Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)'s Reviews > Kingdom of Ashes

Kingdom of Ashes by Rhiannon Thomas
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really liked it
bookshelves: arc

See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was an ARC I got from YA Books Central for review.

Diversity Rating: NA (admittedly because I can't remember)

Y’all know I’m all about feminism and not all that here for fantasy. For some reason, the two clash more often than I’d like thanks to copy-of-a-copy fantasies that overdo it on the patriarchies (see: Defy by Sara B. Larson, The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons) and I’d rather not choose. WHY NOT BOTH FEMINISM AND ORIGINAL FANTASY?

Well, A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thomas gave me both last year and I loved every page of it. Of course I’d hunt down a copy of the sequel! (aka I got one from my lovely friend Dahlia and then ended up with a second copy from YA Books Central.) The more plot-driven, discovering-the-truth nature of Kingdom of Ashes will do a great deal for readers who weren’t fans of the character-driven first book. Plus there are dragons.

They aren’t like this one getting cuddled, though. These dragons have reduced an entire kingdom to a single city.

The first time around, Aurora was a very passive character as she tried to operate within her role of Prophesied Princess and chafed in it, ultimately leading to the royal disaster of a wedding that was the climax of A Wicked Thing. Now Aurora leads the way in almost every respect. She actively seeks out rebel Tristan when she hears he’s in the city, pursues her magical abilities herself, and generally comes into her own fully. Romance is on the backburner now; possibilities with Tristan and Rodric all but eliminated, she develops a tame slow-burn relationship with Finnegan.

Kingdom of Ashes is feminist fantasy with equal emphasis on both parts. You get your dragons (yes, dragons, and Aurora gets along with them very well) and political intrigue, but you also get a strongly written heroine in Aurora, whose strength is far more mental than physical. She’s not the princess who will take up a sword and charge into battle herself; she’s the strategist. There’s also the fun metaphor of Aurora and her magic giving her the ability to burn everything down and start over again in a kingdom of ashes. (Ba-dum tsss.) Is “burn it down and try again” not the frustrated feminist’s mantra? Aurora is our kindred spirit!

I want to go into the novel’s themes of powerful women and what the world makes of them as well as the nature of magic, but it spoils so many things to even attempt to. One theme I can go into: who lives, who dies, who tells your stoooooooory. Fellow fans of Hamilton rejoice because that is a central theme as Aurora digs deeper into the story ascribed to her as she slept like the dead in addition to the stories she thought she knew about others.

Admittedly, Kingdom of Ashes is a mild step down from A Wicked Thing in terms of quality. One of the book’s largest twists is very predictable, and Finnegan’s feelings for Aurora are swept aside by both Aurora and the narrative. A woman isn’t required to consider another man’s feelings for her, but he makes them so clear that it would have been nice to see the two have a healthy conversation in order to keep love from getting in the way while they’re essentially planning a war against Aurora’s kingdom and the man who stole her throne. Their future as a couple is bright at the end of the novel and yet I am still left wanting.

This is the feminist YA fantasy you’ve been looking for and you won’t have to worry for a second about a Superpatriarchy ruining your fun. I love these books so much that I went out of my way to purchase them at my local bookstore! In case you’re interested, Freeform/ABC Family is also developing a television series based on these books too! The working title After is underwhelming, but if it makes it to air, I’m so there. SO THERE. The Wicked Thing duology comes Paige-approved and I hope you’ll check it out.
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Reading Progress

June 24, 2015 – Shelved
June 24, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
November 5, 2015 – Shelved as: own
February 26, 2016 – Started Reading
February 26, 2016 –
page 219
59.51% "I actually started this yesterday and read all 219 pages yesterday. It put me back in a reading mood! Huzzah! The slow-burn romance between Aurora and Finnegan is working for me and the more plot-driven nature of this book works well. Also, I love that this feminist fantasy novel gives its heroine fire magic considering my motto as a feminist is "burn it all down and try again." SHE CAN ACTUALLY DO THAT."
February 29, 2016 – Shelved as: arc
February 29, 2016 – Finished Reading

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Rebecca Glad you enjoyed the sequel. I added these to my TBR after your wonderful review of A Wicked Thing sold me on it. I finished reading #1 yesterday and I really enjoyed it. Not my usual read at all, but I'm so glad I picked it up. I'm currently onto Kingdom of Ashes and just wanted to say thanks for sharing your thoughts because it's what ultimately lead me to pick these up! Now I'm off to read :)

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