Title: Lady Smoke
Author: Laura Sebastian
Series: Ash Princess #2
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: February 5th, 2019 (Delacorte Press)
Synopsis: 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.
“But you are the Queen of Flame and Fury, Theodosia,
and you will set their world on fire.”
Theodosia has finally escaped the Kaiser’s clutches and taken back her rightful title as Queen of Astrea. Now she needs to find a way to take back her throne and her country for her people. Only, she needs an army large and strong enough to face the Kalovaxians. Along with Dragonsbane, Theo journeys to the land of Sta’Crivero, where she meets with the many suitors who come to vie for her hand in exchange for providing an army to retake Astrea. Though Dragonsbane is her own aunt, Theo realizes she can’t really trust anyone apart from herself and her Shadows – and Soren, who goes from hostage to trusted advisor after a calculated play to win everyone over.
Now if you’ve read my review for Ash Princess, you’ll remember that though I liked the story, I had a lot of complaints about Theo as a character. Well, that has definitely changed with this book. With the deeper insight into Theo’s thoughts, particularly the moments when she considers just how much effect a lifetime under the Kaiser’s thumb has had on her own personality and worries that she might become like him. Theo is becoming a much more realistic, complex character and her inner thoughts and dialogue reflect that, the portrayal much truer to a sixteen year old striving to reclaim her throne. But most important is that she is finally starting to understand that everything comes at a price, and to take back Astrea there will definitely be a cost.
The magic system was much more interesting this time around, especially during that battle at the end. With all this action, the romance was much less prominent, and I could easily ignore the developing love triangle – though it felt more like a game that Theo was playing. The writing itself was also much better than Ash Princess and the story felt a lot more engaging this time around.
On the downside: the whole plotline regarding Theo’s suitors and the necessity of her needing to marry to acquire an army is all well and good. It makes sense from a political standpoint, and we get to see Theo putting her years in the Kalovaxian court to good use – but it was way too dragged out. There were all these people from the neighbouring kingdoms and world-building wise, it was great to learn about these other places, but with the way the book ended, atleast from what I see right now, this whole plotline just turned redundant because it doesn’t appear that we’ll see these characters again immediately. Then again, I could be wrong and we might be in for something completely unexpected in Ember Queen.
Throughout the book, we get a lot of secondhand news of what has happened in the Kaiser’s court following Theo and Soren’s flight in bits and pieces, but it wasn’t nearly enough to prepare me for that explosive ending! As Theo suspected, Crescentia’s encounter with Encantrio has changed her and she is definitely out for revenge. For the short time Cress appeared in this book, she certainly did make an impression!
This was a fast paced adventure with a dash of mystery and some excellent character development. Overall, Lady Smoke is a wonderful sequel to Ash Princess, hinting at an exciting end for the finale in the trilogy.