Monday, December 27, 2010
Page Count: 264 (paperback)
Published: 2009 by Little, Brown
Synopsis: 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.
I read a lot of very mixed reviews of Ash before ever picking it up. I really do think it is just one of those books that some readers adore right away, and some readers really just don't.
That said, I absolutely loved it. Malinda Lo's beautiful, flowing writing captivated me right from the start in this bittersweet story about a girl who has lost everything and finds her only escape in fairy tales... until one day, a very real person helps her begin to believe in truth again. Ash has the feel of a fairy tale-- that distant, slightly dream-like quality that I remember from the Grimm and Anderson stories. The book parallels and retells Cinderella-- but it's Cinderella as you've never read it before. (Sans the singing mice, luckily. ;)
In Malinda Lo's version, 'Cinderella' is a dreamy girl called Ash who is forced to move to the city with her cruel stepmother and sisters from the superstitious town in the country where she once lived happily with her deceased parents. There is indeed a Prince Charming, but he never gets his hands on any of Ash's slippers, and her 'fairy godmother' benefactor is the darkly beautiful faerie, Sidhean, who has been cursed to love her since she was a child.
Just as Ash is ready to let Sidhean spirit her away into his world-- the world of her childhood dreams-- forever, as his bride, she meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress. We never find out quite as much about Kaisa as I would've liked, but she is an enigmatic young woman-- kind to Ash, and strangely tender-hearted despite her occupation of hunting and tracking animals through the forest. Ash slowly and very subtly realizes that she is falling in love with Kaisa, despite her promise to Sidhean that she will stay with him in his world forever, abandoning her tragic mortal existence. Ash is a lesbian love story in the softest sense-- sweet and powerful, the kind of book that you will remember fondly despite its tragic beginning.
My Rating: 5/5