Marirosa Mia: I’ve been in a bit of a fairytale retelling kick lately, most likely because the novel I’m writing is very fairytale-like, so I wanted to see how other writers have taken popular/iconic tales and made them their own. Enter Malinda Lo’s ASH, which had been sitting on my to-read pile since my friend Ames sent it to me.
When it was published in 2009, ASH was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Kirkus Best Book for Young Adults, and a William C. Morris Award YA Debut Award Finalist. Not too shabby for a retelling of Cinderella. But like I said before, if you’re going to retell a classic – especially one that’s already been retold so many times before – you better make it your own. Malinda Lo did just that.
In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, she often finds herself curled up on her mother’s grave, waiting for the fairies of folk tales to come steal her away. It’s during one of these nights that she meets Sidhean, a fairy, who though often cold and mysterious elicits strong emotions of want and need in Ash. And though it is common for humans to be enchanted by the fey, it is clear that Ash is not normal and that her feelings for Sidhean may be a small part enchantment and a large part loneliness. Soon Sidhean becomes one of her only friends and allies. Though Ash asks Sidhean to take her away over and over again, Sidhean refuses, declaring that Ash ‘is not ready yet’ and returning her home.
Then one day Ash meets Kaisa, the King's royal Huntress, who makes Ash…well, feel something, something different from what she feels with Sidhean. Not need or want but the return of life itself, as only love can. As Kaisa teaches Ash how to hunt and enjoy her brief moments away from her family, her heart begins to thaw, though she wasn’t aware it was frozen in the first place. The sweet love between Kaisa and Ash is so well written that every time Kaisa and Ash met my heart skipped just a bit at the possibilities that lay ahead for them.
My only disappointment was in Clara – the nice stepsister – who didn’t feel as fleshed out and necessary at times; every time she was introduced I thought, ‘Oh yeah, her.’
ASH is delicate and entrancing, filled with the sort of pure love (and I don’t mean pure in the sweet, clean sort of way, but in the so well done that how could these two not be together way) that brings a smile to your face. Malinda Lo has taken the bones/tropes of Cinderella and her little glass slipper and laced it with culture and folk tales that give it a sense of place and time while still making it new and fresh. Lo’s writing creates a haunting tone like a heavy mist that rolls through a dense forest carrying with it myth and history. I very much enjoyed this retelling and will dive into my pile once again to see what other gems I have yet to discover.