by Malinda Lo

Hardcover, 2009




New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2009.


Cinderella retold 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.… (more)

Media reviews

Malinda Lo’s somber and lovely “Ash” is a lesbian retelling of “Cinderella”... It features a beautiful orphan — Ash, short for Aisling, and a perfect play on the name “Cinderella” — a ­cruel, social-climbing stepmother and two sneering stepsisters. Lo gives us a vaguely medieval
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setting, royal hunts, grand balls and an unquestioned class hierarchy. Not until the introduction of Kaisa, the king’s gorgeous young huntress, do we get a spin on tradition.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member generalkala
A Cinderella retelling that isn't very Cinderella-y.

This is meant to be a reworking of the classic fairy tale with the addition of fairies, but the original is barely recognisable. Ash and the Prince barely pay attention to each other, 'Cinderella' is a lesbian, there's no glass slipper to be left
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behind and no transformation of vegetables into carriages. The only aspect of it that does overlap is a ball gown that magically appears on the doorstep. I don't understand why the girl is holding glass slippers on the cover, as there aren't any in the story.

The writing is very readable but clearly aimed at younger readers. However, the descriptions are beautiful and clearly make you feel the elegance of the scenery. The dialogue is unstilted and natural. Malinda Lo obviously has skill.

The thing that struck me most was the complete lack of emotion. The reader is never told how Ash feels, whether it's hatred, love or jealousy. She takes the existence of fairies as the most natural thing in the world and doesn't even consider that this might be, perhaps, a little bit odd.

The ending is rather rushed, I feel, but I won't spoil it.

Basically, a quick yet forgettable read.
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LibraryThing member galleysmith
Lo has created an interesting premise in this reworking of Cinderella’s story. There is absolutely no question of that. The problem is that there was too much going on. Was it a faerie story or was it a story about a girl awakening to the fact that she could be in love with another woman? The
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broad overview of both stories left me feeling as though Ash was disconnected from both potential romances; there wasn’t any passion in either. Given that, I didn’t feel the conflict Ash was supposed to be experiencing as she worked to decide which life and which partner to choose.

The latter made me wish we’d had a story without that conflict at all; that it was either Ash in the faerie tale or Ash awakening to her lesbianism all the way through. I understood completely the reason for having both in the story but for me that conflict muddled the eventual love story. Particularly since we also dealt with the overpowering step-mother, the annoying plotting step sister, and bits and pieces of the prince choosing his bride from all eligible ladies of the land. As I said, lots going on.

The faerie story aspect was intriguing and beautifully written. Of the whole story it was that area that drew me in as a reader the most. I wanted to know more about it and see more of it. I wanted Ash to tell us more of the history and interact with its inhabitants much more than she did. The sections where Ash was in the Wood and in that faerie land were so vivid I was excited to experience them.

In the end this book may not have been for me but it was none the less a book that I would encourage anyone interested in experiencing a retelling of Cinderella’s story to pick up.
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LibraryThing member book_worm127
I'm generally a fan of Cinderella retellings ( Ella Enchanted and Just Ella are at the top of my list), and this one deserves to be up there with the best of them. There a lot of traditional elements, and just as many non traditional ones. It all adds up to one great book.

I really don't want to say
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too much because I think that the best way to enjoy this is to discover the similarities and differences on your own. I am going to say that the Evil Stepmother is indeed evil, and sometimes I really just wanted someone to hurt her. I liked Ash. She was impulsive and reckless at times, unsure and shy in others, which balanced out nicely.

One thing that I noticed was absent from the book was character description. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, just different. I got a hair color here, an age there, maybe some height thrown in, but never the whole picture at the same time. It was interesting, and sometimes a little annoying, but most of the time it didn't really affect anything.

I really liked this book and thought that it was beautifully written. The story telling was gorgeous, as was the story. It was similar enough to Cinderella that you could see the parallels, but different enough that it was entirely its own story.
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LibraryThing member bluesalamanders
Ash lives with her father near a forest which is known for the fairy tales told about it. Few believe those tales anymore, but Ash's mother is one who does and after she dies, Ash begins having experiences that make her believe as well.

I enjoyed this book, though not as much as I had hoped. It's a
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retelling of the story of Cinderella, but unlike most fairy tale retellings I've read, the plot diverges from the familiar tale and becomes something very different. The plot and the writing style were quite good, the few characters that we got to know well were intriguing, and I liked many of the departures Lo made from the fairy tale.

