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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.

264 pages, Hardcover

First published September 1, 2009

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About the author

Malinda Lo

51 books3,782 followers
Hi Goodreads! I've only created this profile to claim my name here, and I don't check messages here or add friends. I invite you to follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or visit my website at malindalo.com.

BIO: Malinda Lo is the bestselling author of Last Night at the Telegraph Club, winner of the National Book Award, the Stonewall Book Award, and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, as well as Michael L. Printz and Walter Dean Myers honors. Her debut novel Ash, a Sapphic retelling of Cinderella, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award and the Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, and the Lambda Literary Award. She can be found on social media @malindalo or at malindalo.com.

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5 stars
8,957 (25%)
4 stars
10,919 (31%)
3 stars
9,526 (27%)
2 stars
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1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,793 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
July 3, 2018
goddamn it, this was my bright shiny hope for gay YA week! this was the one i was banking on to be my best "assigned-but-loved-the-whole-time-i-was-reading-it-and-this-is-why-i-am-paying-for-grad-school-discovery." a lesbian retelling of cinderella?? sign me up! i've already read what robert coover and angela carter have done to improve fairy tales, let's see where this one goes!

and it starts out great - the writing is wonderful; it is very literary and lush and haunting. boy meets boy and keeping you a secret were so chatty and conversational - this one required more involvement from the reader, which involvement i have been missing in a big way. it's not a difficult read, but unlike the others, it is not all surface reading; there is depth here that elevates it to the ranks of "litterature," yessss.

but.

fairy tales are generally symbolic stories which mask universal human desires too emotional or frightening to deal with head-on. is this a universal truth, or am i letting my undergrad "psychology of fairy tales" class color my thinking here? let's say we all know this to be so. i simply do not understand this character's motivations, or what leads her on to her fairy tale ending. is it just a matter of "the heart wants what the heart wants", and we don't need to explain what attracts two people to each other? there was no "moment of falling". i never got a sense of character from the huntress; she remained enigmatic. strangely, she was even more enigmatic than ash's fairy-lover, with his intoxicating presence and fancy gifts and willingness to assist ash in all her assignations. am i the only one feeling bad for sidhean?? his was a "forbidden love", too, and he didn't even get any say in the matter. damn curses.

so as a fairy tale, it fails me, psychologically. and as a lesbian awakening novel, it fails me, too. we never see them fall in love, we never understand why. in the world of this novel, the same-gender love is not shocking, it is not taboo - sometimes girls just go with girls. so kudos on that, but this does two things: it removes conflict, except the conflict of "do i go with my awesome fairy lover which is what i have wanted since i was a little girl, or do i go with my awesome huntress woman who is badass and has a great job." two great options, must be nice.

in this world, she is not choosing the love that dares not speak its name over the more traditional lover, in fact, she is choosing the more socially acceptable one. mindboggling.

so but also, it is not developed enough to be that casual. because we never see the love developing, it just sort of seems unconvincing at the end. this is my favorite review: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... because this reader obviously didn't see this turn coming, and is confused by its ending, since nothing else suggests that this is where it is going to be going. i don't know if the stars are meant to avoid spoilers (although, really, you don't have to be a master wordsmith) or because it is a naughty naughty word, but it made me laugh. clearly, in the world of teen readership, we are not ready for lesbian lit that does not proclaim itself from the outset, as this other reviewer's surprise seems to indicate: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/.... secret, creep-up-on-you lesbian fiction?? maybe in a few years. biding our time, ladies...

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,379 reviews11.7k followers
November 14, 2011
I will pick Disney's version of Cinderella over Ash any day and without the slightest hesitation. For a book with such a provocative, potentially controversial premise, Ash is dreadfully, painfully dull and lacking in strong emotion and vibrant characters.

This retelling is both familiar and slightly new (albeit in an uninteresting and directionless way). In this version, orphaned Ash is forced to be a serving maid to her (not so evil) stepmother and stepsisters. But instead of sneaking into the royal ball and meeting The Prince, Ash comes across a fairy prince and a huntress with whom she has occasional long walks in the woods. The Prince never becomes Ash's viable suitor.

On a technical level, the book is written well enough. Lo's style has some elegance to it. However, the style doesn't compensate for the novel's weak plot.

Where was the conflict, I'd like to ask first? I finished the book still searching for one. Accepting one's own homosexuality certainly isn't it. In the novel's world, being a lesbian is not forbidden, and the main character never for a moment struggles with her sexual awakening.

Is it Ash's choice between the fairy prince and the Royal Huntress then? No again. Considering how little chemistry the heroine has with either of them, that is not the answer.

Or maybe it is Ash's shady deal with her fairy suitor? But that works out so easily, it's not even worth mentioning.

I have no more guesses.

