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.
Lady Smoke picks up right where Ash Princess left off, Theo and her guards on the ship of the elusive pirate Dragonsbane, with Prinz Soren as their prisoner. I couldn’t have imagined how I expected this sequel to go, but it was nothing like this (which is a good thing). I think I might have actually enjoyed this book more than the first one.
In this book we get to see Theo in a new light as she learns to live outside of the Kaiser’s grip. As she learns to become her true self, she wonders if those ten years as the Kaiser’s prisoner have shaped her into a leader that she doesn’t want to be, as she prefers to be more like how she remembers her mother, the Queen of Peace. She comes to realize, though, that this world is much different than the one her mother was a ruler in, and so Theo is going to have to be a different queen than her mother was.
“You are the Queen of Flame and Fury, Theodosia, and you will set their world on fire.”
In order for Theo to begin to make a plan to take her country back, she needs to form at least one alliance with a country that has a sufficient army. Dragonsbane has taken care of the start of the process, which leads the group to seek refuge in, and it’s there were we see how politics play heavily when countries need help from others. In order to form an alliance, Theo finds that she is being “auctioned off” to eligible rulers from other countries in order to obtain an army. However, Theo has no interest in marriage (as Astrea has always been ruled by a matriarch) so she works to form a plan with her guards – Blaise, Heron, and Artemisia – as well as Soren to obtain an army without being married off.
“As women, we must have our weapons in this world, whether they’re our minds or our fists or our wiles or our tears.”
There are some twists that take place in this story that definitely kept me on edge to the point where I found it hard to stop reading. It was also enjoyable to see these characters grow in different ways – I especially enjoyed seeing Theo’s guards learn to work with and trust Soren and Erik, as well as Artemisia’s growing friendship with Theo. I can’t say that I care for the love triangle that Theo is caught between, because she is a Queen dammit, and does not need a man in her life.
There’s a lot more that I loved about this book, but I don’t think I could do it justice. In any case, I’m very excited to read the third and final book of this series, Ember Queen, and am looking forward to Theo taking back her country and destroying the Kalovaxian Empire in the process.
Rating: 5/5 stars