Sps's Reviews > Ash

Ash by Malinda Lo
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's review
Feb 23, 11

bookshelves: book-club, ya, fantasy, story
Read on February 22, 2011

It would be just another entertaining, totally decent fairytale retelling if not for the queer content. I guess I thought the same-sex attraction would be a major conflict of the story, and I wasn't expecting Lo to incorporate queers so nonchalantly in her imagined universe. Especially since that universe is in other respects a very traditional Euro fairytale/fantasy setting: a kingdom, an enchanted wood, Yule and All Souls, gowns and mutton. Plus the writing's nothing spectacular, but books of this kind frequently swim in cliched language, so it was a pleasure simply not to be distracted by mediocrities. "Not distractingly awful" turns out to be fairly high praise from me when it comes to the prose of juvenile fantasy novels.

But the queer stuff! Well done and romantic for a teen audience. The love story is almost too subtle: Kaisa's flirtation is gentle, never ribald*, and I wanted to know more about why the huntress was so interested in a bookish housemaid who didn't seem to know she was being courted. We see other women pair off--once at a dance, once in a fairy story--and nothing in the story indicates that this is out of the ordinary. Mostly it's a hetero world, with these occasional tantalizing moments. Tantalizing because of what they imply: that we exist, that we have always existed, that we could exist quite peacefully in this or any other realm. It works as bibliotherapy of the old school.

*We all know the cherished place of ribaldry in my heart.

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