What makes this already plotless story even less palatable is the lack of any strong feeling in it. There is no passion of first real love, there is no fight against time, even the reliable anger towards the stepmother isn't there, because this usually easily hated character isn't sufficiently hate-inducing. There is not even some humor or witty or heartfelt dialog to liven things up.

My overall impression of Ash is that it is dull, boring and pointless. If not for its lesbian Cinderella fame, I doubt this novel would have gained any readers at all.
Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,588 reviews153k followers
December 11, 2020
Cinderella is a tired tale. It's been done. It's been redone. It's been re-redone.

So, if I'm going to pick up (yet another) retelling, it really has to blow me away. I need to be wowed. My socks must be knocked off.

Those socks remained firm. (Not even a twitch.)

In this version, Ash (our Cinder) is raised by her (unsurprisingly) evil stepmother and her only joy is rereading fairytales next to the fireplace ashes (hence the name Ash (how clever)).
She would rather be alone in her room than alone in the midst of a celebration she was not a part of.
Just when her life is at the pinnacle of hopelessness and she's sinking into a deep depression, she meets Sidhean. He's a member of the fae - and promises to whisk her away to his lands.

Soon he's all she can think of. Only his promises aren't what they seem and she's none the wiser.
“Every time you come near me,” he said, “you come closer to the end of everything.”
Then one day, Ash meets Kasia (the Queen's Huntress) and through their friendship (and eventually love) she finds the courage and hope to keep living.
With her heart hammering in her throat, Ash asked, ‘Will you do me the honor of dancing with me?’ She looked up at Kaisa, and the huntress’ look of bewilderment was changing, slowly, to a small, tentative smile.
I liked the idea of this one. The darker aspects of the tale, the menace of the fairies and the sweet romance between Ash and Kasia...only nothing really clicked for me. The characters felt flat, their phrases alternated between wooden and cliche, and the romance was just too predictable. No spark.

The strongest emotion I felt was just overwhelming boredom and exasperation. I lost time that I can never get back.

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Profile Image for Heather.
133 reviews94 followers
September 12, 2009
The GoodReads five-star rating system isn't perfect because some books (like, say, pretty much all Fitzgerald and Salinger) get five stars because I think they're just freaking brilliant writing; while other books (like, say, Bridget Jones's Diary and the Traveling Pants books) get five stars because I love the characters so much.

Then, of course, there are the Harry Potters and Tales of Despereaux that receive five stars because it's like they retell my whole world: Remember how lost you were when you were younger? This is what you were looking for!

Ash was that last thing for me.

I've always thought fairy tales were history books, always revered the Woods, always been reckless in pursuit of adventure, always wanted to fall in love with a girl. That's this heroine.

Once I really got into Ash, I couldn't get out.

I'm giving it four stars for freshness, four stars for writing, five stars for magic and five stars for speaking to greater truth. Plus, I am giving it five bonus stars for waking up the little kid in me. She doesn't exactly hibernate, but sometimes gets so bored with the adult world that she is forced into a long winter's nap.

I loved how Malinda -- I can call her that; she was my editor once -- writes about the smell of magic. And this:

"Have you ever wanted to be a princess?" Ash challenged her.

"That depends," Kaisa said.

"On what?"

"On whether I would have to marry a prince."
Profile Image for branewurms.
138 reviews35 followers
April 22, 2012
eta: You know, I figured when I wrote this "review" that I had made it sufficiently ridiculous and over-the-top that no one on Earth could possibly take it seriously. I mean, I claim that DISNEY INVENTED CINDERELLA, people. And then there's the link at the end labeled "real review here", which should maybe be a hint? But okay, whatever, for those of you who are apparently utterly impervious to sarcasm, here is your blinking neon sign:

THIS REVIEW IS INTENDED AS SATIRE. Also, just fyi, I am pretty sure Johnathan Swift did not eat babies, Irish or otherwise. I hope this information this clears many things up for you.

The original review:

Omg, you guys, did you realize that in this book, Cinderella ends up in a LESBIAN RELATIONSHIP?! How could anyone even imagine such a bizarre thing?! Because it's not like fairy tales involve the most bizarre shit known to man or anything, and even if they do, lesbians are way weirder. And why do you want to go around changing Cinderella in the first place! It's not like it's a folktale with thousands of variants all over the world - Disney invented it and it's perfect the way it is! How dare anyone seek to rework a fairy tale in a manner that relates to their own life and experiences! Cinderella belongs to ME and I don't want it to be gay! It's not like there are a gazillionty of the usual heteronormative retellings of the story out there for me to enjoy, and besides, I am offended that anyone could even conceive of a fairy tale princess as a lesbian, because it's totally obvious that everything in the world should be catered to ME ME ME and MY desires and experiences!

Jeez, gay people. Always getting the idea that they deserve things of their own, like they think they're actual real people or something. Such entitlement, sheesh.

