12 May, 2020

[Review] Ember Queen by Laura Sebastian

39216077. sx318 Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series: Ash Princess Trilogy
Release Date: 4 February, 2020
Publisher: Listening Library/Delacourte Press
Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Epic Fantasy/Girls & Women Fiction/Fantasy Romance
ISBN: 9781524767143
Edition: Audiobook (also available in Kindle and Hardback)
Rating: ★★★★
Review Written: 29 April, 2020
Summary: Princess Theodosia was a prisoner in her own country for a decade. Renamed the Ash Princess, she endured relentless abuse and ridicule from the Kaiser and his court. But though she wore a crown of ashes, there is fire in Theo's blood. As the rightful heir to the Astrean crown, it runs in her veins. And if she learned nothing else from her mother, she learned that a Queen never cowers. Now free, with a misfit army of rebels to back her, Theo must liberate her enslaved people and face a terrifying new enemy: the new Kaiserin, imbued with a magic no one understands, the Kaiserin is determined to burn down anyone and everything in her way. The Kaiserin's strange power is growing stronger, and with Prinz Søren as her hostage, there is more at stake than ever. Theo must learn to embrace her own power if she has any hope of standing against the girl she once called her heart's sister.

See more by Laura Sebastian at her Website.
Perhaps the most complex of the Ash Princess trilogy, Ember Queen brings resolution to the raging war for the country of Astrea and the ultimate victor. Readers are reunited with Theo as she returns from the Fire Mines, stronger than she was before, but still nowhere near the strength of Crescentia.

Struggling to remember and come to terms with what she saw in the Fire Mines, Theo knows her time is growing short in being able to stay ahead of the Kaiserin. With a weak plan of how to liberate the mines and in what order, the rebellion following Theodosia heads for the water mine with a handful of Fire Guardians and several berserkers of various elements. Intercepting a message to learn that Cress is on her way to the Water Mine to meet with representatives from Stra'Crivero, Theo is forced to find a way to trick Cress into believing the mine is the way it's supposed to be. Disguised as Princess Amiza of Sta'Crivero, Theodosia learns that Cress is working on creating an army of women like her, women who have taken the Encatrio and survived.

Narrowly pulling off the illusion that the camp is still running as it's supposed to, and having traded Crescentia's mother and a disguised water beserker named Laius for Erik and Søren; Theo is forced to decide the next course of action. Do they try to head for the Air Mines, which is the closest in terms of distance, but also the one with the least cover, or the Earth Mines which are farther but would offer stronger fighters? Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Theo decides they must go for the air to gain healers, which requires creating a treaty with a Kalovaxian Lord and Lady.

Throughout the book, Sebastian keeps the suspense and mystery of who will win this epic battle for the fate of Astrea. I cried near the end, despite knowing that the twist was the only way that Astrea (and Theo) would survive. In the end, I'm sad to leave behind the Ash Princess trilogy and hope that Sebastian will return to this world at some point to flesh-out the other cultures that were mentioned throughout the books. I look forward to seeing what comes next for Sebastian in terms of books.

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