Part of my problem with this book is the details that were left out. There were parts of the story that were missing - important characters that we learned almost nothing about - vital scenes that we didn't see. This gave the whole thing a slightly disjointed feel. In the reverse of so many books today, an additional ten or twenty pages could have added a great deal without harming the integrity of the story.

Also, part of the reason I originally picked this book up was because it was supposed to be 'a lesbian retelling of Cinderella (...) in Ash’s world, homosexuality is entirely normal. People are more likely to be heterosexual, but nobody blinks when they see a same-sex couple.' (Lo) I thought that was an interesting idea. Unfortunately, unless I missed something, it wasn't until half if not two-thirds of the way through the book that anybody saw or even mentioned a homosexual couple, Ash's new friend in the city never considered the possibility that she might not be looking for a husband, and Ash's ambitious sister never considered flirting with any wealthy women. While nobody commented when they did see homosexual couples, nothing else seemed to support it being a normal part of life. This aspect of the story was tacked on after most of the story had already been written, and unfortunately it shows by not being particularly well integrated into the rest of the tale.
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LibraryThing member Rhinoa
I picked this up in an airport travelling for work as I really liked the cover. It was in the teenage fiction section and in a retelling of Cinderalla. The book follows Ash after her mother dies. Her father is in a lot of debt and tricks a rich, vain woman into marrying him. She mistreats Ash
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though and after her father dies she becomes their slave. Her mother was linked to the fairy folk and Ash tries to keep up with the old customs even after moving into a more modern house with her step mother and step sisters.

This is where the author starts to have more fun and inject her own ideas onto the traditional story. Ash does meet the prince, but he is never really the focus of her attentions. Instead it is the Kings Huntress, Kaisa who she is drawn to. She also has much to do with one of the male fairies and there is a curse that is uncovered as the plot unfolds.

This was a lovely book and it was so refreshing to read a story where the main character is attracted to a woman and not following after the prince. There is no issue of her liking someone of the same sex, no fuss is made and it is not dwealt on, merely part of the story. At a bonfire couples pair off and there is a mix of men and women as well as woman and women couplings again with no issue made of it. It felt like a mature way to tackle the story and I would recommend this highly to anyone. One of my most enjoyed books so far this year and I am so glad the cover was pretty enough to catch my eye as I might have missed it otherwise.
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LibraryThing member keristars
I am of two minds about this book. On the on hand, I love it for its simplicity and the way it has the "fairy tale" feel, without bogging the narrative down in lots of details unless pertinent to the story. Yet I also found it to be unsatisfying and not quite right. For the most part, the good and
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enjoyable bits of the book outweigh the ones that don't quite live up to what I hoped for, but I still recommend it with reservations.

Ash is based on the Cinderella story, but is far from a literal interpretation - it isn't even all that similar to the Disney story, though there are several nods to the imagery from the film. It is set in fairy tale land that is clearly inspired by Irish folklore, though without being familiar with the geography of Ireland, I can't say whether the location is also inspired by that island.

I truly enjoyed the setting and the way Lo played with the Cinderella story. I also appreciated that in the land of Ash, romance between two women is unremarkable. It is very nice to read a book which accepts gay and lesbian romance as just as ordinary as straight romance, and where there's no need to struggle with Discovering One's Preferences and Coming Out.

When it comes to the characters, none of them were outright evil. I found myself sympathising with most of them at one point or another, though I was mostly disgusted with the stepmother. The original tale paints the stepfamily as greedy, selfish, and petty (amongst other negative attributes), so I do tend to like it when retellings of "Cinderella" make them more human, which Lo did - especially for the sisters.

But it could also be said that the humanising characteristics of the stepfamily are because the characters just aren't developed very strongly. This is where my dissatisfaction with the book comes in. Some of the characters, particularly the Huntress Kaisa who becomes one of Ash's few friends, felt very insubstantial to me. I knew what they were supposed to be and do in the story, but they had hardly any depth to them. Kaisa especially seemed to be little more than a cardboard cut-out that did very little but smile at Ash and be pretty. The little bit of characterisation she's given regarding her role as the King's Huntress was almost like Lo had realized she'd forgotten to show anything of Kaisa, and that particular scene was convenient.

