are the most dangerous
of them all.”
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
From GoodReads: 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.
Character Development: ★★★★★
“This throne is mine“
the writing: ★★★★★
Since I first picked up Ash Princess, I was immediately taken by Sebastian’s writing. Through out the entire trilogy, my opinion has never changed. The writing in this story has been engaging, captivating, and fluid. While not lyrical, Sebastian’s writing is quotable and incredibly emotional.
The world building continued throughout the third installment, still constructing elaborate locales, terrifying deeps, and beautiful landscapes.
There isn’t much to say about her writing that I haven’t already said in previous reviews, so if you haven’t read Ash Princess, go check out my spoiler free review there with a more in depth discussion of her writing.
the plot: ★★★★
The story opens as if no time as passed for Theo, but the outside/above mine? world has gone on for several months. There are instantly new characters, but the plot remains the same from the last quarter of Lady Smoke.
While I did love this conclusion, it wasn’t a new concept. The novel had all the main components: high stakes, 2 boys vying for her, loss, triumph and a battle that ended it all. You know how it will end going into the novel, but it’s more the how and who will survive it type of story.
Most of the plot was pretty consistent with a trilogy finale novel but there were some outright O.M.G. moments. Through out the entire journey from the mines to the capital, Theo fights tooth and nail to make her progress, even when running into totally sideways situations.
I would venture to say that the novel is not so much plot driven, though there is a lot going on in this novel, as it character driven. The choices the characters are forced to make shape them and the way the events unfold -not the other way around. I’m honestly not sure if the main character went through a significant arc, or if she was just inconsistent and unreliable.
“and mine alone”
the characters: ★★★★★
Theodosia Eirene Houzzara is, in fact, my favorite YA Queen. Her stubbornness, loyalty, and love for her people is fierce as fire. She is a stunningly complex character, and her journey from scared isolated princess captured to the Queen of Flame and Fury was magical.
That’s not to say that Theo doesn’t make some stupid decisions – because she definitely has. Her strengths at times become just as harmful as they are helpful, leading her to cast aside people that should have been focused on a bit more, and bold face lie to people she considered dear to her.
Artemesia is truly the scene stealer for me. Theo may be my favorite queen, but Artemesia is the peanut to my butter. Her loyalty to Theo is deeper than her love for her country – deeper than the familial bond that binds them. I really began to identify her hair with her personality – cold, distant, and beautiful blue, yet gorgeous, faithful, and fierce.
One of the things I really loved – more so connected with – was the tiny little clues to Art’s inner workings, her heart, and her sexuality. I loved how subtle each of these parts of her personality are.
A break out that I found I couldn’t get enough of was the snarky, head strong Maile. She is incredibly self sufficent and confident in her decisions, whether they are good decisions or not. I found it interesting that even though Theo seemed to despise her, she constantly agreed with her opinions. I will admit, I was on Team Maile as soon as I realized she was on team LGBTQ. LOL. I can’t just leave my girl hanging like that!
The BBY BOi in the book that I always felt like cradling was Heron. Heron really opened himself up in this novel, letting us see his hurt and how he copes with it (Or doesn’t cope, -.-) Heron has long been close to my heart, his tenderness, shyness and desperation to feel again is something that so many people can relate to after the loss of a loved one. His attachment to his friends is utterly stunning and something I treasure in a friend – fictional or otherwise.
I know I know, I haven’t talked about either of the lovers yet. I was set in my team decision from early on, but I really wasn’t sure which way Theo would bend.
I’ve been on Team Soren from the moment he came onto the scene in Ash Princess. I feel like his story was more of accepting who he was, rather than just as a love interest. His ability to stand up to his father, protect Theo, and sacrifice for HER country makes him the all around winner in my eyes. <3
My heart hurts any time I think of Blaise, but … not that much. My feelings towards Blaise fluctuated so much during the course of this trilogy that it’s truly hard to pin down a specific emotion or fondness for him.
Literally — I adored him in Ash Princess, LOATHED him in Lady Smoke, and felt my heart both harden and soften for him during Ember Queen.
His loyalty to Theo was heartwarming at first but it grew to be a dangerous obsession. He puts himself in harms way in the name of saving/protecting her or Astrea, even though he was clearly suffering from some sort of hero syndrome. While everyone suspects it is Mine Madness, no one has the balls to say this – and that issue boils over into the plot line of Ember Queen. Some may say that the hero syndrome WAS the mine madness in action, but I took from his actions that his heroics were more to prove that he did NOT have any kind of madness.
I felt like this was one of those characters that you could really love – if he didn’t do such stupid shit.
Over all, I really felt like this was a solid ending to Theo’s (and Art, Heron, and Dragon’s Bane’s) story. There were things that I wish we would have explored more, but the character’s came full circle and the story ended in a way that was believable (for her world) and satisfying.
After finishing this trilogy, I’ve decided to do a complete reread of them with annotations to see if my feelings stay the same the second time through, and to see if I can pick up on any clues that I may have missed early on.
I will do a full review of both Ash Princess & Lady Smoke in the near future, so keep an eye out!
“…and I am no longer afraid of it.”
From a surprisingly startling beginning to the heart breaking ending, Ember Queen kept me engaged and entertained. Theo remains at the top of my list for YA Queen’s because of her stubborn determination, loyalty to those she loves, and pure cunning in outwitting her opponents.
Sebastian surely shows you that wars are not always won on the battlefield.
About the Author:
I write YA books and I’m also entrusted with taking care of other people’s children. I write books about girls who are strong in all different ways, usually with a healthy dollop of magic and a few dragons.
I live in NYC with my extraordinarily fluffy dog, Neville.