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
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.