Summary from Goodreads:
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.
I picked this book up because I planned on reading Huntress. This book was written first, so I thought, “Sure, I’ll give it a try, even if this is not my normal bag.”
The first thing to note is that this is a fairy tale retelling. Ask yourself: do you like fairy tale retellings? They usually take elements of a story that you know and love and change them. Sometimes that in itself is enough to turn some people off. I am not one of those – I dislike fairy tale retellings for entirely different reasons, not the least of them being I just find them boring. The end is always a foregone conclusion. The story follows trials and tribulations right up until the moment where they kiss and then BAM, the book is over.
I thought the idea of a lesbian Cinderella intriguing, and I dislike that anyone would find that in itself shocking. Why do fairy tale retellings have to stay in the archaic medieval mode that heterosexuality is the only accepted norm. Don’t lesbians deserve a happy ending and someone to sweep them off their feet? Of course! How many stories can I name where that happens?
Yeah I can’t come up with any either. It’s rather sad, isn’t it? There are so many young girls (be they straight, gay, or undecided) and all they get to read about is crappy vampire romance where no one is gay, ever. I know, I’m making sweeping generalizations here. Please, if you know any good titles, share them with me. The best part of the fantasy genre is that anything goes. So why is the genre, as a whole, afraid of GLBT relationships?
While I liked the idea, it could have been so much more. There was no conflict. I enjoyed there was none of the “You can’t do that, you’re a GIRL!” or “You can’t love her, she’s a GIRL!” Her sexuality was accepted and not a word was said. I like that it was accepted, I just wanted there to be SOME sort of conflict, a question, an uncomfortable situation, ANYTHING. She falls in love without ever really questioning herself. There is no rocky relationship start; everything falls into place just about perfectly. There was never any question that the two would end up together.
Getting through the years of 12-15 years old is hard. That’s why there’s so much awesome literature about coping with adolescence; that period of life sucks. How much harder is it when you are also coping with sexual identity? When the entire world is telling you that heterosexuality is the only way you will ever be accepted, it is a seriously big deal. So to brush it off like it isn’t a big deal…well, that’s one way of telling a story, I guess. While I want more GLBT relationships in fantasy, and I want young girls to be able to read literature that will help them become strong women who accept themselves, this is simply not the book to do it.
Of course, the climax of the love story did still manage to make me feel happy for Ash. I couldn’t help it, that part was nicely done. That was the only time the two characters felt alive to me – the entire rest of the book they felt wooden and boring.
Ash spends the first part of the novel going through the well known, but modern, Cinderella origins, with dead father and evil step mother and all that. Once she actually becomes a servant, the story essentially stops being Cinderella. The prince is still a character and he goes through all the normal Cinderella stuff – which was pretty hilarious actually. He’s running around in the background trying to find the mystery girl he danced with, and Ash is all “Who wants a prince when I could have that awesome Huntress.” I really like that Malinda Lo decided to make it the Huntress and not a princess. Princesses and damsels in distress are not only a heterosexual fantasy, they focus on the men swooping in. So, high five Malinda.
Overall, this book left me feeling completely neutral. I didn’t hate it, but I found nothing to love.