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.
There are some books that just resonate so well with me and this is one of them. From the start Ash Princess hit me just right. I loved the world, characters and writing. I especially loved how dark this book was. I didn’t expect such an emotional read with beautifully executed scenes that are just so raw and really moved me.
I can’t imagine what Theo has had to go through- her country was invaded and she had to witness her family murdered. Then she was kept captive and forced to live among her enemies. Every time the Kaiser had reason to be angry with her people he publicly raged at Theo. She was forced to bear the brunt of his anger and also be his public demonstration of hate for her people. Every major gathering she was forced to wear a crown made of ashes. These scenes were so, so vivid and just wow. So powerful. I can’t imagine how angry and lonely she would be. I loved this aspect because instead of crumbling she had a spark of hope and fight within her. I loved watching that spark grow and seeing her form relationships even with those she should hate.
I felt all the characters were beautifully complex. The relationships were my favorite aspect. Since Theo has been raised with her enemies she can’t help but have made friends with the daughter of one of her captors. It is such a complex situation Theo finds herself in. I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do in her situation.
Be aware- since Theo lives with her family’s murders there are some brutal whippings and she withstands a lot of abuse at the hand of the Kaiser. It isn’t pleasant to read but I felt it was done very well. This book deals with a lot of heavy themes but I didn’t have trouble reading it and in fact I felt it was a very compulsive read and I couldn’t’ stop reading. I had to know what would happen next.
I loved Ash Princess and I am desperate to read more of Theo’s story. I was so impressed with Sebastian’s writing and the inner struggles of her characters. This book wasn’t a happy read but it was beautifully done and very emotional.