Lucy's Reviews > Ash

Ash by Malinda Lo
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Nov 17, 2010

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bookshelves: 2013-reads, fantasy, lgbtq, young-adult
Read from May 16 to 17, 2013

Ash has been on my to-read list since it was first published, and I was so sure that I’d love it. A lesbian Cinderella, set in a world of vicious faeries and religious tensions, written by an author who researches and promotes diversity in YA literature… what’s not to love? Unfortunately this one just wasn’t for me. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I disliked Ash… it just wasn’t what I was expecting, and as such I found myself disappointed.

Ash reads like one long fairytale - great if you’re a fan of fairytales. Lo hits all the right notes and her retelling explores all the key themes of the original fairytale: belonging, coming-of-age, overcoming class barriers. But for me at least, it felt as though the entire story was one long build-up to the last ten pages. The characters were lifeless and there were no surprises, no clever twists to keep the reader entertained. Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, for instance, loosely follows the original fairytale of Cinderella, but does so in an incredibly unique and funny way, with new problems and higher stakes. Lo does steer away from the events of the original fairytale, but her version of events lacks tension. From the beginning to the end, I knew exactly what would happen to Ash and when. (Of course, it doesn’t help that the entire story is summarised in the blurb. If you’re interested in reading Ash, I advise you not to read the blurb beforehand.)

Nonetheless, Lo’s prose is absolutely gorgeous. I usually find it hard to like a story when I’m not particularly invested in the characters, but the lush, whimsical descriptions of faeries, and Kaisa’s hunting party, and the grave in the haunted woods took my breath away. Lo’s world-building was also fantastic. Her world is rich and descriptive; a loosely medieval kingdom teetering on the edge of abandoning pagan beliefs for organised religion. Lo’s world was far more interesting to me than her characters, who were sympathetic, but at times felt flat.

I’d recommend Ash to younger teens and readers who prefer old fairytales over new retellings.

Rating: 3 stars
Review cross-posted to Paperback'd.
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05/16/2013 marked as: currently-reading
05/17/2013 marked as: read

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