Book Review: Ash by Malinda Lo

Rating: 3 out of 5.

3 Dark, magical, story telling stars!

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Ash is a dark retelling of Cinderella. It’s about a young girl named Ash who loses her mother at a young age, and of course loses her father after he marries a horrible step mother. The wonderful difference in this story is that the romance is not with Ash and the Prince of the kingdom, but with the beautiful (and badass) Kaisa, the King’s Huntress.

Another wonderful difference that I really appreciated was that in this retelling of Cinderella, that fairy godmother is not what you think. Disney seems to have made us think that the Fae are cheery magic filled creatures, just wanting to grant wishes and be your companion. Where it’s much more cannon for fairies to be more like Maleficent than Tinkerbell. So the fairy godmother in this story is darker, and it is a wonderful change! It makes way more sense that the Fae Sidhean would request something in return for wishes granted, considering the Fae are much more notable for making deals.

Above all, Ash was a nice story of grief and longing, and how we learn to love and live once again.

Now despite all of those good things that I appreciated about Ash, it wasn’t my favorite book. It was pretty good, don’t get me wrong! But there were some moments that just, kind of, bored me. The writing was a little slow, there wasn’t a ton of action, and it followed Cinderella a bit too closely, especially considering there was a different love interest. I was also confused a little bit throughout whether she was actually falling in love with her Fairy God…man. It wasn’t incredibly clear the difference between the love that she had for the Fae (which represented something more akin to escaping, giving up, running away, and grief) and Kaisa (who represented love and life).

All of these tied together, gave me a pretty neutral impression on the book.

Big Takeaway

Ash was a fun retelling that added some elements to the classic story of Cinderella that I just adored. However there were definitely moments in the book that I was either bored or confused, and just overall not sold on this particular retelling.

About the Author

Malinda Lo is the critically acclaimed author of several young adult novels, including Last Night at the Telegraph Club (Jan. 19, 2021). Her novel A Line in the Dark was a Kirkus Best YA Book of 2017 and one of Vulture’s 10 Best YA Books of 2017. Her novel Ash, a lesbian retelling of Cinderella, was a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Andre Norton Award for YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and was a Kirkus Best Book for Children and Teens. She has been a three-time finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Malinda’s nonfiction has been published by The New York Times Book Review, NPR, The Huffington Post, The Toast, The Horn Book, and the anthologies Here We Are, How I Resist, and Scratch. She lives in Massachusetts with her partner and their dog.

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