There are elements of the plot and setting which could use more depth and which added to my dissatisfaction, but they didn't concern me as much. For example, the narrative explicitly comments that there was gold dust where Ash gripped a window frame early in the story, then later says that you can see where a fairy has been by the gold dust left behind. But nothing is ever said about why Ash would have left the gold dust (and I inferred that it was because of her touching the window that it was there). It's like it's a plot thread that trailed off and Lo forgot to return to. I mostly accepted some of these types of things as simply being beyond Ash's knowledge, so the reader isn't told of it. As unsatisfying as it is, I'm not unused to books hinting at a larger story but never really getting around to explaining it.

The final unsatisfying thing about the book is that it feels like it's a set-up for a sequel. I thought that the sequel would be about Ash's stepsister Clara, or perhaps a prequel about Kaisa before she became the King's Huntress, or maybe even about Ash's mother. These are all plot elements that hint at there being much more to tell, but never really follow through in the book. I'm growing a bit weary of YA books always seeming to be part of a series lately, so I was dismayed about this - and furthermore, when I learned that there is another book coming out (happily, it's only set in the same universe).

On the whole, I did like this book, and I will probably seek it out to read again. For all the unsatisfying parts, I liked the rest of it quite a lot. But though I recommend it, it's with caution because of the less than positive bits.
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LibraryThing member thenightbookmobile
LESBIANS! BEARS!* HUNTERS! OH MY! Please, someone inform the government. We have a retelling of Cinderella on our hands that includes lesbians. The world must be ending. It must be 2011. This is more terrifying than Y2k.

Other reviews I’ve seen claim the problem with this book is the fact that our
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Cinderella is Bisexual. This is not the issue with this book and that sort of response makes me horribly depressed. We need more heroines like this. We need more heroines who aren’t heteronormative in YA. Maybe, just maybe, that young girl who is afraid to come out and tell people who she really is, will read this book and feel that’s it’s just a little less impossible. That sounds worth it, don’t you think?

I truly applaud Malinda Lo for the idea she has presented here. For the modern Cinderella. May Belle, Aurora, Snow White and others go down the same path. However, I wish I could end this review here with this praise, but I cannot. We must go forward.

This book had all of the potential in the world. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that it met the expectations I had upon picking it up. I enjoyed the beginning, where we learned of Ash’s tragic childhood, and all that she lost. As Ash grew older and began her interactions with the fairy, I lost interest in the story. When Kaisa arrived, I was expecting a love story to rival that of Bennet and Darcy, but what I got was more along the lines of… well, some other boring couple who lacked passion and chemistry, so much so that I have forgotten them.

Perhaps I felt disconnected from Ash’s relationship with Kaisa because she does not enter the story until the second half of the book. Once she does appear in the story, my interest did increase, but not enough to save this novel for me. Their relationship progressed quickly and seemingly without much development. I never felt that Kaisa and Ash’s relationship was given the time to shine or develop. I wanted to root for them so badly, but I just couldn’t see it. When I closed the book, I closed it feeling detached and unaffected, which is something I hate to feel in response to literature. When I feel it, it’s with regret.
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LibraryThing member pussreboots
Ash by Malinda Lo is a YA alternate retelling of Cinderella. After the death of her mother, her father leaves for the nearby city on business. Things are forever changed when he returns with a wife and two step daughters.

That's the extent of the similarities Ash's story shares with the fairytale.
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Ash had a healthy childhood with loving parents, and a mother who taught her self confidence and the local lore. Her mother was a witch and was aware of the faeries who inhabit the forests.

Ash watches from the sidelines as her step-mother and step-sisters burn through her inheritance and and try to rise up the ranks. It's suggested that the step-mother might be a black widow, a detail that makes her actions all the more understandable and sinister.

But what makes Ash something truly special is Lo's world building. Through the stories the king's huntress tells we learn about the kingdom, it's history, mythology, and magic. Better yet, Ash is given an alternative from the typical happily ever after ending that's tied to the perfect dress and dancing with a prince.

