ASH PRINCESS by LAURA SEBASTIAN
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
I can’t lie to you, dear readers. Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian was not really on my radar. I’d been aware of the book when it was published in 2018, but I hadn’t given it so much as a passing glance. Same story about a girl saving her kingdom, I thought. How boring. Bur then…The PublishingPaidMe hashtag started trending on Twitter and one tweet caught m
In the tweet, if you can’t access it, author Laura Sebastian describes the advances she got for each series she’s written thus far. Ash Princess is the first book in the Ash Princess trilogy, and the series sold for six figures. Nearly 200,000 dollars, even. That’s in insane amount of money for a debut author, and served to illustrate the disparities between what white authors get as advances versus authors of color. Having never read Ash Princess, I knew I had to pick it up after I saw that tweet. I knew I had to see if such a book was worth such an enormous amount of money.
Spoiler alert: Maybe it was???
Ash Princess is the story of Theodosia, the lost queen of the fallen kingdom of Astrea. Astrea fell to Kalovaxia ten years prior to the events of the book and the cruel Kaiser has taken the Astrean queen’s place. Theodosia, known as Thora by her captors, is the last living member of the Astrean royal family and the heir to the Astrean throne–now occupied by said Kaiser. With the help of a few loyal Astrean subjects, Theo plots to kill the Kaiser and his henchmen to take her country back from Kalovaxia once and for all.
At first blush, Ash Princess appears to be your typical YA fantasy novel, and in many ways, it is. We’ve got a queen trying to take her country back, an evil invader, a love triangle, vague worldbuilding that is never really explained…But, at the same time, Ash Princess does have a quirk in that Theodosia herself is slightly different from your typical YA fantasy protagonist. She uses her mind, not a sword to get what she wants, and manipulates the Kaiser and his son, the prince of Kalovaxia, to get what she wants. This is the element of the book I enjoyed the most–all the scheming. Theo is at her most interesting when she’s lying to everyone. Her relationship with the Kaiser’s son, Soren, interested me as well and I found it one of the most compelling aspects of the book. #TeamSoren, anyone?
Despite the books strengths in certain areas, I found it lacking in others. The worldbuilding, as I mentioned, is rather vague. There are gems that aid in the magic powers many in the novel have. These gems are mined by Astrean slaves and boost magic, but that’s all we know about them. There are multiple gods from Astrean history Theo mentions, but we never get anything solid about them. This book is very insular, very much a political fantasy with little access to the world outside the palace. My gripes aside, I’m interested in reading the next two books, if only to answer this question for myself: Are these books worth such giant advances?
You’ll have to read our copy of Ash Princess, housed at the Oreana Library, to find out!