Monday, 20 January 2014

Review || Ash by Malinda Lo

 Ash by Malinda Lo ★★☆☆☆
Cinderella retold

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.

Truthfully, this probably wades into 2.5 star territory in the sense that I liked it well enough but it never really did anything truly spectacular to my mind.

One of the reasons I had this on my tbr shelf was the premise. I am always on the lookout for books with LGBT characters and content. And not just the stuff of tragic Lifetime movies, but representation in which a character is incidentally queer.

Ash certainly fits that bill. Her friendship and attraction to both Sidhean and Kaisa are developed organically and don't feel forced. And I was pleasantly surprised that her romance with Kaisa didn't illicit much controversy. It simply was and was allowed to be.

That said, I had problems with the book. Overall, it's a short read--not even breaking 300 pages. And while I could appreciate its simplicity, it felt like a short book. By that, I mean I think it could have benefited from being more fleshed out. It could've explored the depth and breadth of the world, focused in on more of the details of Ash and her relationships. It could have made me feel more attached.

Because while I enjoyed the mythos built up in the world, I wanted to explore it more. There were so many lovely myths, so many hinted backstories that never were fully realized. Though I liked Sidhean and Kaisa well enough as characters, some of the other supporting cast fell horribly flat. Ash's parents had depth, but they were both dead by the time things really got rolling. Ash's stepmother was flat, "evil" and cruel for its own sake without a lot of explanation or rationalization. There were a few shining moments for Ash's stepsisters--where we glimpsed the potential for them to be fully realized and complex people--but it wasn't really followed up on. Or rather, since so much of the focus was on Ash and the web she'd entangled herself in, they were relegated to the periphery and stayed flat. Which is a shame and a missed opportunity.

As the book progressed, things felt more and more rushed. The climax and resolution were abrupt and sudden. As a result, there wasn't really a sense of urgency, I didn't think. We realize, along with Ash, what kind of mess she's gotten herself into. There was potential for complex reflection and soul-searching here. But instead, Ash has a great and sudden realization and magically (except not actually) solves her major problem. The tension wasn't allowed to build and thus the stakes never felt that high. Plus, I was only casually invested at best, so I didn't feel that sense of urgency.

Still, it's not as though I regret picking this up. Though as Cinderella retellings go, I'd definitely pick and recommend Cinder over this.