This is a spoiler free review.
Written by Malinda Lo
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/LGBT
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 1, 2009
Places to Get this Book: Amazon Barnes and Noble Book Depository
Recommended Age: 13 and up!
In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.
I have been recommended this book for so many years that it was hard for me to not pick it up so I checked it out a couple weeks ago from my library and I was relatively pleased with what I got. This is an LGBT retelling of Cinderella but it is only prominent in the last fourth of the book.
The cover is cute and represents the book fairly well. I like how she is on the forest floor in a tattered dress which represents how she often goes to the forest and her stepmother + sisters don’t treat her well so she can’t have new clothes. I think the font is also really pretty.
I was a little bit confused with the world-building which is why it lost a little bit of the points that it originally would have gained. There were fairies and that kind of lore and yet, I was confused as to the point of it entering the book at all.
Then there are the characters.
Contrary to what some reviewers previously said, I could connect with Ash. I felt her pain as she lay on the hard ground at night, exhausted after a day of work. However, she wasn’t really a strong female heroine which is what I really wanted/needed her to be. She is in pain after her mother abruptly dies, soon followed by her father and she has no one on her side so most of the time she is heading out into the woods looking for fairies which is not something you do if you want to live, honestly. She isn’t weak, but she is more an everyday girl, even if she isn’t living in the modern world.
If I’m being honest, I wasn’t too invested in Kaisa. That was mostly because we really didn’t get to see her that much so I wasn’t really sure what she was like. She seemed to honestly care about Ash, and that’s really all that matters. Kaisa is the King’s huntress and Ash stumbles upon her on one of her hunts which I thought was a good introduction rather than meeting at a ball.
Ash questions whether she really has a family in her stepmother and stepsisters after her parents pass away. She really doesn’t have anyone to turn to, what with her new step-family treating her like she is below them. Family and friendship is a big thing that is questioned in this book.
You all know the original story of Cinderella. The one where Cinderella’s father dies and she is left in the ‘care’ of her stepmother and stepsisters who are evil and make her cook and clean for them? Well that is how this story starts off but then the similarities end. There are balls but she doesn’t attend all of them and she most certainly does not lose a shoe inducing the prince to come after her. Instead we have the introduction of the King’s huntress whom Ash develops a strong friendship with. There are also fairies and lore which sweep Ash in. There isn’t a lot of battling which is what I thought would have to happen due to there being a strong female but that is not the case and I am actually proud.
Kaisa and Ash were the main romantic couple in this book, though their romance blossomed rather late in the story. Ash doesn’t have time to fantasize over having any romantic attachments whatsoever, due to her being a maid in her step-family’s household. Her sexuality is also heavily closeted and we don’t really know how she feels towards anyone. Even when the two characters meet, it is more of a friendship that is formed, rather than a relationship.
Nevertheless, the relationship was sweet and wasn’t a big thing which was a little bit refreshing to see as in fantasy’s the relationship is usually the main focus of the story, which makes it veer away from the actual occurrences.
The writing was eloquent and mostly description and internal thoughts and dialogue rather than actual dialogue of characters interacting and yet it was a breath of fresh air in that respect.
This book is something that I would recommend to all fans of fairy tales, even though the book doesn’t much focus on the original Cinderella tale, it will still captivate lovers of the original tale. There is a cute, very slow burning romance, eloquent writing and a lovely, relatable main character, Ash.
Quotes from the Book:
“You shall not discover the truth being being blinded to faith.”
“Fear will teach you where to be careful.”
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Crown