Ash by Malinda Lo

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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.

Ash by Malinda Lo

Published: March 4th 2010 by Hodder Children’s

Source: Library

Thoughts:

I find it incredibly difficult to talk about my favourite books but sometimes, I try. I always found Cinderella to be the most relatable of all my childhood heroines (not counting the prince) because she had to put energy into work that wasn’t always related to her dreams. I used to pull out all of the different versions of Cinderella I could find in my school library. I’m glad this incarnation found me as an adult too.

For in the depths of grief, sometimes one cannot tell the difference between illusion and reality.

Ash is a heroine I admire so much for her quiet fortitude and her persistence in pursuing what she yearns for. I’ve been incredibly lucky to find fantastical ethereal stories that are still about people who grieve and find their way back into the life.

I loved the slow burn old school fairytale feel of Ash’s story, which is also rooted in the reality of growing up with and without having hope while slowly building up resilience again.

In terms of world-building, the fae fascinated me in this one. Ash’s conversations with both the fae and the huntress shows how she finds people she can trust and lean on throughout different points in her life. Ash’s exploration of possibilities while finding her own sense of self and belonging is my favourite part of this book.

Even though Ash was first marketed as a lesbian fairytale retelling, her attraction to people regardless of their gender is also present. In our world, Ash can be read as bisexual and I am glad that she does find love in Kaisa, the huntress. I wish there had been a few more scenes of them getting to know each other but it’s still a beautifully written arc. Also, in this fantasy world, same-sex attraction does not have any prejudices that our world sometimes creates.

*Thanks to Shay for reminding me that I need to get my own copy at some point. Also, thanks to Romi for sharing the love.

Ash

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11 thoughts on “Ash by Malinda Lo

  1. Wow, the way you describe this book makes me want to run out and buy it straight-away. Cinderella retellings have also had such a place in my heart, too. And it would be awesome to read one where the “choice” isn’t mega-obvious. Thanks for writing this review!

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  2. Ah, this is a beautiful novel isn’t it? I read it a few years ago in high school, and I loved the fairy tale atmosphere of it. It felt soo cosy? But also quite eerie with the fae. I remember relishing in Lo’s beautiful language. Ash and Kaisa’s relationship was so lovely to read about, but yes, it would’ve been cool to have had more scenes with them.

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  3. Ah, gorgeous review, Glaiza. I really love how you, Chiara and I all read this to find out our differing thoughts, and I’m so glad your love for this convinced me that I had to read it, because it became one of my most beloved reads, and reading your review made me so keen for a reread!

    I definitely find it hard to write reviews for books I really, really adore, because it’s just so hard to get the right words out, the words that will really convey what this thing of paper and ink means to you. Ash was such a special, surprising read, and while I was frustrated by the almost complete lack of recognition of the bisexuality present, externally to the book, I so loved reading it.
    xx

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    1. Writing this review made me keen to re-read it too! I’m glad this book found you at a good time too, Romi. It’s great that recognition of bisexual representation is more present now in the YA community but I agree, it still has a fair way to go when marketing sometimes, contributes to erasure.

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  4. Oh goodness, this line about Cinderella, “she had to put energy into work that wasn’t always related to her dreams”. I never ever thought of Cinderella in this light before, so I sat here thinking about it for a long time.
    Anyway, thank you for reviewing Ash! Now I am confident that it’ll be a good book because you liked it. 🙂
    And if it explores belonging – YES PLEASE!!

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    1. I probably spent too much of my childhood chasing fairytales and thinking about Cinderella XD but I’m glad it offers food for thought. I’m trying in my slow turtle-like way to go through the back log of favourite diverse books to review, which I’ve put off writing for so long.

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