(real review here: http://branewurms.dreamwidth.org/6195...)
Profile Image for Gail Carriger.
Author 53 books14.8k followers
January 31, 2019
I took Ash by Malinda Lo with me on a trip to Germany in October. Turned out to be a good choice. The atmosphere, setting, and style of this book all felt very German to me.

It's a retelling of the Cinderella story except that Ash's love interests are a male fairy of the dark and tortured variety (you know a real underhill fairy) and a female huntress of pagan rights old world inclination ~ the prince is mere side character.

I enjoyed Ash very much and it suited not only travel through Germany but travel in general, as it was a comfortable read ~ easy to pick up and put down again yet absorbing enough to entertain and distract from uncomfortable things like airplane take off and landing.

To me this book felt like a mix of Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day-George, and The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey.

I thought Ash might have benefited from a little humor to break up the overwhelming monotony of Ash's depression, but I suspect this very depression is what would make this book so appealing to teen girl readers. And, of course, I always want more humor in my books.

Sometimes I did feel distanced from Ash and had a hard time relating to her. I think I identified far more with the huntress, who was (intentionally, I believe) the most vibrant character in the story. I found myself wondering, in the end, why the huntress fell in love with Ash ~ was it Ash's looks? Her personality seemed a little, well, absent. Yet I didn't want the huntress to be that shallow.

This can be attributed to the book's style of fairy tale retelling, which I refer to as distanced or atmospheric writing, practiced by such greats as Patricia McKillip. In the end, I was left with an overwhelming urge to reread The Black Swan and the certain knowledge that while I enjoyed Ash very much, and I adore seeing LGBTQ themes in YA fantasy, Ella Enchanted still holds as the first lady of Cinderella retellings in this jaded old heart.
Profile Image for Shannon.
3,029 reviews2,343 followers
November 28, 2011
What starts out as a simple retelling of Cinderella turns into so much more, and the Prince is all but forgotten ...

If you know the story of Cinderella then you know most of the beginning of the book, but somewhere near the middle it starts to veer off on its own path. Ash has a fairy(godfather?) who watches over her named Sidhean (pronounced Sheen - I looked it up because it was driving me nuts!) In order to feel some sort of freedom from her stepmother and stepsisters, Ash takes every opportunity she has to escape into the Wood. She meets with Sidhean and they form a sort of friendship, but since Ash spends so much time out in the Wood she also happens upon the King's Huntress, Kaisa, a few times as well. Ash and Kaisa also develop a friendship and Ash becomes torn between two worlds and both seem forbidden to her.

I'm not sure how I feel about the way this story played out. It was written well enough and was an interesting retelling of an old tale, but I don't think I liked the way it ended. Throughout the book Ash reads and is told by various people many different fairy tales. She even remarks near the end of the book that all of the tales were meant to warn people of dangers in life and that there was always a moral to the story. I'm not sure that Ash really figured out the moral; it's almost like she realized a loophole instead.

I also felt bad for Sidhean, the Prince, and most of the men in the story as they were basically cast-off into the background. Even with Sidhean it felt like he was more of an experiment than an actual love-interest.

I've read stories with strong females before so I guess having a Huntress instead of a Hunter didn't translate to me, it sort of went over my head. I also didn't know the author was a lesbian until I read her bio on the last page, and perhaps knowing that before I read this could have clued me into the fact that this was a lesbian romance. I think that says something about Lo's ability to create believable relationships though, if I didn't even realize the two of them were supposedly falling in love.

I mostly enjoyed this novel and I'd probably read something else by her in the future. A lot of the reviews on here make me pretty sad though, especially the ones that say you shouldn't give this book to a teen to read because it's "sick," and "how dare she mess with a classic fairy-tale!" Ugh, really? The whole point of fairy-tale retellings is to make them feel new and different while still keeping some of the themes. If you want the "same old, same old" then just go read whichever "original" version is your favorite and stop reading retellings; you'll be doing everyone a favor.
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
903 reviews13.7k followers
April 17, 2019
This book was incredibly difficult to read because it was incredibly dry and slow-paced. It felt like nothing really happened until page 250, and the book is only 264 pages. This book can hardly be pitched as a sapphic romance because there is very little development of that before page 200, and they don't even kiss until 10 pages before the end. I was just so bored reading this and the romance element was drowned beneath a really confusing fairy plotline. There was little to no angst to keep me interested in the developing romance, and by the end, I found this book blandly average, even though I did like the Cinderella elements sprinkled in.
Profile Image for monica kim.
202 reviews6,070 followers
May 4, 2021
3.5 ⭐️ whimsical, atmospheric, and magical
Profile Image for Sonja ✧・゚。★・゚☾.
494 reviews439 followers
March 25, 2021
4.2 out of 5 stars.