Ash finds love and a way to escape her oppressive home life through her friendship with the huntress. Rather than turning Ash's sexual awakening into a source of angst or melodrama, Lo gives her the confidence and brains to make this work for her.
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LibraryThing member sweetiegherkin
Ash by Melinda Lo is a re-telling of the Cinderella story, so my expectations were kind of low as the redoing of classic fairy tales has been popular in recent years and thus has become just as trite as the original stories. However, Lo does an excellent job of breathing new life into the story in
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her first novel, a fantasy set in an unnamed world where many hold the traditional view that fairies live in the Wood. The story opens up with Aisling, a young girl of about 12 who goes by the nickname Ash, having just lost her mother. Soon afterwards, Aisling’s father remarries the cold-hearted Lady Isobel, who along with her daughters Ana and Clara, move into Ash’s life with no concern for her recent loss. Ash spends most of her time at her mother’s grave, where neighbors cluck that she is tempting fairies to take her away. Ash can’t think of anything better than being transported away by fairies and possibly seeing her mother again. Shortly after his remarriage, Ash’s father becomes ill and dies. Before long, Ash becomes a servant to her stepmother and stepsisters, but she also catches the eye of Sidhean when she goes wandering the Wood in her free time. Sidhean is a mysterious fairy, who instead of whisking Ash away from the human world for the rest of her life, is content to simply walk along with Ash from time to time. When Ash is about 18 or 19, she meets the King’s Huntress, a beautiful young woman with an important and high place in the royal court. Ash finds herself inexplicably drawn to the huntress Kaisa and is pleased to find that Kaisa pays her attention in return. But inevitably, Ash knows the day is coming when she will have to choose between her compelling attraction to Sidhean and her growing love for Kaisa. While the plot is not necessarily suspenseful and can indeed be rather slow moving at times, I couldn’t pull myself away from this book. I would have read it in one sitting, except that I got hungry and eventually had to put the book down. Lo’s language is simple but also lush with vivid imagery and an almost cinematic feel, and the magical world she creates is fascinating and alluring. The main characters are all well developed and interesting, except Sidhean who always appears as a very shadowy being (although I guess this is part of his characterization!). The love between Ash and Kaisa is not sensationalized, making this a rare treat in young adult books focusing on homosexual romance. Overall, an excellent read that I would recommend to anyone who isn’t closed-minded about what constitutes a romantic relationship.
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LibraryThing member chavala
I really liked this book. It's a retelling of the Cinderella tale, and I'm a big fan of novelizations of fairy tales, especially ones that bring in something unexpected, and have compelling female characters. This version has Faery - the kind that live in the hollow hills, the kind that steal you
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away if you eat their food, not the kind of the Victorian era or of Disney - and women who love women instead of pine for a prince. Good stuff.
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LibraryThing member senbei
“I’ll give thee fairies to attend on thee, and they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep, and sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep, and I will purge thy mortal grossness so that thou shalt like an airy spirit go”.

As a thinly-veiled retelling of Cinderellla, Malinda Lo’s Ash is
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likely the most fun and enchanting version yet. Aisling (AKA Ash) is so naturally humble and full of life it’s a bittersweet pill to travel with her through her childhood traumas and fears and later into undeserved servitude. Yet every setback is punctuated with a silvery visitation from fairy folk, as the enchanted forest is Ash’s sole solace.

Although Ash may have been written for a younger audience, a reader of any age is helpless but to be transmigrated to the state of mind of a child in wonder. Ash is interspersed with a great many fairy tales (I am ashamed I cannot say which are historical tales), and as the reader descends into each, one cannot almost hear a merry musical accompaniment dancing along the wooden trails. It is unfortunate that Ash doesn’t have illustrations, but in truth none are necessary to behold the clever vistas Lo paints.

Admittedly Aisling’s step-sister and mother are highly two-dimensional, which comes off as somewhat odd given that Sidhead (Aisling’s Changling champion) is endowed with such mysterious and mercurial moods. It’s far too easy to cast Lady Isobel into the “wicked step-mother” role with her inhuman antics. Generally an antagonist needs to be more than simply the protagonist’s enemy, but keeping with the Cinderella form was obviously important to the author. Fortunately Clara has more shades of gray than her sister: if one is supposed to view Clara as more human and humane than her Ana and Isobel, or even as a chrysalis, why then did she never lift a hand to protect Aisling and stop the abuse? Clara’s inaction in the face of her sister’s torture does nothing but paint her solidly in the archetype “wicked” colors, it’s difficult to say if this was the author’s intention.

As a piece of young adult literature Ash has a strong candidacy. It’s fun. It’s cute. It’s mischievious. It’s sad and poignant. It’s a beautiful and touching young lesbian love story and despite her station, Aisling fights for her love and follows her heart. The protagonist overcomes incredible adversity and even takes responsibility and faces the music when it’s time to pay the piper. Aisling undergoes a dramatic change and learns to take control of her own destiny from those that would lead her to ruin.

