Review: Ash Princess
I received a copy from Netgalley.
This one was a granted wish!! One of my greatly anticipated reads of this year as well. It's not a new concept - surviving princess of a conquered kingdom discovers the means and power to aid a revolution to take back her throne. The way the plot was handled was extremely good. Again not particularly unique, but well written with interesting characters and a narrative that made the story captivating.
Theodosia is the surviving princess kept as a hostage to a cruel Kaiser and his invading court, a reminder to her people now enslaved of the power the Kaiser. Nicknamed the Ash Princess (her mother was a Queen of Fire magic, killed in the invasion) and renamed Thora, she now lives a hard life in the Kaiser's court. While she still lives in the palace she's as much as a slave as any of the remainder of her people. She's punished brutally at the Kaiser's slightest whim and supposed to sit there dolefully and accept everything thrown at her without complaint. She's supposed to be thankful she's there at all.
She's sneered at and ridiculed by the court people. She has guards and a maid who watch her every move and report on her daily. It's a walking nightmare. The magic that was once sacred to Theodosia's people is now almost like an accessory to the people now living in her world. Theodosia's only friend Crescentia is the daughter of the Theyn, the head of the Kaiser's army and punisher. Crescentia is an airhead, a spoiled court daughter. She's sweet but dim. She's kind to Theo and one of the few people who treat her like a real person. Yet there has to be some resentment there on Theo's behalf - it's just not really something that Cress wants to deal with. (Or at least that's my interpretation).
The Kaiser's heir Prinz Soren has come back to the kingdom and the buzz is that he's ready to settle down and choose a wife, all of which Theo has no interest in. It appears that The o has pretty much given up at this point but there's something deep inside her, a righteous anger simmering beneath the surface. Mourning the family she's lost, of the people who died in the invasion, the pain she suffers daily, and the helpless that she can't seem to do anything about her position.
Until one night when she comes across an old friend, now an escaped slave from the mines pretending to be a palace worker makes her an offer. Help her escape. Theo is given some harsh truths about what is left of her mother's people. They want a queen to rise and take back what is rightfully theirs. And Theo is that queen.
There is a revolution brewing, there are still people loyal to Theo who believe she can be the queen her people need. It's an awful lot of pressure. Theo has to decide what wants. The punishments she is suffering are getting worse and there's also a threat of marrying her off hanging around as well. The revolution needs someone on the inside.
So plots form. One involving the handsome, eligible Prinz Soren, round the same age as Theo. Ditzy Cress is swooning over the prince convinced her position as the Theyn's daughter makes her the most eligible match. Yet it's not Cress of course, who has caught Soren's attention.
And there of course, the inevitable fantasy romance. Theo's emotions are in overdrive, Soren is nothing like his monstrous father - if Soren were king would things be different? The plot continues to twist and turn. The end was pretty damn good, cliffhanger (of course) and I really want to see where this one was going.
It's quiet violent in parts, particularly Theo's punishments. The character building is intense, every character grows throughout the novel, a shock twist at the end changes the boundaries between Crescentia and Theo which could be an interesting plot for the follow up novel to take on. And the twist at the end for Theo and Soren made me grin.
I loved Theodosia and how she grew over the novel, she's my favourite type of fantasy heroine. She makes tremendous sacrifice for herself to start to right the wrongs that were done. Her strength and development is brilliant. And this is only the beginning of her journey.
Thank you to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for approving my request to view the title.