Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Review: Lady Smoke | Ash Princess Series by Laura Sebastian

Lady SmokeThe sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller that was “made for fans of Victoria Aveyard and Sabaa Tahir” ( Bustle ), Lady Smoke is an epic new fantasy about a throne cruelly stolen and a girl who must fight to take it back for her people. 

The Kaiser murdered Theodosia’s mother, the Fire Queen, when Theo was only six. He took Theo’s country and kept her prisoner, crowning her Ash Princess–a pet to toy with and humiliate for ten long years. That era has ended. The Kaiser thought his prisoner weak and defenseless. He didn’t realize that a sharp mind is the deadliest weapon.

Theo no longer wears a crown of ashes. She has taken back her rightful title, and a hostage–Prinz Soren. But her people remain enslaved under the Kaiser’s rule, and now she is thousands of miles away from them and her throne.

To get them back, she will need an army. Only, securing an army means she must trust her aunt, the dreaded pirate Dragonsbane. And according to Dragonsbane, an army can only be produced if Theo takes a husband. Something an Astrean Queen has never done.

Theo knows that freedom comes at a price, but she is determined to find a way to save her country without losing herself.

A darkly enchanting page-turner you won’t be able to put down.” –Bustle on Ash Princess, Book 1 in the Ash Princess series.

5 stars

Young Adult | Romance | Fantasy

Where do I begin with how much I absolutely loved Lady Smoke? I mean seriously, Laura Sebastian is just mind blowing. And before you say it, I know, how can the sequel be the same rating or hell, better than the first one, but honestly it is simply in my mind, it’s equal. Lady Smoke up’d the ante on the plot twists, adding new web of deceit, growth and overall character development that was ultimately perfection. It just exceeded my expectations. 

Firstly, Lady Smoke jumps in right where Ash Princess left off – Theo with her band of Shadow comrades, the prisoner Soren, along with her Aunt Kallistrade ( or rather the Dragonsbane) and a crew to boot set sail for their next destination, forming an alliance to band together in hopes of taking back Astrea as Queen and defeating the Kaiser. Super jammed packed right at the beginning because wham, something I was actually afraid of, Theo must take a husband. So yes, this worried me, hell I think it worried a lot of individuals. My fear was that this twist of events would overshadow the fantasy aspects and the seer beauty that is the world development with the characters in hopes to create this convenient plot for drama. But wow, I was actually surprised. Because yes, no Astrea Queen had ever had to take a husband in the past, so why was this being forced on Theo but this development worked so well with the character dynamics and the overall build, it just flowed. So there is a lot to discover with this development that left me questioning everyone’s involvement with the true reason for helping Theo. 

So because of this ‘arranged’ marriage situation, the previous love triangle becomes a little more tangled. But before I dive into the Soren and Blaise side of things, I have to mention the actual reason why I enjoyed this plot twist. It is made quite adamant that the involvement of helping Theo from Kallistrade’s perspective might have an ulterior motive. One that I am still working out the kinks, but I honestly think there is a more political agenda at play with the aunt. There is constant mentions with how Kallistrade’s hand-hold’s (or at least tries…) Theo, bending her to do everything, she is controlling the situation entirely. On the other side of that as well, she mentions Theo’s mother constantly; points of jealousy between the sisters, wrath and dislike of certain aspects, so I feel there is a smidge of revenge ulterior motive at play. Another angle as well that I fell worth mentioning, but without too much word vomit (trying to avoid the spoilers here…) is King Etristo. His involvement was actually very easy to hone on, just because of the mentions of money, power and wanting more, he was a selfish breed of man from the beginning. Also a sexiest might I add. I was curious to his involvement and keenness to wanting to help the Queen Theodosia in her search for a husband to take over Astrea, why not help the Kaiser? 