I thoroughly enjoyed this piece and am only sad it was so short. Maybe the fire that burns half as long burns twice as brightly; hopefully it was short by design and not on the advice of the publisher. I eagerly await Malinda Lo’s next work.
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LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
A retelling of the Cinderella story set in a world where fairies walk the forests (if you believe in the old stories) and Aisling doesn't fall in love with a prince, but a huntress. The richly imagined, brooding atmosphere reminded me of A Curse Dark as Gold. I wish I had felt more of a connection
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with the characters, but I like it overall and this will please fans of fairy tale retellings.
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LibraryThing member booksandwine
I found Ash by Malinda Lo through book blogs, found many positive reviews, and decided, why not order the book, as I love the cover, and I liked that it received almost universal positive reviews.Fancy my luck, when those reviews turned out to be mostly correct. Now, I will admit bloggers are not a
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homogenous group of people, we like different authors, different books, different writing styles, one person’s Danielle Steele may be another person’s Shakespeare. I know in time, you find bloggers who are your reading soul-mate, it is like this person climbed into your brain and just intuitively has the same taste in reading as you. I think I have found a few reading soul-mates. When I saw their reviews for Ash, I absolutely knew I had to read Ash. Turns out I highly enjoyed it. I love a good cover, I love a good fairy-tale retelling, and I love me some diversity, as I’ve been through the higher education political correctness track, so you must imagine my excitement over a re-telling of Cinderella with lesbians and handsome fairy men! OH MY GAWD was I excited when the smiling amazon box came in the mail with this book. I promptly opened the box, took out the book, and began to read. Unfortunately I have a busy busy busy life, so I had to take breaks.Ash is full of intriguing characters such as Sidhean the fairy, Aisling who is Ash, her stepsisters Clara and Ana and of course Kaisa. To be honest, I want to know more about Clara and Ana and Kaisa! For example, why is Ana such a bitch, I want to know the deep underlying reason besides the fact that her mum is one as welll. I want to know how Clara turned out so sweet. I want to know about Kaisa's background and her life. I really enjoyed the secondary characters. Now this isn't to detract from Aisling, since she's interesting. I like that she occasionally gave her witch of a stepmother the retort she deserved.I liked the writing style, except parts seemed to just drag on and on. I did like how this truly felt like a fairy tale. I didn't feel the writing was contrived at all. I know some books try to do the fairy tale re-telling and it's just plain awkward , but this was not awkward. I felt empathy for Ash’s plight, how much does it suck to lose both parents, oh and I hated her stepmother deeply what a crazy betch.I highly recommend Ash!
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LibraryThing member Wombat
Lady Wombat says:

This is one of those fantasies that left me hovering on the fence of belief. Lo does not pull you in through logical world-building, but instead attempts to do so through the haunting, dream-like quality of her writing and of the story itself. At times, I was willing to be drawn
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into the dream, willing to let go of the logical, world-building questions I had; but at others, I found the questions too compelling to be ignored.

Glad someone has finally attempted to play with the sexuality of the characters in a fairy tale retelling for YA's, though.
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LibraryThing member semjaza
“Ash” is nearly a traditional fairy tale, with spare prose and characters that are more ideas of people than people themselves. Ash herself is a worthy Cinderella, though her fairy godmother is a dangerous sidhe prince straight from the depths of Celtic folklore, and her Prince Charming is
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someone else altogether. The twists on tradition are enjoyable, and although I worried if the story’s pacing could handle the unexpected changes, the author deftly worked through them without sacrificing style. While I’m not the intended audience for this novel, I do love fairy tales of all sorts, and this one is no exception.
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LibraryThing member HarlequinTwilight
There's something about fairy tales that always feel magical. No matter the story, no matter the characters, there is something about them that just makes you feel the magic inside them. Ash makes you feel every bit of that magic, and more.

Just about everyone, everyone female at least, over the age
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of 13 or so has heard and/or seen the story of Cinderella. Whether it is Disney's version or the classic fairy tale or the Brothers Grimm version or even one of the other hundreds of versions that have been founded over the years, we all know it. Ash is a version that I'm sure you've never heard of before, but that you should.

