Ash by Malinda Lo
3/5 stars ***
Courtesy: Forbes Library
Premise (3.5/5)- The only other book of Malinda Lo’s I’ve read is Huntress, which I believe I liked well enough but don’t remember very well; I read it quite a while ago. But, as we all know, I will literally always pick up a fairytale retelling, and Ash has been at the edges of my radar for quite some time. I knew going in that it was a lesbian Cinderella retelling, and I was very curious to see how that would work in the traditional outline of the story.
Characters (3/5)- I liked Ash and Kaisa a lot, though I would have liked to see them even further fleshed out. Cinderella retellings can be sort of tough because the Cinderella character can get sort of mopey sometimes, understandably, but that can be hard to read. That wasn’t really an issue in this retelling, but sometimes I wanted a little more from Ash. Still, I liked her relationship with Kaisa, and I thought her relationship with Sidhean and the fairies in general was really interesting. And, honestly, fairly relatable. Stepmother and stepsisters weren’t particularly well-developed, but that’s not very unusual for Cinderella retellings. I would’ve liked a little more intimacy with our main characters, but they were likable.
Plot (3.5/5)- I appreciated the changes Lo made to the story and the elements she incorporated from the original tale a bit more subtly. I thought the ending was solved a bit conveniently and thought there was a lot of room for expansion, but obviously, Lo didn’t envision this as a series, so everything was tied up very nicely. This was a quick read, though the plot wasn’t particularly fast-paced. And I always love a happy ending in a fairytale!
World (3/5)- Lo’s world was fairly standard fantasy, but I liked the dynamic and tension between the old-world magic and progress forward. Like a number of other elements of this book, I think the world-building could have been much more fleshed out because there were a lot of interesting suggestions and concepts that would have been cool to know more about.
Writing (3/5)- As stated above, the writing wasn’t as immersive as I would have liked, but it was super readable and kept me flipping pages.
Overall (3.2/5)- Ash was an enjoyable retelling of a classic fairytale, but I wanted more. From the characters, from the world, I would’ve loved to see this novel given more depth and time to develop. That being said, it was a solid story that used both familiar and new elements for Cinderella’s story. Ash also has some powerful messages about love, grief, and the space between the two.
Content Warnings: verbal and physical abuse, death of parents