Aisling's mother dies when she is twelve, leaving her daughter (better known as Ash) alone with her father and cruel stepmother. Her situation quickly becomes worse, though, when her father dies and leaves his widow with a great deal of debt, which she determines to pay off by firing the servants. Lady Isobel and her daughters, Ana and Clara, are accustomed to a life of luxury, however, and so Ash becomes their handmaid- a dire, thankless task that she is excused from only when Ana is off husband- hunting in the city.
Of all the fairy tales to put a lesbian retelling too, Cinderella is the best- not because it makes sense, but because it doesn't. Other fairy tales may be sexist and rather insipid, but at least they're romantic- the traditional Cinderella is not a girl who falls in love. She's a girl who is so miserable that she would accept anyone and anything in order too improve her lot in life, and that's where Ash subverts the traditional story- the romance between her and Kaisa was believable, sweet, and made me smile.
I not sure exactly who to recommend this novel to- it's definitely a girl book, both because of the whole lesbian thing and because of the whole fairy tale thing, but I've known some guys who would like it, not to mention a ton of adult women.
Ash's mother dies, and soon after her father marries Lady Isobel. But when her father falls ill and dies as well, she is left in her stepmother's care. They move away from her childhood home to a new one, where Ash lives her life as a servant.
She becomes acquainted with a fairy, Sidhean, and later meets the king's huntress, Kaisa. While she's grateful for their company, she longs to attend the various events taking place around her home, including dances and hunts. But while her wishes may be granted, they come at a price.
I don't read many fairy tale retellings but this one was worth reading. I was worried that it would be exactly the same as the story, Cinderella, which it was based on, but the author changed things up a bit in interesting and enjoyable ways. I liked the way that fairy stories played a part in this book, and the way that Sidhean was portrayed. He wasn't open and generous as the fairy godmother in the Cinderella stories that I've read, instead everything had a price and this added some tension and a bit of suspense. However, I do wish that the author had added more scenes with Sidhean because I wanted to know more about him.
I thought Ash was a great main character, she tried to make the best of her situation and she never truly gave up, even when things seemed impossible. She was strong and determined, and at times a little bit impulsive, but she was overall very likeable. Kaisa was also a great character and a good love interest, however I wish the author had added more dialogue between her and Ash. I wanted to know more about Kaisa's life!
The world-building was incredible, I felt like I was there with Ash throughout the whole book and I could picture the settings vividly. The descriptions were amazing, the author describing everything in detail so that I could see everything as Ash did. I usually get bored when there is too much description but I was completely entranced by the way everything seemed to come alive like a movie in my mind.
I do feel like the ending was a bit rushed and almost convenient. While this didn't take away from the quality of the book overall, it irked me a bit that everything was resolved so easily. If the curses or spells that had been cast upon Sidhean were really so strong as to make him feel emotions as intense as love, it shouldn't have been so easy for Ash to get out of paying the price for her wishes.
This was a great retelling of Cinderella, with a few twists and amazing world-building. I recommend this to those looking for books with LGBTQ characters without a focus on coming out, fans of fairy tale retellings and those who enjoy fantasy novels.
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.
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
"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).
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
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 -
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.
I'm generally a fan of Cinderella retellings ( Ella Enchanted and
Just Ella are at the top of my list), and this one deserves to be
up there with the best of them. There a lot of traditional elements, and
just as many non traditional ones. It all adds up to one great book.
I really don't want to say too much because I think that the best way to
enjoy this is to discover the similarities and differences on your own.
I am going to say that the Evil Stepmother is indeed evil, and
sometimes I really just wanted someone to hurt her. I liked Ash. She was
impulsive and reckless at times, unsure and shy in others, which
balanced out nicely.
One thing that I noticed was absent from the book was character
description. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, just different. I got a
hair color here, an age there, maybe some height thrown in, but never
the whole picture at the same time. It was interesting, and sometimes a
little annoying, but most of the time it didn't really affect anything.
I really liked this book and thought that it was beautifully written.
The story telling was gorgeous, as was the story. It was similar enough
to Cinderella that you could see the parallels, but different enough
that it was entirely its own story.
Ash is one
of those books that seemed to catch like wildfire in the blogosphere.
One day, you've never heard of it, and the next, it's everywhere, and
you have to read it. And like most suddenly ubiquitous books, I have mixed feelings...
is a non-traditional retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale. Ash is a
young girl who loses her parents and finds herself thrust into the care
of her newly made family: a callous step-mother and distant, spoiled
step-sisters. She is removed from her distant home village and all it's
country traditions and beliefs to a city near the capitol, where fairy
tales really are just tales, and everything Ash has always believed and
pursued is laughed at or looked down on.