After losing her mother, Ash's father takes a wife, Lady Isobel. Soon after meeting Lady Isobel, her and her two daughters move into the house with Ash and her father and things drastically change. In line with the fairy tale, Ash's father becomes gravely ill and passes shortly after. Which not only leaves Ash heartbroken, but also leaves her without either of her parents, and stuck with a "family" that doesn't even like to look at her.

This is the beginning that we all know about Cinderella, and while Ash has many aspects that are the same as the original tale, they are not the same in the slightest. Ash doesn't get the typical fairy godmother; she gets something else all together, but something even more powerful than anything in the candy coated version that is fed to us as children.

Ash gets a fairy, Sidhean, who is even more lethal and dangerous than anything her stepmother or stepsisters could do/say to Ash. But that's masked in an extent by the beauty and the friendship that lies between Ash and Sidhean. And I mean that to an extent far more than the typical connection between two characters, their relationship is more developed and deeper than most would have thought possible in a novel that doesn't even break 300 pages.

But one day Ash's life, and heart, changes forever. She meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, and there is something between them that's different from the second they meet. Ash begins to stop chasing fairies and starts to live in the world without fairies and the fairy tales, and learns how to hunt and to ride and to track animals. But in this change of life, there is a price for keeping it and for continuing to let it grow.

Through her relationship with Kaisa, Ash finds what it means to grow and what it means to let her heart guide her and in that realization, she also finds a new capacity to live. Ash prefers the company to the Huntress than the company of the Prince, and that makes this story even more powerful. Malinda Lo has created a world that is magical and finds it's own footing in a world were fairy tales are viewed as being for children and has given the older crowd a fairy tale of their own.

This is some of the most beautiful, lyrical writing I've seen in a long time and that is so refreshing. The imagery just blows me away and it's like you're standing right there with Ash through everything, whether it be pain, joy, adventure, or terror. It would kill be to see this story get cast aside and labeled a "lesbian retelling of Cinderella" because it's so much more than that. It's a beautiful story that anyone could relate to and that everyone could take something away from.

I found myself hoping for a sequel in a story that doesn't need one, just because I wanted to spend more time with the characters and spend more time in this world that Malinda has created. It's beautiful, it's magical, and it's a story that until now, I didn't know could even exist, but it does, and it needs to be heard. Not to mention, look at the cover. It is so beautiful! This is easily one of my favorite stories this year and I hope that if it's given the chance, it can become everyone else’s.
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LibraryThing member RapidCityPubLib
Ash by Malinda Lo

I enjoyed this book, it is a retelling of Cinderella, but it is so much more, the basic story is there, but Lo takes a classic story and makes it her own. Making Ash a character that takes charge of her future, not just a bystander that is moved along by supporting characters.
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Read to find out how Ash chooses not just to live, but to love.
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LibraryThing member Silvernfire
I looked forward to reading this book for months, and I ended up disappointed. In keeping with being a retelling of a fairy tale, Ash has a certain distanced formality to it. But while that's fine in a real fairy tale—a short story only lasting for a few pages—Ash is a novel and I expected
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more. The story lacks passion, odd in a tale that's supposedly driven by romantic love. The story moved slower than I expected, so by the time the part with the romance and balls and magical transformations got going, I was more irritated than excited. As for Ash and Kaisa's relationship, I felt as if I'd been told (by the plot description on the cover!) that they were in love, but I was having the hardest time seeing it in the story itself. What did they have in common besides a love of the Wood? What did Kaisa love about Ash, and vice versa?

There were parts of the book I admired. I thought Lo's take on the fairy godmother element was clever as all get-out. This was where her restraint worked to the story's benefit, building suspense as I wondered how much danger Ash might be in and when it would all come together and payment come due. The author also did a good job in creating the world for her story. I had a sense of the conflicting cultures in that world, especially in the first half of the book where they're a bigger part of the story. Overall, it's a solid, original retelling of "Cinderella;" it's just that I'd hoped for more.
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LibraryThing member melissaconway
In order to set the stage for this review, I should give you a little information about me. I’m a writer of fiction who recently switched genres from Chick Lit to Young Adult Fantasy/Sci-fi.

There were three reasons I picked this book. First, because of the aforementioned switch, I want to keep
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abreast of what’s being published in my new genre so I understand the market. Second, Booksquawk was low on young adult review submissions. Third, I was in the bookstore underwhelmed by the glut of young adult vampire novels and overwhelmed by the rather urgent need to get my six-year-old son out of there before he knocked over an entire shelf while I was distracted trying to read the back covers of books.

