Modern Fantasy · Review · Young Adult

Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda LoPublisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pub. Date: 2009

Genres: Modern Fantasy, YA

Pages: 284

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

In a world where fairy presence is disappearing  and skepticism about fairies sweeps the land, the old ways are kept only in villages close to the Wood where fairy tales are reality. In the wake of her parents’ deaths, Ash becomes her cruel stepmother’s maid in the Royal City. Only her mother’s fairy tales and her dreams of fairies stealing her away give her joy. When she meets a fairy, she thinks her dreams will come true. Then she meets the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, and she starts to fall in love with the huntress. She learns to hunt with Kaisa. The fairy claims she is his, so will she follow the figure of her dreams or follow her current love interest? Ash, by Malinda Lo, is a lesbian retelling of Cinderella that features the fairies of lore.

I saw this ebook on OverDrive a few months ago, but I did not have the time to read it until now. I read it in one day, which was a nice change of pace for me. I liked the story, but I don’t care to own it now.

Most events seem to happen to Ash (and others) as if she has no power in the situation itself. I understand that as a little girl she had less power, but as a teenager and adult, things keep happening to her. She hardly acts on her environment. This is too plot-driven for my tastes.

Ash is the only developed character, the only one who changes. Clara, Ash’s younger step-sister, is not evil and shallow like her mother and biological sister, which comes close to one of the Disney Cinderella sequels. She is hardly a main character and does not change. Kaisa is a believable huntress, but she does not act on the situation with Ash. She develops a little through the stories they share with each other and through the hunting trips; these are not enough for me to say that she changes. Sidhean, the fairy Ash meets, develops some beyond the human thoughts of fairies in this book. He is not static, but his character was inconsistent toward the end.

The love triangle was annoying. Ash seemed to have some feelings toward the fairy, and he certainly had feelings for her. Lo avoided romanticizing the abusive relationship, but it still felt like Ash loved the fairy for a good portion of the book. I liked Ash and Kaisa’s relationship, but I wish Kaisa had shown she wanted it more. This love triangle is not the type where the two love interests hate each other and actively try to make the common denominator choose. Ash reached a point where she liked both equally, and I like that it was Ash making decisions about it. It was sad to me that neither interest really seemed invested in her choice even though they did not know about each other. Love triangles aren’t inherently bad, but I have read enough of them that they annoy me now.

The ending was confusing because it seemed to wrap everything up with a little bow when that did not feel like a good response to everything that has happened. It seemed too simple and quick a fix for the final problem of the story, and I expected the person involved in that resolution to have fought back, considering their character for most of the book. It was not believable. Because of how it was wrapped up, the ending felt rushed.

The cover is beautiful, and it ties to the story. Ash has a tendency to fall asleep in places that are not beds because of her grief. This made good inspiration for the cover.

This is still an interesting fairy tale retelling, but the characters’ lack of development and the plot-driven story make it only a one-time read for me. I recommend this if you want to read a different retelling of Cinderella or if you want to read a book with lesbian characters. Ash is a fast-read that adds a new dimension to fairy tales.

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