At the age of six Theodosia witnessed her mother, the Queen of Flame and Fury, being murdered before her eyes. She is then brought up in the court of the invading monarch, the Kaiser but her life is full of torture, pain and a sense of uselessness. Her title “The Ash Princess” stems from the crown made of ashes that she is forced to wear at any court function; as the crown disintegrates, she is covered in the ash and shown as a lesser person. Life changes when she is sixteen and is forced to kill a prisoner that she thinks is her true father and then she discovers that there is still some resistance to the harsh rule of the Kaiser. The question is whether Theodosia will comply with the life she has, or seize the opportunity to take revenge on the people who have destroyed her family and her country?
This is the debut novel of the author, Laura Sebastian and she has made an excellent start to her career. The story itself is a fantasy but without magic, dragons or the obvious type of ‘hero’. The central character is a young girl who has been damaged by the traumas that she has suffered in the preceding ten years. The author has increased this sense by divorcing the character from any of her own people; even her only ‘friend’ is the daughter of the man who killed her mother. The themes that the story explores are about friendship, loyalty and knowing who you are and this becomes more obvious as Theodosia comes in to contact with her own people who have also suffered over the years. You could almost say that this is looking at the difference between nature and nurture, although the latter was not positive in any way. The other theme that is strikingly obvious is the issue of physical and mental abuse and how this affects the person subjected to this treatment. We are given a heroine who gradually gains mental strength and the determination to improve the lot of her people, but in doing so she creates further enemies that she must combat. This is a great novel for the Young Adult market and will be a favourite for those who love authors such as Sarah Maas.