Rating: 4/5 stars
Series: Ash Princess, Book 1
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
“Maybe they have broken you, but you are a sharper weapon because of it. And it is time to strike.”
I went into this story looking forward to a beaten down princess to come rising out of the ashes around her and that’s exactly what Sebastian gave me. It was clear that though these characters might be fractured, it’ll take a whole lot more to fully break them. While of a people nearly destroyed, the main cast of characters proves time and time again that it’s true what they say about Phoenixes – they rise from the ashes stronger each time.
While classified as a romance, I find that this is in no way a vital piece of the story. This story survives quite strongly by itself, with hints of romance thrown in that help the story progress but in no way are the focal point. Sure romantic relations happen, but they are more a driving force than the focus – a chess piece used to get the outcome that’s desired. While some of the feelings might be real between the characters, that’s less important than what the characters get out of the interactions.
Theo does an amazing job at being strong when she’s surrounded by people trying to break her. No matter what they do to her, no matter what they try to make her believe, she remains stronger than most would in this situation. A princess from a peaceful nation, it’s clear that she’s stronger than most would give her credit for – and cleverer, too. She has a wicked mind, perfect for doing what needs to be done no matter how awful it may seen. Theo’s even willing to go against her own heart, her own selfish desires, if it means protecting the people that have all but given up hope in her.
But Theo will fight, and she fights to win.
If you’re looking for a story about a badass heroine that rises above those who wish to see her crumble, who’s willing to put aside her own wants and needs to do what is right, then I’d suggest giving this story a try. However, go into this read knowing that its premise isn’t a unique one. This trope has been multiple times through the years but Sebastian does a great job at making this version of the trope a damned good one.
Also please be aware going into it that there are graphic depictions of beatings and torture. There are also plenty of instances of racism, murder and death, with the passing mention of rape that occurred in the past. If any of that stuff isn’t easy for you to read about, this might not be the best book for you to pick up, even if I did personally enjoy the story.
While part of me feels bad for Prinz Søren, a bigger part of me feels for Blaise. It’s hard to think that he might not have gotten out of the mines with his sanity intact, that his powers are going to take him over in the end. I certainly hope that he does not end up giving in to the power coursing through his veins and instead learns to control it. Sure his control has already slipped at times, but that’s more due to his love for Theo and the strength of his abilities than a slip in his sanity… right? He’s been blessed, not pushed too far.
I hope that at the end of this series Theo and Blaise end up together. While I doubt that as this trope usually ends up with the Theo-character ending up with the Søren-character, I still have hope. Blaise is the strength that Theo needs and I don’t think that Theo should be with the person who stood by and let her get whipped time and time again. Even if he loves her now, Søren still stood by when his father and his people destroyed (or at least tried to destroy) the good that remained in Theo. He stood by and ignored the rumors of what his father had planned for her, until it came time for her death.
While I am thankful that his men are loyal to him, I am more thankful that Theo’s men are loyal to her. No matter how many times she causes them to question her, they stand with her. It takes her a while to gain Artemisia’s trust but eventually Theo is able to secure her allegiance, even if her mother – Theo’s aunt Dragonsbane – doesn’t try to hide her dislike for the fleeing queen.
I hope that Theo finds the strength she needs in order to become a Queen of Fire, to call upon the flames in her blood and be the strength that her people needs. I hope that the fire raging inside her can rival the earth magic coursing through Blaise; that together they can bring down the oppressors of their home, the killers of their people. Most of all, I hope that the flames bring Theo closer to her father than she can ever be again. The gods won’t forsake her for doing what needs to be done to save her people, not if she continues to pay them respect.
I can’t imagine that it was easy, putting up with being a pawn for ten years. To take beatings and whippings whenever her people rebelled. To seem like she’s forgotten her people, enjoying her life as the Ash Princess. To be friends with the daughter of the man that killed your family. To be forced to kill your father, right after you’ve admitted to yourself that he’s definitely your father. (Poor Ampelio).
That last one must have been the hardest. Many would have let it break them, but Theo allowed it to make her stronger. She allowed it to give her the strength to do what needed to be done in order to save her people.
If you’ve read Ash Princess, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story. Though it’s in no way a new premise, did you enjoy this take on the “overthrown princess coming into her own” storyline? Are there other books with this same premise that you’ve enjoyed more?