*September 1st, 2009 Little, Brown & Company
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, re-reading 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.Malinda Lo's Ash is a stunning debut! The story, the characters, the world comes alive like Lo has sprinkled it with fairy dust. It's pretty safe to judge Ash by its cover; the beautiful cover is fairly indicative of the interior. With Ash, Lo has taken the basic threads that comprise the timeless tale of Cinderella, rewoven them, and like the fairy godmother, waved her magic pen and transformed a pumpkin into a magnificent coach.
One of the things that stands out the most is definitely Lo's writing style. The diction choice, the phrasing, the tone... there's something especially melodic about her descriptions, almost achingly beautiful in places.
"The rhythm was echoed in the sound of her mother's fingers on the fabric of her dress, a subtle swoosh in the dark, up and down, up and down, the friction like a rope binding them together" (Lo 74).
Through the ethereal descriptions, the setting really comes alive, immersing the audience in Ash's world. Something about the voice - Lo has captured the fairy tale tone almost perfectly. There are moments where the language does seem a little reminiscent of the present, but that also draws the reader closer into the alternate realm. Over the years, various retellings of Cinderella have cropped up (e.g. Ella Enchanted, Just Ella, etc.), but there have been none like this. Ash is something else entirely; Lo has practically created a whole new fairy tale.
And throughout the course of Ash, there are various fairy tales that are part of Ash's world. These I found to be a very nice touch, and added realism, but also irony. They were very enjoyable mini-stories to explore. At 264 pages, Ash could have seen a little more character development with addition of a couple extra pages, but then again, some removal from the audience may be needed to maintain the fairy tale aura. In any case - Ash, Kaisa, Sidhean, the stepsisters... all very intriguing and well-written characters.
Not only that, but the relationships between the characters were conveyed very nicely as well. Ash is quoted as being "a lesbian retelling of Cinderella", but it's also so much more than that. It's a new sort of fairy tale (that could potentially spark a revival?), a story of loss, love, and life. The relationship that forms between Ash and Kaisa is very pure, very beautiful. The situation between Ash and Sidhean and the surrounding circumstances were a very nice - albeit sad and ironic - twist.
It seems the fairies must've aided with casting spells, because Ash is a spellbinding debut. Lo has created a truly remarkable story here - a real fairy tale.