Ash has eye-catching cover art, the blurb on the back has a short excerpt and three glowing reviews from other authors, and the inside cover has a brief synopsis. Under pressure to hurry, I skimmed the first page, impressed, but then my son, who is in self-imposed training to become a circus clown, sneezed violently and with much spittle into the wooden face of a character painted on a cutout display. That was what decided me on Ash.

The reason I’ve spelled this decision out in such a way is to let you know how it came to be that I had no idea Ash was, as author Malinda Lo describes it on her website, “a lesbian retelling of Cinderella.”

No clue.

I got halfway through the novel, enjoying it greatly except for a few glaring editing issues, such as, “Ash asked curiously,” when suddenly I started wondering, “Is Ash into this other chick?” I flipped to the end, where [spoiler alert!] it appeared there was a happy ending—and yes, she hooks up with another woman. So I re-read the back cover, where other than a suggestion of intimacy in the short excerpt, it doesn’t really come out and say the story is a lesbian retelling of Cinderella. The inside flap would have given me a better idea what to expect, but it too required thoughtful interpretation, and since I was highly distracted when I first glanced at it, well, you know what happened.

If I had known, I probably would have set Ash back on the shelf and moved on to something more suited to a heterosexual who enjoys imagining herself as the heroine. But now that I had it in hand and found it to be a lyrical story that had thus far brought tears to my eyes more than once, I saw no reason not to finish it. After all, gays and lesbians are bombarded with hetero romance in every imaginable medium. If something made me uncomfortable, I could always flip past it.

So I read on.

Ash’s world is a place where fairies are not the Disneyfied caricatures we grew up with, but the more traditional magical creatures out of legend. Instead of a benevolent fairy Godmother, Ash is saddled with a male fairy named Sidhean who, through a curse placed on him by Ash’s own mother in a rather vague plot device, has a crush on her—complete with stalkerish tendancies. He’s powerful and persuasive, and as Ash grows from coddled child to orphaned servant, he convinces her that she will one day be his. Refreshingly, Ash’s world also seems to be a place where same-sex couples are commonplace or even de rigueur; although not free from angst, this is not a coming-out type novel. Even though author Lo sets the stage via Ash’s conviction and Sidhean’s confirmation that she will have a steep price to pay for the favors he grants her (trip to the ball a la Cinderella, etc.), it all ends rather meekly, with hardly a repercussion for her final choice to stay in the human world with her female lover. The love scenes themselves are handled so delicately that I didn’t have to flip past anything at all. With young adult novels all over the board as far as sexual content, Lo could have gone into more detail, but she didn’t; the novel kept descriptions of physical contact to a minimum and they were tender and sweet rather than graphic. The story maintains a dreamy quality throughout, reminiscent of old-style fairy tales.

According to the bio on the back cover, Ash is Lo’s first novel. Usually that means an author has approximately five to ten unpublished manuscripts haunting his/her hard drive. I suspect, based on Lo’s connections in the journalism world and the somewhat unpolished feel of her prose, that this is, indeed, the first novel she’s written. Either way, I could hardly put it down.

(Review originally published on Booksquawk)
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LibraryThing member flying_monkeys
Rating: 3.5 of 5

I loved that Lo named her Aisling instead of some typical variation of Cinderella. I loved that the story included old school fae, not the typical pretty little flying Disney fairies who live to grant humans' wishes. The worldbuilding and setting had the familiar feel of old tales,
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yet still felt fresh. The twist in the romance department was refreshing, especially since Lo allowed the relationship to build in a subtle way, not with flashing lights and bullhorns; Ash's feelings were a discovery, an awakening.

It wasn't a perfect book, though, only skimming the surface of its thought-provoking themes for young people, such as grief, individuality, and sexuality. And the aforementioned relationship was almost a little too subtle - it would have been nice to see into each of their hearts and minds a bit more before the book ended. Ash could have gone much deeper in that respect, which is why I didn't give it the full four stars.

