Ash - Malinda Lo

I have been bumping into this book for several months before I decided to pick it up. I found the cover absolutely charming and the typo really interesting.

Ash is a retelling of the Fairy tale of Cinderella. It tells the story of young Aisling - Ash - who after her mother and father's death has to live with her stepmother and her two daughters. Quickly, Ash isn't considered as part of the family but is instead employed as the maid and servant of the three women and is treated as lower than low by them. 
Driven by her unhappiness, Aisling goes into the woods to meet the fairies, which are much more than fantasies and live in the woods and people's minds. Aisling, as her mother did before her, can see fairies. She meets the beautiful Sidhean who grants her wishes but at some cost for Aisling. 
Aisling finds a reason to love again but her debt to Sidhean might prevent her from happiness.


I whole-heartedly love this book. If you haven't read it, don't read my review and go buy it. I hadn't read anything about this book when I bought it and I think it made a difference when I did because I had no idea how the retelling part would work out and what would change from the original story. I will divide this review in two parts, one for the people who haven't read it, and a second part with spoilers. Don't read the spoilers if you want to read this book. Seriously. By the way don't you love my Spoiler Alert Bat ? *I LOVE it !*

I like all the characters, they are all very well described and faithful to the spirit of the original tale. And I say spirit because they are not entirely similar to the original story. Ash is much tougher than in the original version for instance, she is much more linked to the fairy world and that is very interesting. 
I find the stepmother very mean but - not that I excuse her attitude towards Ash - has her reasons to and it looks much more credible. It is the same for the two daughters.

I love Malinda Lo's take on fairies in the story. In the original version, there is a fairy godmother, but nothing much is said about that. Whereas in Ash, the whole fairy theme is fully explored and used in this story. I also like the part where Ash doesn't receive the magic, she trades it and I find it to be very interesting to see her make that choice. I also like the fairy tales and legends that are told in the book. 
I really loved how it was linked to nature and tradition. I grew up in a small village, and everyone knows the old sayings and beliefs. And I also like how the story is centred around nature, and I feel that Malinda Lo really gave the book this feeling of nature being more than just leaves and eath and something which ought to be respected.  

Now for the romance, I absolutely love Malinda Lo's take on the fairy tale. The love story doesn't come as the poor girl falling in love with the rich and handsome prince. In this version Ash has a real active part in the relation and the love comes from mutual respect and admiration. You see Ash grow up because of the situations in her life, but also when she realises her feelings. 

The writing is absolutely beautiful and you fall in this story right at the beginning. 

FYI: why the name 'Ash'
I don't know if people actually wonder why on earth Malinda Lo called the book Ash but I will explain anyway: Cinderella is a fairy tale that has many origins, but has been made famous by the 1600s version of French writer Charles Perrault. The original name in French is Cendrillon, of which Cinderella is a simplistic translation. In the German version though, the Grimm brothers called the character Aschenputtel or Aschenbr√∂del which contains the word Ash. 
The first part of the word (Cendre) means ash and the second comes from souillon which means dirty/soiled. There are at least two reason why the character has a name related to ash. First because in the original tale, when Cinderella has finished her chores, she goes to sleep on ash (so she is always full of ash herself and was nicknamed Cendrillon). And second, ash has always been a symbol of humiliation and punishment. 

I am advising this book to everyone really, this is such a beautiful story. *awww look at me getting all sentimental*

Do not read further if you don't want to be spoiled !

Yeah, I can see you still reading here ! Last chance not to.

I couldn't bring myself not to talk about this subject, but I still wanted people who don't like spoilers to discover the interesting twist to Cinderella in Ash. And this is actually the same reason why I have labelled this post "LGBT" and linking it to my LGBT Challenge 2010.

Intrigued, are you ?

I personally didn't know about Ash being "the retelling of Cinderella with a lesbian twist" when I started reading the book, and I am so happy I didn't because I was so pleasantly surprised by what followed.

Ash, after so many horrible years spent serving her cruel stepmother, finds a reason to love again. This reason is Kaisa, the King's huntress. Their love starts as a mutual profound respect and admiration for each other, which evolves in something more. I cannot possibly express how much this is a very important twist and how beautifully written it is. Some newspaper critics were harsh on Malinda Lo for that but I disagree.

I personally believe that the essence of Cinderella is for a girl, who lives in the most despicable conditions, to be looked at for who she is and not what she was made to become. And that her kindness of heart and qualities are so powerful that they are seen by whom has his/her eyes open. It made me remember this classic sentence from Jane Eyre "Beauty is in the eye of the gazer". The character of Kaisa is such a good person that she sees beauty where it doesn't seem to be. And this is for me the most important quality for someone ever deserving of Ash's love.

Cinderella isn't about a poor girl being married to a prince. And no matter what people say, I was thrilled, while reading, that Ash wouldn't fall in love for a person who had the most power, respect and wealth, but rather to the person who could see and understand her.


  1. I have to read this. Thanks for such a brilliant review!

  2. The first paragraph of your review has me hooked. I skipped the rest of the review so that I can read the book myself. Have a great weekend!

  3. Great decision ! Have a good weekend too !!

  4. I am so glad you enjoyed this book. It sounds like such a fun read. I am going to have to think on getting this one now. :) Thanks!

  5. That is a very cute spoiler alert bat!

    Also, I read this without really knowing anything more than 'Cinderella retelling' and even though I didn't really connect with Ash as a character, I thought her relationship with Kaisa was really well done. Sweet and believable and romantic.

  6. Ash is one of my absolute favourite books, and I love how your review is so informative and thoughtful and passionate. Everyone should read this book. It's just beautiful.