• Well Red

Princess of Disappointment

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Title: Ash Princess

Author: Laura Sebastian

Published: 2018

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books

Rating: ***.5

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Difficulty: Moderately easy

Series: First book in the Ash Princess trilogy

Trigger warning – violence and abuse

Always spoiler free – okay, I did my best, but I had plot issues so…

I can’t even remember where I saw this book (was definitely bookstagram…somewhere) but I downloaded it after needing a break from the Raven Cycle while on holiday. I read it over a week and finished it, doggedly determined, on a train making my way back to London.

Theo is a princess…a princess of ash. Her mother’s kingdom was conquered by a brutal and power-hungry ruler when she was six. He promptly murdered her mother and set about exploiting the natural resources of the country while subjugating Theo’s people. This is Theo’s story of revenge.

Theo is a well written character. She’s well-rounded and has both positive and negative traits. She’s human. I love a female MC that is well-rounded and is given both authority and agency. We need more of them! Despite Theo’s good characterisation, the side characters sometimes suffer slightly…to be honest I can’t even remember the name of the two male characters and I finished this book four days ago (in the defence of the book, I am terrible with names). Some of the minor characters are barely there, popping up when needed for the plot, but there’s little else to be noted.

Sebastian writes pretty prose. You can feel Theo’s anger. Her betrayal. At times, her vengeance and anger are almost poetic. As a character Theo is caught between two worlds and very difficult choices throughout the book. You can feel the emotion pouring throughout the book, and that is very much down to Sebastian’s skill as an author. I like the way Sebastian wrote the book. I just didn’t love the book.

I loved the premise of this book. It was intriguing and we all love a strong female character in YA fantasy fiction. But in the end, I just didn’t feel that the book delivered on that promise.

So it comes down to this - the issue I have primarily against the book (again!) is the plot. There were sinister moments, and feelings of impending doom, but the action was dragged out. Because of this, you lost the sensation of concern about her welfare, and concern for the safety of those around her. There wasn’t a moment where I was worried Theo, or her companions wasn’t going to survive. I predicted some of the plot points ahead of time, while some of the minor one’s weren’t hinted enough throughout the plot, so when they came at the end, they were slightly random surprises. Also, there was a lot made of her situation, but it was terribly easy for people to come and go!

In a book that is essentially about court intrigue, the action is kept centralised on two characters, one of which is technically away for half the time. It just wasn’t…intriguing or clever enough for me. You are privy to Theo’s thoughts, so most of the time you get to see her thinking through her choices. While this means you see the full emotional turbulence her choices were causing her, it also meant there were very few surprises and twists in the plot based on her agency. I was definitely missing the ‘clever’ factor in the plot.

Also – ALSO – why does YA always have to have a love story? Especially a love triangle (or two!) in fantasy books. Can we stop that now? Please? (Sebastian does a slight twist on this but ends up falling in the same pitfalls anyway. I was hoping for more).

I’m not going to read the second or third in the series. It was too predictable and there wasn’t enough action for me. It was just okay, and I have so many books on my list to be read and re-read that I don’t have time for okay, unless there is a character or element I particularly love.

Well Red Reviews

Would I recommend this book? Yeah, sure

Favourite quote(s):

‘“We are not defined by the things we do in order to survive. We do not apologize for them,” she says quietly, eyes never leaving mine. “Maybe they have broken you, but you are a sharper weapon because of it. And it is time to strike.”’

‘I am angry.

I am hungry.

And I promise myself that one day I will watch them all burn.’

‘“You’re a lamb in the lion’s den, child. You’re surviving. Isn’t that enough?”’

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