Monday, February 25, 2019

Book Review: Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian

Lady Smoke by Laura Sebastian
Author: Laura Sebastian
Series: Ash Princess Trilogy #2
Audience:  Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: February 5th 2019
My Rating: 4 Cups
Source: Publisher
Blurb (from Goodreads):
The 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
*Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. This does not influence my rating or the content of my review in any way.

**Disclaimer: This book contains graphic scenes of violence and death.

I read this book during January's edition of 24in48 readathon. This has sort of become a tradition for me, since I also read Ash Princess during last year's 24in48 readathon. I was very surprised by this book, if I'm honest. I don't know what I was expecting, but I definitely wasn't expecting what went down in this book.

Lady Smoke picks up right where Ash Princess left off, with Theo, her Shadows and Prinz Soren on Dragonsbane ship, trying to find some way to outsmart Soren's dad. There's a lot of twists and turns in this book that I didn't see coming, and a few things I may have anticipated but still enjoyed.

One thing that stood out to me in this book was the fact that we get to see Soren not only as a potential love interest for Theo, but also as the person that led his men into battle against innocent people, just because his father wanted to rule the world by any means necessary, but mostly by force. I liked the way the subject was dealt with, and also the fact that I never felt pressured to see him one way or another. There wasn't a time when I felt that his sins were forgotten, nor that he was seen as a big bad entirely. I liked that a lot, and it's a theme that was present with Theo in Ash Princess. Is Soren just as bad as his father, or is Soren just a symptom of his father's reign? Personally I don't feel comfortable saying one over the other, because while he led his men into battle and he ordered the death of so many innocent people, I can't ignore the fact that he was raised by a power hungry, greedy man that wanted to rule the world, and that he couldn't do anything short of either defecting or trying to dethrone his father, in which case Soren probably would have ended up being killed at the order of his father. So while I do agree that Soren did terrible things, I can't really disregard the fact that he was a pawn and a puppet for his father's plans, just like I can't ignore the fact that he was raised to be in the military, where direct orders are obeyed without question.

The same theme of identity and questioning one's character is present in other characters, mostly Dragonsbane and Blaise. I never could quite figure out Theo's aunt, just like I never could figure out if Blaise was truly on the verge of unraveling or if there was something more that was happening to him. Is Dragonsbane trying to get rid of Theo and become queen of Astrea, or is she trying to help out Theo, she's just using whatever means necessary to do so? Is Blaise losing his grip on his powers and becoming more and more lost to it, or can he be fixed? So that theme is still there in this book, and I hope it will be present in the last book of the trilogy as well.

The book had some surprises I didn't anticipate, although looking back I probably should have. There needs to be a balance in everything, and this book balanced things out for Theo, even if this means she may end up in a lot of danger in the next book.

The pacing of the book as rather slow for about a half of this book, and then it picked up quite nicely. I would have wanted for the book to be a little more fast-paced, but I was still able to enjoy it. There were a few things I expected to see happen and I truly liked seeing them close to what I imagined.

All in all, I really enjoyed this second installment in the Ash Princess trilogy and I am very impatiently looking forward to see how it all ends.

4 Cups rating @ Ruby's Books

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