❝It’s smart to be afraid of things that smell of death.❞

Ash is a queer f/f retelling of Cinderella set in a fantasy world where homophobia doesn't exist.

What the Book Is Really About
The author, Malinda Lo, described it best herself:

❝Whenever I’m asked what Ash is about, I say that it’s not about being gay. It’s about grief and love, and these are emotions we all experience, regardless of sexual orientation.❞

The author’s portrayal of grief doesn't feel like fiction, it feels real. It truly tugged at my heartstrings—I really enjoyed her writing.

The romance in this book is nice, but I do wish the characters' romantic relationship would have been explored more. If the romance aspect had been done slightly better, this might have been a 5* read.

Also, the book's pacing is quite slow. Personally, I don't see that as a bad thing because I don't mind books that are very slow-paced. But I know a lot of people prefer fast-paced books so beware.

One thing I really loved about Ash is the ending. The last two pages and the last sentence of the book, in particular, were fantastic. I loved the ending!

I would have loved the ending even more if there was an epilogue though :')

OVERALL
Ash is a really good book—it just fell short of the mark. If the romance and the ending had been a bit more elaborate, it would have been a really great book. But, alas, no book is perfect.

As it is, Ash is still a groundbreaking book, especially for its time. It was released in 2009, and back then it was one of the few queer books published by one of the "big five" publishers.

This was truly a mould-breaking book, and that's exactly why I picked it up!

Profile Image for samantha  Bookworm-on-rainydays.
278 reviews113 followers
May 1, 2018
Lesbian Cinderella!!!!! This was a great and simple and a lovely twist on a classic fairy tale! Sidhean is a creeper and the hundreds are a great twist. I really really enjoyed this book it does an excellent job melding the feeling of a classic fairytale with a more modern style. And i would love too read more by Malinda Lo.
Profile Image for Kristi.
1,188 reviews2,893 followers
September 18, 2009
What a outstanding debut novel! Malinda Lo absolutely blew me away. The writing was elegant, beautifully lyrical. Malinda has this unbelievable talent for detail and atmospheric setting. She captures the very essence of the world she created. I just felt like I was there.

Characterization was fantastic as well. With such vivid imagery you might think the characterization would suffer, but I think they stood out so intensely because of it.

Ash is a retelling, so some of the story shouldn’t come as a surprise, but Lo was able to weave her own unique take into the fabled fairy-tale seamlessly. I loved the depth to this novel. The faerie world is explored much more in this re-telling, and of course Ash, herself, prefers the King’s Huntress to the Prince. On that note, I’d hate to see this novel labeled as nothing more than “a lesbian retelling of Cinderella” because it is so very much more than that. Ash is a story that anyone can relate to.

Overall an amazing debut, and a beautiful story.
Profile Image for Janina.
215 reviews526 followers
November 2, 2010
Ash by Malinda Lo is definitely a beautiful retelling of the classic Cinderella story - writing-wise. Lo creates an eerie yet fascinating atmosphere with her lyrical prose and the setting is described in rich details. She interweaves fairy tales and traditions of her own into the story and creates a world the reader can immerse himself in.
Additionally, Ash is clearly more than a simple retelling; it adds aspects to the original tale and has quite some twists readers probably won't suspect in the beginning.

Nevertheless, the – in my opinion - most important aspects, the characters and their relationships, lack depth and I never grew particularly fond of Ash nor did I really understand the motives behind her decisions. The reason for this is clearly the fairytale character of this book: the writing seems distant - it tells a story from far away: long spans of time are covered in short passages and a lot of scenes lack dialogue and - simply put - feelings. All these aspects made it impossible for me to really connect with Ash, the huntress or the fairy prince.

Ash definitely is a great book in terms of writing and setting, but for me it's still the characters that make a story what it is. With this one, I missed the certain something that would have made it an unforgettable read.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,308 reviews1,595 followers
December 16, 2015
I have had this one on my To-Read radar for a while because I was intrigued by a lesbian Cinderella retelling. So, now I've re-read it, and I have to say I'm a bit - no, more than a bit - disappointed with it. This whole book just felt confused.

There are likely spoilers below. Read at your own risk.

First of all, the lesbian aspect of this story was extremely disappointing to me. I so wanted this to be a PROUD self-identification coming-out story, like Annie on my Mind was. Instead, the lesbian aspect was, in my opinion, the weakest aspect of the entire book. And since that seems to me to be the foundation of this story, everything else flopped with it.

There was (almost) nothing to even hint that a lesbian love story was in the works at all until almost the very end of the story. There's friendship, sure, but very little confusion from Ash as to her feelings for Kaisa, very little understanding regarding them either. No discussion between the girls as to their feelings, nothing to hint that Kaisa feels anything more than friendship and caring on those terms. It just isn't anything one minute, and the next it is. I feel like it could have been ANYONE that Ash loved - anyone who was kind to her, and talked to her, and befriended and loved her. What made Kaisa that person? What was so enticing about Kaisa? She seemed rather cardboard cutout to me.

