Title: Ember Queen
Series: Ash Princess #3
Author: Laura Sebastian
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: February 4th, 2020 (Delacorte Books for Young Readers)
Synopsis: 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.
Theo has survived her experience in the Fire Mine and come out with new abilities that may be her only hope against Crescentia, now the Kaiserin, who also holds Prinz Søren hostage. Her main advantage now is that Cress believes her to be dead, and Theo can plan her next steps to liberate her people in this brief reprieve. Meanwhile in the capital, Cress may have the throne, but there are still many among the Kalovaxians who are of the opinion that Søren is the true heir and are not truly loyal to her – only fearful of her power.
I’ve been waiting for this book ever since I binge read the first two early last year, and it certainly lived up to expectations! Ember Queen maintains the standard set by Lady Smoke especially in terms of character development, and I particularly enjoyed Theo’s character arc. Despite everything Cress has done, Theo still struggles to confront the girl she once called her heart’s sister and I’m glad this wasn’t glossed over. It’s also nice that her new abilities with fire weren’t used as a deus-ex-machina and even better that she had to work for it, that it didn’t come to her easily. The shared dreams were an interesting addition too. Not only was it a good way for me as a reader to keep up with what is happening in the capital, but it also provides insight into Cress’ state of mind. Ember Queen is very much Theo and Cress’ book, portraying the somewhat parallel journeys in learning to be leaders, but where Theo is getting stronger by the day as she is growing into her destined role as queen, Cress on the other hand, is pretty much going downhill.
I also liked how the sort of developing love triangle was resolved without too much drama and didn’t overshadow the main plot. As I predicted in my review for the previous book however, the plot of Lady Smoke with the suitors, by and by large, was pretty redundant and Sta’Crivero was merely a minor roadblock in Theo’s journey to the throne in this book as none of the characters are even on page. The challenge from that aspect was pretty easily dealt with, though I have to say, it was a rather ingenious and bold plan that Theo and company came up with. Also, where this story excels in character building and plot execution, the actual war scenes were kind of lacklustre – a bit of a letdown, since I was hoping to see more exciting and in depth scenes involving magic.
Ember Queen is a wonderful conclusion to this series and a satisfying end to Theodosia’s story. The epilogue in particular was a powerful scene that shows just how far Theo has come. I wasn’t especially impressed with Ash Princess, but overall, this series really picked up over the second and third books and it turned out to be an entertaining read and definitely worth a try for fantasy fans.