Ash

By Malinda Lo

From Goodreads: Cinderella retold. 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.

Why it’s my type: Um, do I even need to say that gorgeous cover? Gorgeous! Inviting. Haunting. Intriguing. Perfect visual match for Lo’s words. Mwah Mwah! OK. But the design appreciation doesn’t stop there. The first letter of every chapter is beautifully enlarged and crafted so as to almost be a tiny visual story in and of itself. You’ll just have to pick the book up to see what I mean. 🙂

Lo’s writing is lovely. Subtle in its beauty, it’s like the design concept of less is more. Nothing too fancy going on here, but you’re going to take note of its quiet artistry nonetheless.

Finally, though I didn’t fall in love with Ash as I normally tend to do with my protagonists, I really appreciate Lo’s original take on the Cinderella story. And that includes much more than a female love interest. The whole ambience was different. In a really nice, refreshing way.

Standout Script: “The dining room was dark and Ash lit the candles with shaking hands. As the room came into light, it was as if the world had shifted: three place settings, three chairs, three plates. There had never really been a place for her, after all.”

“All around her she felt the Wood breathing, her senses alive. It was as if she could see the leaves unfurling gracefully from their jewel-like buds, the young beetles creeping purposefully forward on the earth.”

“(She) cracked the egg on the countertop, watching the shell splinter. She peeled it away and salted the damp, slippery white surface . . . When she bit off the top, the yolk fell in golden crumbles onto the scarred wooden table.”

Recommendation: Though I did feel a bit dissatisfied with the sort-of? love triangle Ash seemed to be a part of, and the last time we see Sidhean, still I recommend picking this one up for the writing, the atmosphere, and the originality of the retelling.

Published: 2009 by Little, Brown Young Readers.

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