Thank you to Delacorte Books for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!
On Match 19th I will be part of the Ember Queen book tour hosted by The Fantastic Flying Book Club! Since I’d never read this series before, Delacorte Books was so sweet in sending me the first two books. Leading up to the tour date and Review of Ember Queen, I will be posting my reviews on the Ash Princess and Lady Smoke. Spoiler I loved them!
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.
After her escape from Astrea, Theo and her shadows Blaise, Heron and Art are now passengers aboard her aunts’ ship with Soren as their prisoner. Their goal now is to find allies with large armies to aid them in their quest to take back Astrea from the Kaiser. The best way to achieve this goal though is for Theo to marry, something an Astrean queen has never done. Lines are drawn and pride might just get in the way of success.
Lady Smoke was a great follow up to Ash Princess. I was worried I would be disappointed in it because of how amazing I found the first book to be, but it held its own and didn’t disappoint. While Ash Princess was about Theo reclaiming her identity and her power, Lady Smoke was about keeping it and making decisions that put her people before her own pride and wants.
While in Ash Princess we see Theo try to come to terms with every side of herself (Thora, Theo, and Queen Theodosia), in this book we have Queen Theodosia stepping up her game and owning her power and choices. At times she can still be the 16 year old Theo, but it loved watching her step up and take on more responsibility. She’s not just chasing after the boys or content to be owned. She’s fierce and never apologizes for doing what she thinks is right, which can be hard because besides her Shadows everyone else is much older and more skilled at playing the court games.
While we get to see Theo thrive we also get to know Blaise, Art, Heron and Soren more while also seeing how this war is shaping them. I liked that we got more of their backgrounds and to learn their regrets and shortcomings. It just made me love them all the more because they were just more real and we get to see them as teens struggling with the weight of this uprising. They’re all strong people who challenge Theo and make her all the better for it.
Soren surprised me from day one in this series. I expected this pompous prince who said he wanted change but wasn’t willing to put in the work. I was so wrong about him. He’s basically the most giant cinnamon roll who is always willing to put others before himself and be the punching bag for every wrongdoing his father has every committed. I wanted him to stand up for himself but I understand his regret at his actions in past years and I think he is redeemable, especially since he was never truly a monster to begin with.
While I enjoyed this book there were a couple things I disliked about it; the bachelor-like marriage shenanigan and the love triangle.
The marriage nonsense went on for way too long. Theo wasn’t considering it and it felt like something to just keep the plot moving and fill the time between Theo helping the refugee and strategizing how to get her country back. No one took it seriously and I wish more time had been dedicated to the ending rather than that.
The love triangle was something I touched on in my last review but didn’t want to give too much away about. Luckily, it’s not a major part of the story and just fades into the background. It’s not a triangle though and I just wish it was gone. Soren is endgame I’m calling it now. Blaise is just her childhood friend who she would have married if the siege had never happened. At this point is just feels forced. Romance isn’t even crossing Theo’s mind at this point in the game. She is all about her people and her country which like thank goodness. The triangle feels just tossed in. Even when she’s describing her interactions with the guys and her motivations of loving them it’s very obvious who she truly loves. I’ll be surprised if this ends any other way.
Overall Lady Smoke was a great follow up to Ash Princess, even if it does have it’s flaws. Theo is the baddest bit** and a fierce Queen who isn’t afraid to make the tough calls. I’m looking forward to Ember Queen and I’m really hoping this trilogy ends strong with Theo on the throne and, like her mother, without a king by her side.