I look forward to reading another book by Lo.
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LibraryThing member alwright1
Ash is a retelling of Cinderella, and it felt like a fairy tale to me. This means that it had both the strengths and weaknesses that I usually feel with fairy tales. The setting was lush, full of beauty, and at times spooky. I loved the fairy tale world Malinda Lo created. But I always feel distant
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from fairy tale characters. It is always hard to imagine them fully, like they are characters in a dream. Their motivations are often unclear. So the only character I felt particularly warmed to was the charming Huntress. But it was a fairy tale story in a fairy tale land, and I enjoyed it.
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LibraryThing member librarymeg
Malinda Lo got the storyteller's cadence of a fairy tale or folktale just right. This is perfect for crafting a new version of a fairy tale, but I'm not sure it can hold a whole novel together. So while I enjoyed the story and the new take on Cinderella, her great love, and her fairy godmother, I
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wasn't transported. It was original, but for me it wasn't wholly memorable. I'll remember the story, but the details will fade.

As for the handful of reviews I've read here on GoodReads that bemoan the loss of the handsome prince and the singing mice (have you ever even read an actual, non-Disneyfied fairy tale?), I say "grow up." Fairy tales and folktales are a human tradition. They reflect our wonder of the world around us, they are cautionary tales, and they connect people of the same culture. If there is anything in the world that was expressly designed to be altered to reflect our changing human experience, it is a fairy tale. And if you can't stand the idea of two girls kissing, you are a timid soul indeed. So stick to Disney's version of Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Leave the real fairy tales to the rest of us.
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LibraryThing member schatzi
I really wanted to like - no, love - this book. Billed as a lesbian reimagining of the Cinderella tale, the book, unfortunately, is about as dull as can be. I never identified with any of the characters; there seemed to be a severe lack of depth. There's also practically no conflict in the entire
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story; Ash makes a deal with a fairy prince, but it is resolved with practically no thought at all.

She also never questions her sexuality, either, once she starts to fall in love with the Huntress (although, to be honest, she has little to no chemistry with the Huntress). In this world, it's apparently perfectly acceptable to be a lesbian, which is fine by me; honestly, that is the way the world should be. But...I don't know, I'd like a little more conflict here.

I found myself plodding through the book, waiting for it to be better until the last page was done. And then I wondered why I had bothered to finish it.

I wanted to love this book, and I wanted to give it a much higher rating. I simply can't.
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LibraryThing member Jessie_Bear
After the death of her parents, Ash captures the attention of a mysterious fairy, a prince, and the king’s huntress. This Cinderella-based tale does what a quality re-telling should: it uses a classical tale as its premise but adds to it something new and original. Rarely before has “prince
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charming” been so nondescript, nor the “fairy godmother” so alluring and dangerous. Set in a changing world, this fairy tale mixes magic with banality in a believable and readable way. As an original work, this story’s Cinderella chooses to love outside of the realm of magic or charming princes. The same-sex relationship presented develops organically and beautifully, avoiding cliché or over-eroticism. Love in this novel is presented with sincerity, juxtaposed with imitations of love such as false glamour or wealth. Both major and minor characters are developed with nuance and personality; they are complex with their own conflicts and agendas. Lyrical prose and meaningful dialogue carry the fairy tale infused narrative along. Even though Ash’s environment is working to stamp out magic, the fantastical is interwoven and ever-present. Lo creates an imaginative fantasy world that adheres to its own rules and comes with its own consequences. Overall, the story is well paced with a satisfying conclusion. This novel is highly recommended for girls ages thirteen to seventeen. It is also highly recommended for any lending collection for young adults that strives to have an adequate representation of LGBT fiction.
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LibraryThing member LyndaGabby
Cinderella has been done so many times and so many different ways that it can get kind of old after a while.

There are some pretty cool things that Malinda Lo does different though which is enough to make it fresh. To me at least.

The best part of the story to me was the obsessive love is not True
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Love message. Which please don't get me wrong I actually liked Twilight but as a one time deal kind of thing. Not as a 'now every teen book must contain a love triangle wherein the girl will be followed and the object of unyielding attention which is a good thing because omg LOVE'

Also real fairies.

Also Malindo Lo creates her own mythology with the Huntress, (also the name of her prequel which was pretty good)

On many levels it's a Cinderella story yes. But on a deeper level it shows a girl suffering from loss, depression and abuse and how love, the giving of it and the receiving, can save a life. End of cliche gushing. It's an awesome book and you should read it right away.
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Lambda Literary Award (Finalist — 2010)
Mythopoeic Awards (Finalist — Children's Literature — 2010)
Gaylactic Spectrum Award (Shortlist — Novel — 2010)
Otherwise Award (Long list — 2010)



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