Ash Princess, written by Laura Sebastian, is the first in a trilogy. It follows Princess Theodosia, who is a prisoner of the Kalovaxian court after her home kingdom of Astrea was invaded. From the beginning, Ash Princess was an unoriginal, cliché-filled fantasy. There were certain elements I enjoyed, which I’ll discuss after I list the bad.
A few days before I read Ash Princess, I read a book called Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene, which I’ll be reviewing soon. When I think back to Ash Princess, I find myself mixing both books together, which isn’t a good thing because the goal is to write an original book, especially in an industry where the majority of YA fantasy tends to surround a strong female lead in a kingdom and trying to defeat the ruler. You could compare the plot to almost any young adult fantasy book because it follows the same layout. One of the largest similarities I found was when Theodosia was being whipped, she repeated her full name over and over, which was almost exactly what happened in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, a much more popular series. As a young adult writer, I would assume the first thing you would do would be read the most popular books in the genre you’re writing so you can try and be as original as possible. This author either read the books and decided that the similarity wasn’t too close, or she never read them and just so happened to write a very similar scene. This really stuck out to me because the Throne of Glass series is eight books long (including the novella), therefore being reminded of a specific scene is not a good thing.
The author chose to include a love triangle in this book, and not a subtle kind like in Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas, or Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi. The subtle ones are when there are two characters that the main character finds attractive, but she only focuses on one at a certain time, which makes it seem like less of a love triangle, hence, less frustrating. In this book. Theodosia chose to be romantically involved with them both at the same time. She would kiss one and then kiss the other, which angered me and made me dislike the lead character more. To continue, the romances moved much too fast for the time the characters spent together. The only relationship that was believable was the friendship between Theodosia and Crescentia, a girl who has her sights set on marrying the crown prince. Their friendship is believable and developed naturally throughout the book.
This story would have been saved had the male characters been developed more. She had a strange relationship with a boy from her childhood who managed to survive the mass murder of her people and showed up in the palace with a small rebel team. His name was Blaise, which I had to look back at the book to find despite him being the main love interest (I think?) in the book. They hardly had any time to flesh out a romance or relationship of any kind, therefore the reader had to rely on a relationship they had built ten years prior, which isn’t believable because people change and grow a lot in that time.
My favorite character was the crown Prince Søren, who really got beat up throughout the book physically and emotionally. He showed real emotion, which was good, but I found myself wanting to read the whole book from his perspective, which would have been a much more interesting and original book.
I did enjoy how diverse the cast was; the main character is from Astrea where everyone has darker skin. There were some similarities with history, and I think she tried to make connections to slavery but there wasn’t much of a point to it as the idea wasn’t fleshed out. The plot twist was something I saw coming and I found myself groaning in wait for the characters to execute their plans.
If you don’t mind the similarities to other books (maybe you haven’t read much YA fantasy), I would still suggest you skip this series and find another. I would rate this book 4/10 dragons and I will not be reading the sequel.