Review: White Wolf and the Ash Princess by Tammy Lash

White Wolf and the Ash Princess by Tammy Lash
JD's rating: 3 of 5 bookmarks

Set in 17th century England, White Wolf and the Ash Princess is the tale of 18-year-old Isabelle “Izzy” Gudwyne who has a painful early childhood which haunts her even though she can only recall very brief snippets of memories. The story chronicles her journey of discovery; not only of her past but of who she is. It is narrated in the first-person perspective by the character of Isabelle. The author uses an interesting style of writing that employs the present verb tenses in a way that is a bit unique, resulting in a sort of “living-in-the-moment” feel to the story for the reader although it took me awhile to get adjusted to it. Lash’s prose is quite verbose and it takes a few chapters to get acclimated to her style.

The characters are vivid and lifelike. Lash certainly knows how to write characters that evoke feelings in the reader. Throughout the book, I felt a range of emotions including frustration, compassion, anger, and sadness. The major characters are a very complex lot; no one-dimensional characters here. There are two sides to this coin though. On one, the characters are certainly not flat, they’re interesting and they don’t fall into that “too perfect” category, making them unrelatable which is often a problem first-time writers have. But on the other side, our main characters of Izzy and Jonathan, are so complex that we are continually pulling back layers of the character through the entire book and I didn’t ever really reach a place where I felt like I knew them.

The plot is intricate and well-thought out. There were a few twists in the latter half of the book that were quite nice. The character’s backstories are dripped out in a mostly cogent manner that keeps the story flowing. However, I did have some issues with several of the story elements. First, there we some technological elements that felt very out of place in a work of historical fiction set in the 1600’s. Second, there were a handful of instances of odd word choices that jumped out at me, such as “cute”, “jigging” (referring to dance), and “fan” (as in, to be a fan of), to name a few. While it’s theoretically possible for our characters to have known the word “cute”, it is quite unlikely and that specific usage of “fan” was not even invented until about 200 years after this story takes place.

In addition to the aforementioned anachronisms, the story pacing is almost painfully slow in places. Most notably, is that in the first nearly hundred pages of this 400+ page tome, there is almost no action. There is a little backstory given, but it is mostly an incredibly long and slow-moving story foundation. After you pass that point, things begin to pick up and for the most part maintains a nice pace without too many moments of lagging, but I really think that the beginning could have been heavily edited to get things moving sooner. I fear that many readers will not wish to trudge through that first quarter of the novel to get to the payoff. Also, I think it worth mentioning that once I did reach the end, I found that several details of the main plotline were never fully explained, leaving me puzzling over those elements; and not in a pleasant, “mulling-over-the-developments” sort of way, either. I was a bit miffed that certain things (which shall remain unmentioned so as not to spoil anyone) were not made clear.

On a much more positive note, Lash uses this story as a vehicle to address some very real and important issues and I really appreciated that. There are themes of overcoming a painful past, dealing with guilt and anger, and working through feelings of self-loathing that are woven throughout the tapestry of these vivid characters’ lives and these subjects are handled in a thoughtful and heartfelt way. But it’s not only negative emotions that the author draws upon in this story. There are wonderfully tender moments of redemption, forgiveness, and learning to trust God.

Tammy Lash
Overall, this book has some really wonderful things going for it; great characters, a rich historical backdrop, and well-illustrated themes with beautiful Scripture sprinkled throughout. Based on the Acknowledgements and Author’s Note sections, I can tell that Tammy Lash put her heart and soul into telling this story. It is born from a place of hurt and triumph, tears and laughter. And I respect her for pouring so much of herself into this novel and being vulnerable with certain aspects of her life. Reading her Author’s Note really made me appreciate the book. There were quite a few things which I thought could have been done better, but I have to say that I am not sorry that I read this book. It has not become an instant favorite and I am still undecided whether or not to read the forthcoming sequel, but I am glad I read this one. And I will probably pick it up again at some point and re-read at least the latter half. I would recommend this for mid-teens and up. There was not a single thing that I thought was inappropriate, in terms of content.

Tammy Lash's Bio
Tammy lives in Lower Michigan with her husband and her three children. Izzy's home in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (Munising) is where she and her family enjoy exploring. Tammy enjoys hiking, kayaking, beach wandering, "hunting" for birch bark and hopes to someday find a porcupine quill. White Wolf and the Ash Princess is her first novel. She is published in Keys for Kids and has been in children's ministry for over twenty years.

Learn more about Tammy on her website.

J.D. Sutter is the producer and host of the Bookworm Banquet podcast and editor of the blog. He is the founder of Porchlight Family Media.

Disclosure: The author provided us with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

J.D. Sutter

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