But Ash finds herself the
object of attention of a very unusual being named Sidhean, and though
she likes this attention, she finds herself torn between Sidhean and
the King's huntress, Kaisa. Both have the ability to drastically change
Sounds good, right? I was super excited for a number
of reasons. 1) I love fairy tale retellings. 2) I was intrigued by a
Cinderella with a LGBT slant. 3) EVERYONE seemed to be raving about
this. 4) The cover close up is gorgeous, and I am a sucker for a good
cover, we all know that.
And though I did like this, I like it with reservations, so I'm going to break this into two parts of each aspect: the good (fairy) and the bad (fairy).
Aspect One: Ash
The Good (fairy): I loved watching Ash develop.
It's the Cinderella story at it's core: you watch a
charming/pretty/intelligent girl who doesn't realize what she's capable
of, or what the world holds for her blossom into the woman she is meant
to be. When Sidhean enters the story, Ash perks up a bit, but when
Kaisa comes in, she blooms, and the story is truly enjoyable from then
The Bad (fairy):
Kaisa doesn't enter the story until quite a ways in, and until then,
it's not nearly as enjoyable. It's not that it's ever really bad, but I
didn't find myself drawn in, nothing really came alive until Kaisa,
except for the brief moments with Sidhean.
Aspect Two: Love
The Good (fairy):
One of my absolute favorite things about this, and one of the best
decisions I think Lo made while crafting this story, is how she dealt
with the idea of love.
I know there are people who will worry when they hear it is a gay
retelling of Cinderella, and they will think that it's going to hit you
over the head with it, or be anti-straight, or try to "convert" you, or
some other equally ridiculous thing. Of course, it did not do that.
What Lo created was a world where love is love. When Kaisa and Ash
begin to find themselves drawn to each other, they are not looked down
upon. Attraction is attraction, people are people, love is love. There
is also some nice pull and ambiguity between the three: Ash is drawn to
Sidhean, who is a man, as well as Kaisa, who is a woman, and no issue
is ever made of that. I liked that aspect a lot, and it was handled
The Bad (fairy): is a spoiler*, so if you want to know, it's at the bottom.
Aspect Three: Language and Writing
The Good (fairy):
There are times when this flows beautifully, and when Ash's world is
completely engaging and light. As I said before, this is mostly when
Kaisa comes into the story.
Through much of the story, I think the writing is writing. I wouldn't put it heavily on one side (good) or the other (bad).
The Bad (fairy): Mostly, though,
I wanted more from the writing. I kept waiting for something to really
stop me in my tracks or take my breath away. I am a quote person, and I
tab things that catch my fancy. I didn't feel a need to tab. Ash's
narration felt disengaged and overly formal, especially for a sort of
backwoods girl. There was a stilted feel, and I had a hard time at
first getting into the story because I just didn't find the narration
engaging. Also, I felt like Lo didn't take full advantage of
everything. Things could have been more: taut/exciting/powerful, but
they were sometimes glossed over or let slide. Now, I know some of this
is pickiness on my part, and some people may not notice it at all, but
it irritated me, especially as I saw potential for gems, potential for
great writing, but I didn't get to see that potential fulfilled often
enough. I think Lo will get there, I just don't think she's quite there
Aspect Four: World and story overall.
The Good (fairy):
There were some things (the occasional gems I mentioned) that I just
loved. I already talked about Lo's treatment of love and relationships,
which I enjoyed. I also really liked how "Prince Charming" was
basically ignored. He never did a damn thing, so why give him more page
space. In this, he was basically what I have always suspected, but I'll
leave that to you to see... Also, I really enjoyed the irony** involved
in the situation between Ash and Sidhean and her mother, but that's
another spoiler, so it is way down there.... (where's a down arrow when
you need one?)
The Bad (fairy):
Some elements of the story and the world felt heavily influenced by
other stories/movies, etc (Ever After, Wicked Lovely, Daughter of the
Forest, etc.). Again, not something everyone will notice, and not
necessarily intentional, but it still ate at me.
I understand the motives of this book, I really do. As a GLBT novel, I get what the motive is and as a fairy-tale knockoff I understand the attempt. However, this wasn't a favorite of mine. The characters were shallow and their motives were unjustified. The relationships Ash shared with the fairy and the huntress were both pretty podge and there wasn't alot of emotion there. I feel like this book only expressed the emotions of grief really well and it left me gloomy and depressed.