Age Range: YA
Publisher: Delecorte Press
Publication Date: 24 April 2018
Genre: YA/ Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
"Made for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sabaa Tahir" (Bustle), Ash Princess is an epic new fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people.
Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia's family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess--a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.
For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She's endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.
Then, one night, the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn't always won on the battlefield.
For ten years, the Ash Princess has seen her land pillaged and her people enslaved. That all ends here.
I will be perfectly honest, this book is very Trope Heavy. You name a trope, this book probably has it, in fact, here is a list of just a few: Princess being held, hostage ✔, the protagonist being "the chosen one" ✔, protagonist starting a rebellion/revolution ✔, protagonist having dead parents/relatives ✔, Elemental Magic ✔, and lastly, a possible love triangle ✔. I can understand how and why this may be a turn off for some readers, however, if the reader is able to look past the tropes this book is actually quite enjoyable.
I know that this book was very polarizing for readers, but I personally loved this book. It definitely not unique in YA literature, nor would I say that I say that it had an amazing plotline, but I was so drawn in by the world building, the characters, and all the gore and the glitz and glam that came with the story, that I found I just didn't care. Everything that was good about the story, for me at least, just outweighed the bad.
What really drew me in and hooked me on this book was the world building. Save for the first chapter or so that felt a little info-dumpy, the author did an great job of presenting the world to the reader in a way that was not confusing and was intriguing to the reader. I found myself so fascinated by the Astrean culture. Astrea is a Queendom and seems to be somewhat matrilineal in nature, which I found fascinating. I NEED a novela to give us more information and history of Astrea.
I also really enjoyed the parallels that I saw between this fantasy world and colonialism in our world. The Kalovaxian's dress, culture, and racist attitudes are very much reminiscent major European powers of colonialism. I love that a work of YA fantasy has the potential to be a learning experience for young readers.
With colonialism comes brutality, Theo lives in a very harsh world, and this book does not sugarcoat her circumstances. This story does have depictions of graphic on-page violence as well as violence that is mentioned throughout the book. For me personally, I felt that the darkness and brutality of this world was a strong point to the novel, the author did not try to hide or sugarcoat anything, but instead fully showed the savagery that is Colonialism. This being said, I understand that due to dark nature of this world, this book is not suitable for all readers, and want to make it clear that there are trigger warnings for the mention and description of physical violence, slavery, starvation, and mentions of rape.
For me personally, my only real issue with the book was the inclusion of the infamous love triangle. I truly wish that love triangles would just cease to exist. They are so overdone, and I feel like 90% of the time love triangles are just filler and add no real substance to the plot. I will admit there are occasions in which love triangles are done well. Unfortunately for this book, this was not the case. I felt like the love triangle was unnecessary and underdeveloped. I honestly just found myself annoyed anytime the love triangle was alluded to.
In total, if you as a reader know that can handle the dark nature of the story and can look past the annoying love triangle, this book is a captivating page-turner. I was engrossed for the whole story. I found I was able to look past the tropes, lack of originality, and even the love triangle because I was so interested in the word and the storyline.