Sunday, 21 August 2011

Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo
First published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in 2009 (this edition by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in 2010)

Description (from Goodreads)

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.

My thoughts
Ash is a retelling of the story of Cinderella, with a very very important twist; the main character, instead of falling in love with some sort of prince, falls in love with the King's Huntress. And therein lies the problem, from what I've gathered. Lots of people on Goodreads seemed to have had a problem with 'Cinderella' being in a lesbian relationship. I will admit to thinking it is rather weird, but then again, Ash is a retelling. Which means that Malinda Lo has used a well known fairy tale (and some things that happen in it) as a backdrop in which to set her own story. In my opinion, the point of retellings is telling a well known story in a different way. If you just say the same things with different words, then it's not a different story. In this, the author has succeeded.

I'm not going to go into any details about the story, as we all know what happens to Cinderella in the original fairy tale. Ash follows approximately the same pattern. Ash's mother dies and her father remarries to a woman who already has two daughters. Then her father also dies and Ash is forced to become a servant for her stepmother and stepsisters. And the prince is also looking for a wife (and the stepsisters are vying for his attention). But there are some very important changes. First of all, the addition of the King's Huntress, Kaisa, a character who has a rather elevated position in the King's court. And secondly, the addition of actual fairies and quite a bit of fairy lore in the story.

The actual writing is very fairytale-like. There is a wonderful choice of words and a very atmospheric portrayal of both the world everything happens in, as well as the characters. The characters are well developed (though not extremely so) and the story flows very well. I just kept reading and reading, until, at some point, I realised I had read 100 pages or so. And one of the things that I liked the most (though it is rather superficial) was the play on the name of the main character. Ash is really short for Aisling, but I liked how it kind-of has the same meaning as Cinderella (as in ashes/cinders). That's just the way I saw it.

As for the main characters, Ash is a rather complicated character; she is timid at first, clinging onto everything she knows from her past in an attempt to keep going in her present circumstances, but, as the story progresses, grows into herself. Kaisa seemed a little distant at all times, but I couldn't really connect with her, though she was likeable enough. As for Sidhean (the fairy), he was rather creepy and possessive for the most part, but he really did help Ash when she needed him, which made him ok.

So, all in all, Ash is definitely a story worth reading. It is very enjoyable, very well written and rather different, which is also what makes it unique. And it really shouldn't be thought of as a lesbian Cinderella retelling, because it is much more than that; it is a story in its own right.

Rating: 7/10

Malinda Lo is a graduate of Harvard and Stanford Universities and is the former managing director of, an entertainment news site for lesbian and bisexual women. Ash was her debut novel, published in 2009, but since then, she has also published Huntress, the prequel to Ash.

You can find out more about Malinda Lo and her books on her official website.

Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011

1 comment:

  1. I need to read Ash soon. Hopefully I'll find time for it this year.

    I haven't read too many retellings but I would like to read more soon and Ash doesn't seem to be a bad book to start from.


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