Secondly, as a retelling, it was kind of disappointing to me in that it didn't really follow the original story. I know that in retellings, the author has leeway to move her (or his) story into a different area, and that's fine - but this one just felt confused. We had some parts of the original Cinderella story (the cruel step-mother and step-sisters, the eligible Prince looking for his bride-to-be, the fairy who gives Cinderella/Ash the means to attend the ball, etc), but then those aspects just felt out of place in the story that was actually told, because the Prince wasn't Ash's "savior" as he was Cinderella's, the fairy had quite different motives and reasons for helping Ash than Cinderella's fairy-godmother did. It just seemed confused, as if it didn't want to be the Cinderella story, but had to include those parts because they were expected.

Third, I felt like the fairy/fairy-tale storyline overwhelmed the rest of the story. I get the importance of this aspect, but I got very tired of it very quickly. How many times can your main character wander in the Wood and stay interesting? Not that many, it turns out. I was bored after the first time. Ash runs into the Wood, Sidhead would find her and bring her home. Every time he tells her (or hints) a little bit more about Things. 'Things' being fairies and how they interact with humans, and Ash particularly. There was so much description of the Wood, my eyes glazed over. I enjoy fairy-tales of the Grimm and HCA variety. This one just bored me. So much perfection and so little conflict. Blergh.

Finally, I need to mention something that just seemed strange to me. The whole "Huntress" thing. I don't get it. I am really torn on this one. Really torn. I don't really understand why there was a "Royal Huntress" at all.
Was this just a typically male role (hunter) that was appropriated for Kaisa to hold, one that would also put her in a position of authority in the court so that Ash would be protected after running away from Lady Isobel? Was it supposed to show gender nonconformity? Or, is it supposed to differentiate the Fairies from the Humans... perhaps show the Fairies (non-hunters) as weaker/feminine with the Huntress/humans as stronger/masculine? Show Kaisa as a straightforward friend/lover and Sidhead as a manipulative illusionist and kidnapper type? I'm not sure what the goal was with this. Especially since Kaisa doesn't even enjoy hunting. Why do it then? What is the point? Why is it in the story? Am I missing something?

It just seems like this book fell short for me on all levels. I wanted this to be a girl finding herself and finding love with another girl story, set up as a retelling of Cinderella. This wasn't that, except in the loosest terms possible, and it was all around disappointing.
Profile Image for Sharon.
34 reviews7 followers
April 25, 2010
When I give a book this low of a rating I feel the need to explain why. Ash is a retelling of the Cinderella story with added fairies and bisexuality, although the bisexuality is fairly understated. Basically Ash is treated badly by her step mother and two step sisters. She often goes for walks in the woods, where sometimes she meets a fairy(male) and sometimes a huntress. She has pretty dull encounters with both although we are supposed to get a sense of her being torn between them, I think. I didn't, although at least I was cued by some fairly heavy hints that I was supposed to
Eventually we learn that Ash's mother long ago put a spell on the fairy that would one day cause him to love a human and have his heart broken in the same way he had caused many humans to love him and have their hearts broken. She did not expect that human to be her own daughter.
Ash, decides to ask the fairy for help in going to the ball, a nice dress, a coach etc.and although the fairy tells her that it will cost her pretty much everything, Ash is OK with that, so I can only assume she is as dumb as a brick.
Eventually the fairy comes to take Ash to fairy land with him as the price of the magical intervention, but at this stage she has figured he loves her so she decides to use that love against him by making him let her break her promise. He agrees but insists she spends a night with him in fairyland, where time does not act the same as in our world. You might think there might be some hint as to what goes on during this night of a thousand years, but there is none, nothing. She wakes up in the morning and without a comment yay, or nay, about the fairy, she goes off to live with her one true love, the huntress, and I assume they will have many dull years together, only talking in terribly stilted ways about really dull things.
My God, such a dreary bunch of characters. The writing is quite nice in places but the story is like some slow motion retelling of a evening spent watching Grandma sleeping after dinner. There's quite simply no drama here. Even Ash's ending up with the huntress. So what! Who's stopping her? The huntress fancied her from the beginning. The world of Ash seems to accept female/female couplings as perfectly fine.
One added point of extra super irritation.
Ash at one stage shows up at a hunt on a fairy supplied wonder horse. The huntress is not surprised. She does not say "Wow! Ash, where'd you get the magic horsey? Aren't you a lowly servant?" Nope, she has nothing to say about that. I just find that weird.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Shawnta.
22 reviews21 followers
January 22, 2010
Ash was my absolutely favorite read of 2009.

