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Ash Princess Hardcover – April 24, 2018
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—An Artemisian princess is used as a threat to those who would try to overthrow the Kalovaxians who have taken over Artemisia. The new Kaiser even causes her to change her name from Theodosia to Thora and ingrains in her head that she cannot mention her real name without getting punished. He further disgraces her by calling her the Ash Princess, since she no longer has a country to rule, and makes her wear a crown of ashes that crumbles and stains her clothes. She is punished for any events that the Artemisians plan to get back their country or any incidents that cause the Kaiser to look bad. It is only when the Kaiser causes her to kill her own father that her feelings of quiet acceptance turn into rebellion. The journey through her thoughts and the pressure of high expectations from those supporting her as their queen are ever-present as she starts to find a way to take back the country. Through unexpected allies and daring escape plans, her trip from downtrodden princess to queen is an engaging one that fantasy fans will enjoy. The main characters are well rounded but the supporting cast is somewhat underdeveloped. This might be rectified in the next installments. The relationship between Theo and her closest friend, Cress, also seems somewhat contrived, although it is crucial to the story line. There are some graphic descriptions of the punishments that Theodosia endures, so this novel may not be for the faint of heart. VERDICT Purchase where there are still avid fans of "The Selection" series by Kiera Cass and "The Hunger Games" trilogy by Suzanne Collins.—Lenore Catalano, Hammarskjold Middle School, NJ
“Tense and imaginative, this story of a diminished yet vengeful princess inciting a rebellion to recapture her rightful place of power strikes a timely chord. Ash Princess is a smart, feminist twist on a traditional tale of a fallen heroine, with plenty of court intrigue, love, and lies to sweeten the deal. Good luck putting this one down.” —Virginia Boecker, author of The Witch Hunter series
“The story leaps and twists like a swordswoman, and its blade carves the characters anew and divides them against themselves. This searing page-turner is a compelling examination of the complexities of both evil and resistance.”—Sarah Porter, author of Vassa in the Night
"Laura Sebastian has created a dark and spellbinding epic in Ash Princess. Brace yourself, because Theodosia Houzzara—wounded, driven, and deadly—is going to carve out a place for herself in your heart." —Sara Holland, New York Times bestselling author of Everless
"An emotionally complex, breathtakingly suspenseful series starter."-Booklist
"For fantasy fans, especially those who enjoy strong female protagonists, this book will be an easy sell. Theo is tough, honorable, and relatable in her emotions [and] Sebastian has built a beautiful and complex world."-VOYA
"Delivering a narrative that crackles with political intrigue, powerful and debilitating magic, and the violent mechanisms of colonization...[Ash Princess will] submerge readers in a turbulent and enthralling plot."-Kirkus Reviews
"Through unexpected allies and daring escape plans, [Theodosia's] trip from downtrodden princess to queen is an engaging one that fantasy fans will enjoy...[as well as] fans of The Selection series by Kiera Cass and The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins."-SLJ
"[Ash Princess] provides a window into the complexities of human interaction and emotion, familial tensions, and the false public face that is sometimes required in politics and at court...culminating in a climactic ending ripe for a sequel."-Publishers Weekly
"Sebastian brings interest to Theodosia’s character through her internal battle...and the threats she must navigate provide nail-biting tension....Readers will want to follow her into the coming revolution in a promised sequel."-Bulletin
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As I was starting Ash Princess, I was very much gung-ho going into it. I read the first 100 pages or so quite quickly but then as I read on, I started to lose interest in the novel. It's quite slow moving. I almost feel like it was just a super long prologue for the second novel. I didn't feel like enough went on to warrant the length of the novel. The pacing of getting the action going could have happened sooner. Because by the time the action started, I was over reading the book and just want to be done. And it is very dark and depressing with Theodosia being abused by the Kaiser.
The other problem besides pacing was unfortunately, Ash Princess tends to follow a paint by numbers YA fantasy. Girl (usually age 16 or 17) is some sort of prisoner in a palace and is the key to the rebellion that will change the world, plus she will be torn between two boys. While reading the book, I was reminded of other books like Red Queen, The Jewel series by Amy Ewing, and even somewhat The Selection series. Basically any series where a girl is held against her will in a palace.
But what makes this is a three star review instead of two is the writing. Even though the pacing was slow, the writing is really well done. I especially like the paragraph on the very last page. That might make me pick up the sequel when it comes out in 2019.
Towards the end of the book the pace of the story picks up, but most of the plot elements driving the action forward were a little unrealistic. I know this is YA, but a secret tunnel leading to a wardrobe? A prince willing to give up everything for a girl he just met? Guards being replaced and no one in power noticing? Hummm...
So an okay read, but a little cliche with some overused themes. The very beginning and end were good, but the middle drags.
The thing is, even though I kind of want to hate on it because of this, there's quite a bit of good in the book.
First of all, it's got an edge. While this may be a YA Trope-a-rama, it's dark and violent. Our Ash Princess has to do some pretty dark stuff in this book and the author didn't flinch away from it. I can only imagine that book 2 will be even darker if she keeps to the same theme.
Next, it's got some truly cinematic scenes. This is high drama and so wonderfully described that you can just see some of it happening in front of you. I can still visualize Thora/Theo as she walks, ash flaking down from her crown.
And I like the fact that Thora/Theo is never really a wimp. Even as she sometimes acts cowed, there's a lot of strength in her - strength enough to do some pretty harsh things.
I hated the fact that we had - not one - but two (!) love triangles. And all the other Tropey things meant that, as a reader, I knew exactly what was going to happen to certain characters. Not a whole lot of surprises there.
I would read book 2. I'm hoping as the author moves away from the Standard Every Day YA Schtick and moves more into the very interesting edge she has, that the book will be far more unique while still retaining its style.
Hey, but at least there wasn't SOMETHING BAD ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THAT WALL! (One trope missed.)