Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda LoAsh
By Malinda Lo
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9780316040105
Pages: 264
Genre: YA Fantasy/LGTBQ+

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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.


My Thoughts

Bestill my bookish heart Malinda Lo! While Ash was not without a few minor challenges, it accomplished something I rarely encounter, and that was a queer protagonist portrayed in the most natural and beautiful manner. I am so thankful to have included this retelling among my current Pride Month reading (which has been fantastic and will be carrying over into July ❤ ).

The skinny.. 

This is a Cinderella reimagining that begins like most with the death of the Ash’s father, leaving her to reside with a heartless stepmother. Her only means of escaping her unfortunate circumstances happen to be found within the fairy tales passed on by her mother. But when Ash finds herself in the company of a real fairy, Sidhean, it seems she may have found an answer to her problems as he claims her for his own. However, an encounter and unlikely relationship with the King’s Huntress Kaisa soon stirs a desire for love and life within Ash that she thought all but gone. Now she will have to choose between the dreams that she has always escaped to and possibly true love.

“For in the depths of grief, sometimes one cannot tell the difference between illusion and reality.” 

What I appreciate.. (aka reasons to fall in love with Ash)

  • As I mentioned above, perhaps the most shining aspect of Ash is that it beautifully explores and captures a queer protagonist in the most natural, subtle way. Ash’s sexuality is not described or thrown to the forefront of the story, it just simply is. And that is why it works incredibly well.
  • The prose is simplistic at times yet fluid, guiding the reader on a seamless journey that unfolds with great ease.
  • While at times feeling almost one dimensional, the characters were still highly successful in achieving their roles. I mourned for Ash with her losses and her anger was viable. The wicked stepmother was just that, and the heavier fae elements melded wonderfully into the Cinderella theme.
  • Malinda Lo has successfully incorporated the themes of loss and grief that have always been a part of this timeless tale but often lost in the romance and magic of it all. I admired the more realistic and raw approach that held true to these aspects of the story.
  • One of the more gratifying conclusions I have encountered in some time!

“To charge someone with love is a great responsibility; there will be an equal yet unexpected reaction.” 

Challenges some may encounter..

  • Ash will feel very familiar when held in comparison to the tale of Cinderella at times. Many of the original, key elements have been left in place.
  • The pacing slows during brief periods due to decreased dialog and some may struggle with the lack of depth in many characters.
  • There are heavy themes of loss and grief throughout.

In the end, Ash won me over and easily made its way into my favorite Cinderella retellings. With a protagonist that fell elegantly into the underlying themes, I found myself enchanted. Malinda Lo has a way of weaving a subtle magic throughout the pages the slowly unfolds before you even realize it is happening.

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Savor over a nice cup of your favorite hibiscus or herbal brew.

Grab a Copy: Amazon.com  Book Depository

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Happy Reading,

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33 thoughts on “Ash by Malinda Lo

  1. Wonderful review! Ash has been on my TBR for over a year & I regrettably forgot how much I was originally interested in this title. Sometimes when the original concepts are kept in place in a re-telling, I have found that it works (Megan Spooner’s Hunted) for me.Thank you for renewing my interest in this one Danielle! ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is one example where I felt that sticking to the origins so firmly really paid off. Although it seems a lot of readers really marked it down for this. It moves a bit slower, but appropriately so. And Ash is so well written. I love for stories with queer characters that are portrayed naturally 💕 I say try it haha!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful! This isn’t the sort of book I’d typically expect to see you read, but it warms my heart to see it. This is a new book to me and you’ve definitely convinced me to pick it up! I am so over literature where a character’s sexuality seems to be the whole core of the book. O_o I believe in organic relationship development, regardless of the sexual identity of the characters. I don’t need to hear all about why they are or arent or other people’s projections on their identity.

    Is this a standalone book? You didn’t mention any elements of magic, beyond the fae. I assume we see some of that present in the conflict with Sidhean?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Why is that I am curious haha? I read retellings more than any other genre I think, so I have to pick your brain on why this selection caught you off guard? I loved it so much for the very reasons you touched on. As a bi female, I tire of seeing sexuality always spotlighted (although there are themes that certainly warrant it!) And crave more tales such as this where it is simply natural, because in reality it is ❤

      I believe there is a companion but it is a prequel I think. I hope to order it soon. So I will try to remember to keep you posted if you like 😉❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I guess my brain is still latched on to your disenchantment with YA. But over the last 6+ months, that’s turned around. Retellings are something I expect from you for sure, just not YA ones featuring fae. 😉 I like seeing changes! It shows growth. Are you feeling YA a bit more now?

        If you do, that would be great! You know how I feel about reading incomplete series… 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, this sounds like a positively wonderful twist on Cinderella! I also like how you’ve made it seem like the more difficult parts of Ash’s/Cinderella’s life aren’t swept under the rug. Her character is an orphan left to live with abusive relatives and that can cause a lot of harm that older YA and adult readers probably want to see acknowledged and dealt with in the story. Great review as usual Danielle! ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice to see how much success you’ve been having with these Pride Month reading. This one sure does sound pretty decent, especially since it managed to be one your favourite Cinderella retellings! How did you pick your books for the Pride Month? Recommendations? Researched heavily? Always had them on your TBR and finally got a reason to make them a priority? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thanks Lashaan! You are the best 🖤 most of these were on my existing TBR. The remainder I reached out to a few bloggers that I knew would have ideal recommendations. I really wanted a mix of tackling important themes and stories that incorporated diverse characters more naturally.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice!!! Usually I don’t get that intrigued by retellings but I think I am willing to give this a try, for sure. I feel like it’s time for me to visit a fairy tale that has been given a different angle. Plus, I love that cover!

    Liked by 1 person

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