Ash

by Malinda Lo
ages: 13+
First sentence: “Aisling’s mother died at midsummer.”
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Review copy picked up at KidlitCon 09

Aisling lives in a world where there are fairies, but the belief in them — that they are dangerous, that they even exist — is waning. There’s still tales, healing women called greenwitches, and people who generally believe in both. But, the belief is fading.

Aisling also has lost both her parents, and, because of her father’s death, is forced to be a servant in her step-mother’s home. (Yes, this should sound familiar.) She has been moved away from her own home, to the south of the country, near the king’s City. Whenever she can — which isn’t often — she sneaks away to walk in the woods. Which is where she meets the fairy Sidhean, developing an interesting, if somewhat uncomfortable — she mostly just wants him to take her away from her miserable life, but he says it’s not time — friendship with him.

Then she meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress. It takes time, it creeps upon Ash slowly, but she eventually finds a reason to live. And a will to love. Except that, to get there, she indentures herself to Sidhean (he plays the role of fairy godmother). And the trick is, figuring out what she really wants.

There is much good going on in this retelling of Cinderella. It’s similar enough to the fairy tale that you can recognize it for what it is. But Lo has created a world that is unique on it’s own, from the weaving in of original fairy tales and folk wisdom, to the twists on the love story. In a sense, it does try to do too much: is it a story about the repercussions getting involved with the fairy, or is it a story about a girl realizing that she can, and does, love another woman? It’s really both, and while it worked for me last night, it does seem to undermine each of the story lines. The ending in particular, while it was satisfying and the “right” ending, the getting there seemed a bit rushed.

It is a good book, well-written and well-paced: a excellent first novel, even with the drawbacks.

4 thoughts on “Ash

  1. I actually really liked that same-sex love seemed to be totally accepted in that world, so there was no angst attached to Aisling falling love with Kaisa. The story about the fairy got stretched pretty thin, though.

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