Kelly's Reviews > Ash

Ash by Malinda Lo
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's review
Oct 07, 2009

really liked it

(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.
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Reading Progress

October 7, 2009 – Shelved
October 8, 2009 –
page 62
October 9, 2009 –
page 98
October 12, 2009 –
page 120
Started Reading
October 13, 2009 –
page 264
October 13, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Interesting title - the author did her homework. Aschenputtel, loosely and literally translated from the German, is 'Ash Digger'.

Your review makes the book seem a tantalising read, despite the plot drawbacks.

Kelly Yup, I liked the heroine's name; "Aisling" is Gaelic for "dream" or "vision," and "Ash" as a nickname evokes the original version of the Cinderella story, and as an added bonus, her using "Ash" as the nickname for "Aisling" shows she knows how to pronounce the latter correctly. ;)

It's worth reading. The prose is lovely; I just started wishing she'd jettisoned the Cinderella plot and stuck with her own plot, which was compelling enough on its own.

message 3: by Scribble (last edited Nov 11, 2010 10:26AM) (new) - added it

Scribble Orca I'll TR it then, thanks. Not sure if this would be your cup of tea?

Kelly I loved that book. :)

message 5: by Scribble (new) - added it

Scribble Orca Did you read the rest of the series? I found the plot fantastic, it was the ..... embellishment that ...erm...turned me off!

Kelly I've read all of them, with varying results. Kushiel's Avatar is my favorite.

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