A Cinderella with a twist of darkness and lore, the characterization of a young girl, family, love, and disappointment, left me inside of this world and I think I still haven't found my way out. Since reading Ash, I am desperately seeking that language, that energy, those woods, the doublespeak that Lo so artfully rendered.

As I type this, I am flipping through the pages, and stopping when my fingers have reached their random destination.

Here, a sample:
"Impulsively, she went to the horse and held her hand out; the mare sniffed at her empty palm and then looked at her with gleaming brown eyes that seemed to reproach her for not having an apple to share."

This 2nd sentence of Chapter XIII summarizes for me the entirety of the novel as well as the complexity of Malinda Lo's lyrical craft. Ash, driven by impulse, and communicating with beings not like herself, she still reaches, still forges forward, and insists on movement. "she went to the horse" because the horse would not come to her. The richness in action is one that every young girl ought to internalize. In this stage in the novel, there was no need for the reader to doubt that this was Ash's impulse because we have seen her grow.

"the mare sniffed at her empty palm"
This is actually a poem, is it not?
I visualize this instance, the sniff, or rather, the presence of a large black wet nose pointing towards a small emptiness like an arrow. What could Ash offer, it seems is the question of the novel, of Ash's interaction with her family, her village, her step family, her new love interest, her obsession in the woods.

I bite into my honey crisp apple, and nod at the reproach (or Ash's assumption of reproach) for not having an apple. And what is Ash's response to this mare's stare? Does she cry, does she run away, does she pluck the horse at the tip of its nose and growl back?

Please read the book to find out, because it matters. And Lo is expert in telling the story of death and life and loss and new beginnings in each small description. Each slice of bread, every dance and feast, every walk in the woods is a retelling of something magical.
Profile Image for Seanan.
Author 458 books14.9k followers
August 18, 2009
This book was just gorgeous. I want to bundle it with Annie On My Mind, The Stepsister Scheme, and Beauty, and give that little packet to every teenage girl I know. I couldn't have loved it more if I'd tried.
Profile Image for Sue (Hollywood News Source).
781 reviews1,603 followers
June 20, 2016


I devoured Ash in between of my Lord of the Rings movie marathon. It’s a Cinderella retelling, but with a twist. It’s a wlw book! I love, love, the quaint vibes of the novel, and the lyrical writing. I wholly appreciate the in depth characterization of abuse, the difference between hero worshipping, and attraction.

Verdict: I can't get enough, and Lo needs to write more fantasy books. Review to come.
Profile Image for Maye.
252 reviews56 followers
April 30, 2017
“Every time you come near me,” he said, “you come closer to the end of everything.”
“It does not feel that way,” she said. “It feels like I am coming closer to the beginning.”
The characters felt so flat and dull. I didn't care whatever happens to them. The plot was also predictable and slow, and there were no twists! The world wasn't developed well, I felt lost for the most part of it, but a part of it was because I skipped a lot of pages. Couldn't help it!

I didn't buy the romance. I have no problem with it being a girl-to-girl romance, it's more on I didn't feel the connection. They were friends, then suddenly they're in love with each other. I didn't feel the "falling" part.

All in all, I'm so disappointed that I didn't like it as much as I hoped I would. The promising premise was totally wasted for me, sorry.
Profile Image for Caroline.
205 reviews5 followers
April 3, 2010
Nothing redeeming about this book at all.

SPOILER ALERT

Ash's mother (who was some sort of greenwitch) dies. Couple of days later her Father goes into town and returns with the wicked stepmom and 2 step daughters. The old greenwitch Ash's mother apprenticed under warns her father of fairies/elves? but Ash's father refuses to listen to the old ways his deceased wife believes and sends her on her way. Shortly after he becomes 'sick' (some sort of fairy/old magic sickness) and dies. Ash moves into the city with her b*tch stepmom who forces Ash to be her maid to pay off her father's failed business debts.

Meanwhile, Ash is meeting this male elf (fairy, whatever they are) who acts cold but protective of her (not letting her enter the fairy rings, forcing her to return home, etc).

Enter Kaisa the King's Huntress. The two grow fond of each other. In order to attend some kind of ball and see Kaisa, Ash makes a pact with Sidhean (the elf/fairy guy) but in return she must become his possession in a sense.

Blah blah blah, long story short. Sidhean was attracted to Ash's mother because she had the willpower to resist him (he's never been turned down before, major blow to a fae boy's ego). She actually goes as far as to curse him to fall in love with a human girl. And he fell in love with Ash. Ash is in love with Kaisa (and vice versa). To keep her promise, Ash returns to Sidhean, telling him if he truly loved her, he'd let her go but she would stay one day with him to keep her end of the bargain (their 'days' are longer than human days remember). He agrees to this.

