Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Ash Princess
(Untitled Trilogy #1)
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Hardcover, 432 pages, Delacorte
Genres: YA, Fantasy

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Queen of Flame and Fury, was murdered before her eyes. Ten years later, Theo has learned to survive under the relentless abuse of the Kaiser and his court as the ridiculed “Ash Princess.” Pretending to be empty-headed and naive when she's not enduring brutal whippings, she pushes down all other thoughts but one: Keep the Kaiser happy and he will keep you safe.

When the Kaiser forces her to execute her last hope of rescue, Theo can't keep her feelings and memories pushed down any longer. She vows revenge, throwing herself into a plot to seduce and murder the Kaiser's warrior son with the help of a group of magically gifted and volatile rebels. But Theo doesn't expect to develop feelings for the Prinz. Or for her rebel allies to challenge her friendship with the one person who's been kind to her throughout the last hopeless decade: her heart's sister, Cress.

Cornered into impossible choices and unable to trust even those who are on her side, Theo will have to decide how far she's willing to go to save her people and how much of herself she's willing to sacrifice to become queen.

My Review

You ever read one of those books that just frustrates you to no end, but you still want to know what happens in the next few pages, chapters, or sequels? Well, that was me with this book.

Be prepared, because I have some thoughts on this one. A lot of thoughts.

Okay, so first off, Theodosia, or Thora, as she’s referred to by the Kalovaxians who invaded her homeland, is a very frustrating main character. She reminds me a lot of America from The Selection series. There were always choices that I wanted her to make that just seemed to never come to fruition. The same with speeches. She’s the princess/queen of her decimated people, so I wanted her to really inspire her citizens and chew out her enemies, but she just never went there. I wanted some gruff and power from her, but she was just too weak and naive at points.

Now, there were other characters in this book that were also just as frustrating. Soren, the prinz (aka prince) was cute at first, but then you learn he’s been letting dear ol’ dad hit an innocent girl for years. He’s also remained complacent for a lot of the massacring of Theo’s people. That was a major turn off. Yet, somehow, Theo still had feelings for Soren… Stockholm syndrome, perhaps?

The other characters, like Blaise, the book’s second love interest, is a pretty decent character for like 75% of the book. HOWEVER, him and his posse of rebels as well as the rest of Theo’s people somehow believe that she’s a spoiled princess living it up in the Kaiser’s castle, yet she’s being tortured??? How can they be that stupid? There just wasn’t a good enough explanation for why her people had such animosity for her when these “punishments” weren’t private events. A lot of people know the Kaiser was having her whipped.

And that brings me to my biggest and weirdest pet peeve of this book. The word “whippings” is atrocious, and I hate it. It sounds so unsophisticated and hickish (I’m from the Midwest, so I know hickish). Also, the way it’s used in this book along with the word “punishments” sounds eerily like some sort of naughty romance book. I just wanted those two words to stop. Ick.

Oh, and is anyone else tired of the poor beautiful princess being tortured trope? Especially by two-dimensional cliché ugly, evil kings? I don’t know. I just think there’s too much violence for the sake of violence in this book. Also, the plot is kind of slow because no real action happens. I’d say it’s more of a political fantasy, but it’s not even really that…

Another small thing, but still. Thora, even though she’s been beat by the Kalovaxian’s multiple times, she somehow always knows what the Kaiser is thinking, even though she never knows what anyone else is thinking and she makes bad choices because of it?

Okay, the next thing I want to talk about is how the Kalovaxians won this invasion when Theo’s people are supposed to have Avatar-esque powers? It wasn’t really explained as well I’d like how exactly the war/invasion went down. I needed more backstory there.

All in all, Ash Princess is eerily similar and as frustrating as Kiera Cass’s Selection series and Marie Rutkoski’s The Winner’s Curse. I’ll probably continue with the series, just like I did with those books, but I’m still wary. I also just really want a physical copy of this book, because hey! Pretty cover!

*Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This in no way affected my opinion/review.

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