Author: Laura Sebastian
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Audiobook Length: 13 hours 29 minutes
The Kaiser murdered Theodosia’s mother, the Fire Queen, when Theo was only six. He took Theo’s country and kept her prisoner, crowning her Ash Princess–a pet to toy with and humiliate for ten long years. That era has ended. The Kaiser thought his prisoner weak and defenseless. He didn’t realize that a sharp mind is the deadliest weapon.
Theo no longer wears a crown of ashes. She has taken back her rightful title, and a hostage–Prinz Soren. But her people remain enslaved under the Kaiser’s rule, and now she is thousands of miles away from them and her throne.
To get them back, she will need an army. Only, securing an army means she must trust her aunt, the dreaded pirate Dragonsbane. And according to Dragonsbane, an army can only be produced if Theo takes a husband. Something an Astrean Queen has never done.
Theo knows that freedom comes at a price, but she is determined to find a way to save her country without losing herself.
[Ash Princess (#1) Review]
Lady Smoke is the second novel in the Ash Princess trilogy. Since this series is continuous, it is best to read them in order to avoid spoilers. As this is a sequel, there could potentially be spoilers in this review for the first novel, but I will try my best to avoid any for this novel. Before even beginning this novel, I was on the fence about my expectations, as there are tons of mixed reviews where some really loved it and others almost DNF the story. Some were on the fence for the characters, some for the story, and others for everything as a whole. Therefore, I lowered my expectations and anticipated the worst. While this was not an ideal story, I believe my lowered expectations helped my enjoyment, which may not work the same for other readers.
The story picks up right where it left off on the pirate Dragonsbane’s ship with Theodosia (Theo) and her crew. The rebellion is working on recruiting members for their army and Soren is their prisoner. While it is not traditionally done in her home country of Astrea, Theo is informed that she may need to break it and marry to form alliances. As Theo and Soren have feelings for each other with a love triangle forming with Blaise, there are romantic complications added to the mix. With multiple suitors introduced in the story, there is a lot of information presented to the reader. While at times I did not mind, it did become a bit much as it was difficult to figure out which information would become important later and which was just enjoyable at the moment.
The pacing in the story felt a little stretched, as there were multiple descriptions, but not a lot of content. For me, some of the information would have better served the novel by being condensed. Most of the story is focused on strategy and bringing everything together as a set-up for the finale. One thing that I loved is that the stakes were raised towards the end as it was weaved together with some nice plot twists. As a similar point that I had for the first installment, I wish that this was a multi-perspective story as this is told from Theo’s POV. I would love Blaise, Soren, Kaiser, Cress, or any of the other important characters to have a POV. For me, Theo is just okay as a protagonist where I cannot fully decide if I like her or not. By breaking up the story into different POVs, I think it would have helped build some depth to those characters and to give a temporary reprieve from Theo.
Overall, I can see some potential for the final installment to bring everything together based on the first two novels; however, this one was a little too long for my taste. There was a lot of telling instead of showing with very little forward momentum in the first portion of the novel that could have been shortened. I will have to wait and see the set-up of the final novel, but this series almost seems like it would have made a better duology to keep everything cohesive. The outline of the series is something I greatly enjoy, but there is not a lot that resonates with me, so far. I will still continue to the next installment as I want to see how the series ends, but, unfortunately, this sequel was not for me.