Ash is able to return to Kaisa and begin their lesbian love affair.

thus ends the GLBT version of the Cinderella fairy tale.

Are you kidding me? Really nonsensical.

Sidhean was way cooler. Like everyone else, I bemoan the fact the author chose to shrug off the dynamics pertaining to him. He just shows up off and on granting her wishes and giving her a ride home. And he had to have been a deep character. He wanted Ash, but kept trying to push her away for her own sake, even though she was kinda of throwing herself at him. He keeps reminding her that her mom is dead, and to stop wishing for her to return. As superstitious as her mom was, Ash KNEW the consequences of asking for gifts/favors from elves/fairies. Yet she asked. TWICE. Sidhean NEVER held anything back from her, like the others of his kind, who try to entice her with their dances and looks and coaxing. He's the exact OPPOSITE, trying to warn her away from him. He's down right cold to her at times (and I'm well aware that the reason for this is partially because he doesn't appreciate being in love with a human girl, but I also think he was taken with Ash's mother's strength ans saw her face in Ash's). He told her upfront, you ask for this, there will be a price: you'll belong to me. And she STILL asked. Doesn't seem fair she gets to have her cake and eat it too.

I didn't get a thing from Kaisa. Her character struck me as a bit 'bleh'. She goes around hunting dressed in her boots leggings tunic and bloody gloves. "....." Ok.

another thing I didn't get is that, although Ash never tells Kaisa of her deal with Sidhean, Kaisa tells Ash she wants to help her no matter what. So uhh... maybe like, the whole time Ash could have, i dunno, told Kaisa her stepmom was being an abusive ass and..i dunno..she could have stayed with Kaisa? Cut out the middleman (Sidhean)?

I'm seriously done ripping through this story.
Profile Image for Steph.
263 reviews264 followers
April 14, 2015
I just realized I had posted this review to my blog but not here! Well, here it is...

LESBIANS! BEARS!* HUNTERS! OH MY! Please, someone inform the government. We have a retelling of Cinderella on our hands that includes lesbians. The world must be ending. It must be 2011. This is more terrifying than Y2k.

Other reviews I’ve seen claim the problem with this book is the fact that our Cinderella is Bisexual. This is not the issue with this book and that sort of response makes me horribly depressed. We need more heroines like this. We need more heroines who aren’t heteronormative in YA. Maybe, just maybe, that young girl who is afraid to come out and tell people who she really is, will read this book and feel that’s it’s just a little less impossible. That sounds worth it, don’t you think?

I truly applaud Malinda Lo for the idea she has presented here. For the modern Cinderella. May Belle, Aurora, Snow White and others go down the same path. However, I wish I could end this review here with this praise, but I cannot. We must go forward.

This book had all of the potential in the world. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that it met the expectations I had upon picking it up. I enjoyed the beginning, where we learned of Ash’s tragic childhood, and all that she lost. As Ash grew older and began her interactions with the fairy, I lost interest in the story. When Kaisa arrived, I was expecting a love story to rival that of Bennet and Darcy, but what I got was more along the lines of… well, some other boring couple who lacked passion and chemistry, so much so that I have forgotten them.

Perhaps I felt disconnected from Ash’s relationship with Kaisa because she does not enter the story until the second half of the book. Once she does appear in the story, my interest did increase, but not enough to save this novel for me. Their relationship progressed quickly and seemingly without much development. I never felt that Kaisa and Ash’s relationship was given the time to shine or develop. I wanted to root for them so badly, but I just couldn’t see it. When I closed the book, I closed it feeling detached and unaffected, which is something I hate to feel in response to literature. When I feel it, it’s with regret.


*There were no bears in this book. That was a lie too.
Profile Image for Kelly.
616 reviews146 followers
October 29, 2009
(3.5 stars)
Malinda Lo combines several highly creative ideas in her debut novel, Ash. We all know the tale of Cinderella, but it's never been told quite like this. Cinderella (here called Aisling, Ash for short) falls for a young woman instead of the prince. And the fairy who helps Ash break free of her stepmother is no rosy-cheeked godmother, but a coldly beautiful fairy lord right out of the older, darker legends of the fey folk, and he demands a steep price for his aid. On paper, I love everything about this concept, and I also liked Lo's writing:

"She walked this way for a long time, but the light did not change; it seemed to always be morning. The sun continued its bright blinking overhead, and when shafts of golden light came through the leafy canopy, dust motes hung in the air, glittering as bright as diamonds. It was an enchantment, she was sure. This wood was so gentle in comparison to the dark, thick forests near Rook Hill. There, the evergreens were so tall and so old she could not see the tops of them; here, oak and birch branches broke the sky into lacy filigrees of light green, exposing the tender blue above."

