Let’s get this out there first—I’m not a big fan of fairy tales. Other than Tolkien, I don’t really take to fantasy: fairies, vampires, zombies, etc. are just not my thing. Which is probably why it took me so long to finally pick up Malinda Lo’s Ash. To be honest, the only reason Ash was even on my to-read list was because I’d heard it had queer girls in it.
When I was a young teen, I was well aware of every LGBT book in existence—I’d read them all multiple times. Now that I’ve grown up a bit, though, I’ve lost track of what the queer kids are reading, and I’ve been trying to catch up. Hence, Ash.
Essentially, this novel was a retelling of the old Cinderella story. As a young girl, Aisling loses both of her parents: first her mother, and then, shortly after he remarries, she loses her father as well. Ash moves in with her stepmother and two stepsisters, who force her into a life of servitude in order to pay off her father’s debts. Pretty formulaic so far.
But then Ash meets two very important characters: Sidhean, a snow-white fairy who lives in the woods near her stepmother’s house, and Kaisa, the King’s Huntress. The two become her only friends; she sneaks out of the house to see Sidhean during the night and finagles her way into participating in hunts with Kaisa. Eventually, Ash realizes two things: that Sidhean is in love with her, and that she is in love with Kaisa. The problem is that she has promised herself to Sidhean in payment for two wishes—a place in the King’s Hunt and a night at the King’s Ball. And so she must find a way to break her deal with Sidhean in order to be with Kaisa.
I expected there to be a lot more gay action in this book than there actually was. I don’t mean sex or anything, geez, I know it’s a YA book, but…maybe it would’ve been nice for them to kiss some time before the last thirty pages?
But anyway, complaining aside, the book really was incredibly queer in that same-sex relationships were not considered to be particularly out of place, or strange, or shocking. They just were. In old hunting legends, women fell in love with women, and there was nothing said about it. When Ash asks Kaisa to dance, no one seems to think it’s strange. It was a book about queer girls without being “a book about queer girls,” you know? It was cool.
So overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of the actual story—as I said above, fairy tales just don’t really appeal to me. But I was a big fan of the queerness of it. And it was definitely a fresh take on the Cinderella story; I’d recommend it if you’re into retellings of old tales.
Have you read Ash? What are your favorite fairy tales revamped?
Rating: 6.5 out of 10