Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo

a review by Nalini Haynes

Ash is a Cinderella story set in a fantasy world with a strong resemblance to the movie Ever After without some of the overt fan-services that included cameos from the like of Leonardo da Vinci. Aisling, nick-named Ash, is a young girl whose mother recently died. True to form, her father soon leaves for a long trip to the city, returning prematurely with a new wife and two step-children, before dying himself.  Ash is swiftly reduced to the status of a servant in her stepmother’s household.  When Ash grows into a young adult, there is a prince on the lookout for a wife and  stepsister on the lookout for a suitable – and profitable – match.

The differences between the original and this story make this novel both memorable and worth reading.  Ash isn’t on the lookout for a prince to rescue her as the damsel in distress; instead Ash is attracted to the Huntress, a notable figure in the royal court.  Ash’s fairy godmother is more of a fairy godfather except he’s been cursed to love a human girl, Ash herself.

Exposition is rather more of a feature of this novel than I usually like but it felt fitting.  Some fairy stories I read as a child likewise used exposition instead of ‘show don’t tell’.  I felt the author cheated a little: Clara was revealed as the sympathetic sister via exposition and well towards the end of the novel.  On a scale of one to ten, however, I think my criticisms are on the picky side.

While I appreciate sexytimes as much as the next person, I do enjoy a more conservative romance with a focus on the dance culminating in resolution, like Ash, instead of numerous sex scenes.

Ash is listed on Dymocks’ website (an Australian bookseller) as children’s fiction: I would generally disagree with this classification as I think romance belongs more in Young Adult, but this novel is so sweet and chaste that it is suitable for a child.

Overall this is a very promising first novel for a non-traditional author.  Highly recommended as a fairytale retelling.  A must for young teens growing up in the LGBT community as members and supporters; there is not enough of this style of fiction to build bridges and affirm relationships across people groups.