I was apprehensive about reading Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian at first simply because the plot sounds similar to many other Young Adult stories out there. Boy am I glad I gave it a chance! While it does possess elements of The Red Queen series as well as The Winner’s series, it also has a plot that is completely its own.
Theodosia was the princess of the great country of Astrea before the Kalovaxians invaded her homeland and killed the queen. Now the kaiser of Kalovaxia sits on her mother’s throne and expects her to be just another lady in the court who will obey his every command. Theo has grown up among the Kalovaxians and has even managed to make a friend, Cress, though it becomes apparent very quickly that she is unable to speak openly with Cress without being turned over to the kaiser for treason. Hope comes to Theo in the form of an old friend from before the invasion, Blaise, who is working with the resistance. Blaise wants Theo to help them, especially since she is able to spy on the court of the kaiser. But his timing couldn’t be worse considering Prinz Søren has just returned home for the first time in five years, and he has his eyes on Theo.
First of all, I really liked Theodosia. She is completely believable as a young woman stuck in a hopeless situation. Her home has been turned into her prison, she is not allowed to so much as speak to any of her people without being punished, and she has even been stripped of her true name. She seems content for her life to remain as it is before someone comes along to remind her that her people need her, and who can blame her? She was only seven years old when the Kalovaxians invaded. She is just as terrified of them now as she was as a child and finds it in her best interest to keep her head down. It takes a grave injustice from the kaiser for her to realize that things can not remain the same.
The other character that made an impression on me was Cress. The daughter of the Kalovaxian Theyn (sort of like a general), she has everything she could ever want in life. She shows Theo kindness, except Cress is aware that she also has a part to play in court. She is to be the dutiful daughter of the Theyn and one day, her father’s hard work will be rewarded in the form of his daughter marrying the crown prinz. One of the best parts for me was seeing the real Cress peeking through the façade she presents to the world, including her so-called best friend.
Ash Princess really delves into what we as human beings are willing to endure to live through oppression. It also shows us the lengths we are willing to go to overcome it. Readers should catch up soon, the next book, Lady Smoke, comes out February 5th, 2019.