Monday, 18 March 2013

Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo is a retelling of the Cinderella story. It's not a straight retelling of the fairytale (pun rather intended) with some variations on the theme, but I think it will appeal most to people who enjoy fairytale fantasy.

Ash opens with the titular character's mother's death and the story takes us through her father's remarriage, death and Ash's subsequent indentured servitude to her stepmother. (Gosh, it's nice to be able to just lay out the plot like that because everyone knows it — very liberating!) As well as the Cinderella framework, Ash brings a fairly traditional view of fairies to the table — by traditional, I don't mean "the same as in the Disney version of Cinderella" at all — and a dose of female empowerment in the form of the office of the King's Huntress.

In fact, the Huntress was my favourite secondary character. For reasons we're not told because they don't matter to Ash (but I hope we find out in the sequel), the person in charge of the Royal Hunt, who also acts as a sort of mediator between what's best for the forest and the meat the king requires, is the Huntress. Her job is to lead the hunt in the Woods and she has a team of mostly male hunters that follow her. I am quite intrigued to learn more about her and the office and this will be my main motivation for reading the prequel, I think.

At first I found Ash a little slow and was disappointed at how closely it stuck to the framework of Cinderella. However, I liked Ash as a character and at no point did I want to stop reading about her. Once the Huntress became more of a prominent character — and the hunt and fairyland important plot elements — I was sold.

The story is quite self-contained with the requisite fairytale happy ending (happier than I expected, but not quite a traditional sort of ending either) and I didn't feel a plot-related burning desire to read the prequel (which I initially thought would be a sequel).

I enjoyed Ash overall and I recommend it to fans of fairytales and the sort of fantasy heavy in fairies and enchanted forests. It is technically a YA book, but I see no reason for adult readers not to enjoy it. I will be picking up the prequel when I get a chance (sadly, probably not very soon).

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2009, Little Brown & Company (US) but the 2010, Hodder Children's Book (UK) edition is reviewed and pictured (with actual British spelling most of the time ZOMG)
Series: Yes. I don't think there's a series name but the prequel is Huntress.
Format read: Real life paper book *gasp!*
Source: Christmas present

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