Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo

This book was really good, really fast, and surprisingly all-ages appropriate! (I just figured there’d be a sex scene somewhere in there, but no!) The great thing about reading a re-telling (like Cinder, Ash was a re-telling of the Cinderella story) is seeing how the individual author breathes new life into an old story. The pillar character of the cruel stepmother is present, of course, but she doesn’t come across as empty tribute. The character was painted realistically, and the reader believes this is a person who enjoys petty cruelties and taking out her anger on others. Instead of a fairy godmother, Lo’s cinderella has a fairy prince, and they aren’t just passing acquaintances. For much of the book Sidhean is Ash’s only friend. Another realistic aspect of the story Lo gives us is the pain Ash experiences at losing both her parents, particularly her mother. When Ash mourns at her grave, on more than one occasion, we feel her pain with her.

But perhaps most striking about this version of the story is how Lo has cast our heroine’s love interest not as the prince of the kingdom, but as the king’s huntress. So here we have two young women attracted to one another as the central love story, and it’s so refreshing! This is one of the most essential reasons we retell old tales — to make them accessible and relatable to new audiences. Unlike a book might be if targeted toward adults, this novel isn’t focused on sexual tension or desire; all of the nuance here is the nervousness of first love, wondering “what is this feeling?,” blushing and turning away, being unsure of what to say in that other person’s presence. You’re going to fall in love with Ash, Kaisa, and Sidhean, and you’ll be left craving more of them when you finish this short volume.

The quiet afternoon opened up between them like a woman stretching her limbs.

[If you love re-tellings of old tales and want something a little more adult, check out Tanith Lee‘s White as Snow. It’s fantastic, too.]

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