingdom and all, I believe there were many elements rushed in this story. While the number of pages was long, Theo’s development has many sudden changes that fit the situation, but I feel as if I missed the transition period.
Overall, this story was a great start to the series. Since there are many elements that need to be wrapped up, I am curious to see how it will all come together. Based on this novel’s setup, I am trepidatious that the second novel will suffer the “typical” second-book syndrome; however, I hope that it comes through and turns out better than I am anticipating. This was still an interesting novel and I cannot wait to start the second installment!