As for Soren and Blaise, there is a little back and forth with the two of them. I admit though, Blaise annoys me. Not that he is a bad character, but simply at many points I feel he tries to coo or control Theo’s thoughts, to help aid her choices to better his outcome. I also felt that on more than one occasion, he tries to make Theo feel inferior to him as a male counterpart, and yet he seems more of the girl personality in the triangle. Instead of being a meat head, he really does project his emotions on to Theo throughout the novel, it almost incapacitates her in my mind. It really is a game of dick measuring with him, I just don’t care with how he uses the situation at every turn to one up everyone. I still have the theory though too, which does somewhat come to life, the mine-madness and the berserkers, I feel like something is going to happen to Blaise. Then we have Soren. One my delicious Prinz. Honestly Soren is one of my favorite characters. I love his honesty with each situation, both Theo and Dragonsbane. He has this brutal broody persona about himself, yet has this tender, sweet side. That moment between him and Theo when he admits his disdain for the marriage situation – perfection. 

But speaking of Theo, I know, I feel like the triangle, Blaise and Soren took over most of this review, but can you blame me? Totally #TeamSoren here. Seriously though comrades, I cannot describe enough how much I admire Theo’s character. It is so hard in the fantasy world to find a breed of female heroine that is seer goodness on all fronts. She is so powerful yet deliciously flawed, she owns it. She can admit her faults but she also understands her strengths. More importantly I liked how she handled everyone around her. She knows how to play a damsel in more ways than one while having her eye on the prize, she is not only witty but deceitful herself. I like this about her, she allows everyone (especially Dragonsbane) to believe she is this easily manipulated child when really she is reeling with ideas, she sees this bigger picture. Not that she doesn’t mess up or sometimes takes her a bit to catch up, but she is far from stupid, that is something I really love about her character. Another thing that really ties into Soren as well with Theo is that they both relize how much they have grown to think like Kaiser, the thing they both loathe. It really gives me this feels like Sansa – anyone who watches GoT, ever notice how much Sansa somehow become parts of Ceresei? There is a level of growth that I can see Theo being, she may not be the same cruel mindset of Kaiser, but the world she grew up in under his thumb will forever be tainted with that ideal. Bottom line, she knows her strengths, she capitalizes on them and yet she also knows when she needs help. Gah, I could gush about her all day.

And you cannot get away without me speaking about some secondary characters, but can I just say how much I adore Erik? I really hope to get more of his character even in Ember Queen, but I really just love his involvement with the gang. Cress and Kaiser – that scene in the mines – comrades I am still reeling from the chills down my arms. I knew it was going to happen! I knew it damnit. I needed evil Cress and when I say that Lady Smoke lived up to that one specific expectation it was mid blowingly good. Have we finally received that vicious villain-ness in the YA Fantasy world? Why yes, yes we did. It was such a great build up too that did not disappoint, the guilt that was eating Theo up about Cress and to finally see that moment in flesh, it was just phenomenal. 

On my lanta, the world building. Have I mentioned how much I truly love world building? And Lady Smoke keeps adding more worlds that is so vivid I could practically taste it. Sta’Criveran is our main location of the setting for Lady Smoke. Everything from how the castle is set up, the engineering beauties, how the outer lands are set. It is just amazingly developed. Probably my favorite attributes of Theo is shined for this moment, the refugee camp that is in Sta’Criveran, just heartbreaking. This really shines light on how truly generous Theo could become as a queen, how she treats everyone. But also finally seeing that not only Kaiser held the true nature of cruelty to other humans, there is a multitude who are just as cruel and manipulative. On top of the Sta’Criveran, we see the mines. Oh be still my speckled heart. The battle – can I just say, thank you Laura now? Again, the building that lead up to this moment and finally reading how the mines truly were, it was just powerful. 

As you might be able to pick up what I am putting down, I could ramble for hours about how much I truly loved Lady Smoke. Again, it just delivered on my expectations. My theories are growing by the minute and Laura is feeding my mind with all the possibilities, she hasn’t let me down yet. I am beyond elated with how much I am enjoying the Ash Princess series, it has been a while since I have truly found a YA Fantasy that tickles my pickle. Here is hoping Ember Queen is more goodness because comrades, I need it to be good! 

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