Ash by Malinda Lo
Reading level: YA
Hardcover: 264 pages
Genre: LGBT Fantasy Retelling
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: September 1, 2009
Source: Personal Shelf
Reviewed by: Lili
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.
When 2013 finally began, I made a promise to myself that while I want to continue to acquire new books, I will also put forth a huge effort to read the books that have been on my shelves for a while. ASH is one of the first of many of those books. What originally drew me to it was that this book is a Cinderella retelling that involves both humans and fairies, but to make it stand out even more, it’s also an LGBT retelling in the young adult genre. Such a thing is hard to come by. For me, such a thing isn’t bothersome either. In truth, I’ve grown up since childhood with a best friend that came out to me several years ago as a lesbian, and as an open supporter of gay rights I was really excited to delve into this one. But at the same time, I acknowledge that such a thing can make many people uncomfortable, so I want to start off by saying that while there is a certain relationship with a male fairy in this one, there is also a relationship with a female huntress. And, yes, they do kiss, just as anyone in a relationship would, but it happens maybe once or twice and is not the least bit graphic, so there shouldn’t be any problems if you don’t mind quick kisses in novels. If such a thing bothers you, turn back now. If it doesn’t, be aware that I still wouldn’t recommend this retelling to younger young adults because they may not fully grasp concepts relating to the LGBT community just yet.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I want to get into this review.
I applaud Lo for taking on such a complicated tale that will garner both love and dislike. As for me, I’m in like with it. I enjoyed the tale and the fact that it was a light, quick read that told a unique story that still stayed somewhat true to the Cinderella fairytale that I grew up with as a child. I really enjoyed Sidhean’s complexity and how he so desperately wanted to get away from the darkness of his world and temporarily enter Ash’s reality of our world. I also enjoyed how this story painted fairies–scarily beautiful, yes, but they were creepy and bloodthirsty. Their skin was so light that it clearly stretched over bones, yet they radiated this allure that draws you to them. These are the types of fairies I love–the dark, dangerous kinds that make for a twisted story.
At times, I did struggle with Lo’s writing. While I was given huge opportunities to feel for Ash and understand her grief over the passing of both of her birth parents, I felt detached from her other times. The descriptions in this one, at times, were simply too long. While I found the Wood and the secret fairy places and paths that were hidden within it fascinating, the descriptions dragged on so much that I often found myself disinterested until I was able to get back to a passage that wasn’t all description of useless detail.
All in all, I think this book is the perfect rainy day read. Though it has a love triangle, it’s executed well since both love interests come from different worlds that entrance Ash. And she’s never whining about the other when with one of them. Ash has a good head on her shoulders for the most part, and though you want to shake her at times, it’s easy to read her story. Lo is a gifted writer that knows how to touch sensitive subjects in a respectable manner. I look forward to checking out her other works in the future, though I am no extreme hurry to do so. While I did find this book enjoyable and it did garner a positive reaction from me, I can’t see it blew me away the way I was hoping it would.