The major conflict is an intriguing one. Ash isn't just choosing between two particular suitors. Her attraction to the fairy lord, Sidhean, is based largely on the oblivion he can give her. In her grief for her mother, Ash thinks this is what she wants. Kaisa, the King's Huntress who becomes her other love interest, represents life in all its vivid joys and pains.

Unfortunately, Ash never quite grabbed me. Part of the problem is that it just takes a long time for the plot to get rolling. For much of the first half of the book, Ash spends most of her time brooding and/or wandering in the woods. While crucial plot points are set up during this time, they don't come to fruition until much later. Lo's descriptions of the woods are beautiful, but I grew impatient with the cycle of depression--wandering--depression--wandering...

Then there's a part of me that wonders why this story needed, well, Cinderella. Maybe if Ash were choosing between the Huntress and the prince, or if Sidhean himself were the prince and Ash fled from a fairy ball rather than a human one, or if an eligible princess held a ball to meet potential husbands and found Ash instead, the Cinderella story would fit better. As it is, the prince/ball/midnight stuff feels a little tacked on. The prince is never in the running for Ash's affections, and almost doesn't need to be here at all.

And some of the less satisfying aspects of the plot occur when Lo is trying to fit the Cinderella story and her own story together. For example, Ash finds a fairy path through the forest that takes her back, in less than a day's journey, to her home village, where I can think of at least two people who would have taken her in. Sidhean sends her back to her stepmother's house every time she makes the trip, ostensibly because she's breaking fairy rules, but also because this is a Cinderella story and she can't escape her stepmother or else it'll be a different story. So, Ash ends up staying there, long after it starts seeming out of character.

Then again, Lo states on her Web site that she started with a more standard Cinderella story and only later realized her heroine was a lesbian, so I'm probably off-base in complaining about the Cinderella elements.

All of my complaints aside, Ash is a promising and creative debut with a lot of great things going for it. I will definitely look for later books by Malinda Lo in the future.
Profile Image for Tori (InToriLex).
448 reviews360 followers
September 14, 2015
Find this and other Reviews at InToriLex

Actual Rating 2.5


This was a book club read, shout out to the Boston Radical Women of Color Book Club. I recently joined this book club and this was my first read with the group.
I wanted to like and enjoy this book much more then I did. This is a Cinderella retelling where the protagonist falls for a Huntress and not a Prince. But it is in no way too risque or racy. In fact I expected a lot more from this controversial retelling.  In the book Ash becomes friends with Kaisa and eventually starts to feel something more. Other reviews have objected to the story off the premise alone, but its actually more about the friendship and bond that develops rather than romance.






"She asked 'Will I die?' He replied 'Only a little.' "


The fairy tale mythology and world building was not done well. So I found myself filling in gaps and trying to make connections to things that just weren't  there. I specifically read this book hoping to imagine non-white characters and explore some lgbqt issues, but everything was too subtle with little explanation in between. The writing was decent but the pacing was slow, so I kept reading more but even the final build up to the end was dissapointing. 



I enjoy re-tellings when they are done well, but this one didn't take advantage of the concept or connect the original storyline in a very unique way. I did enjoy the strong female characters and that the step-mother and sisters were three dimensional characters instead of evil caricatures. This wasn't a bad book, if you enjoy a cute fantasy you could find this enjoyable. Unfortunately it wasn't something I would recommend.
Profile Image for Maddie.
557 reviews1,136 followers
December 15, 2017
I've had this book on my TBR since it came out seven years ago @__@ I remember trying to find it in my tiny secondary school library, and searching the system for it every day until the librarian must have seen the searches and caved into buying it. And then I didn't even read it!

Since then, I've loved fairy tale retellings, especially of Cinderella - who's my ultimate favourite - and the fact that this has an F/F romance in it just makes it even more amazing. It just ticks so many boxes! 20 year Maddie definitely loved this one more than 12 year old Maddie would.

It felt so magical and beautifully written, with lots of legends and original fairy tales woven in to give you a great sense of the community. Adding actual fairies to fairy tales is always a good idea! If you like 'The Darkest Part of the Forest' and retellings, I'd definitely recommend this one.

(Hopefully next year I'll get round to reading more of my ancient TBR books, because this was really successful!)
Profile Image for Rida Imran .
217 reviews143 followers
November 15, 2019
I feel like a deserve a medal for finishing this lacklustre (in my opinion) book!

I read 2 books specifically for Pride Month this year: Ash and What if it's us and sadly I wasn't a fan of either. But this one was especially boring.

I'm down for a lesbian retelling of Cinderella but this book was snooze fest. I don't understand how people actually liked this book. There was a great idea and I would've loved it had it not all felt so flat. Disney's Cinderella has more depth to it's characters than this; evil the Stepmother was more evil in that one.

It's one of those times I wished 0 stars existed. Guess I'll have to go with 1.
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