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 Review: Ash is definitely one of those reads that you will appreciate more with time. It captivates you when you're reading and yet when you're done, you feel a bit disoriented. The only thing I could compare it to was when I first read Lisa McMann's Wake. At first I really didn't know what to think, but as more time passed and I looked back on it, I really enjoyed it. I can tell that Ash is going to be similar for me.
I'm a huge fan of re-tellings of traditional fairy tales. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Beastly, Sisters Red, etc. I just love them all. While Ash didn't quite reach the epicness of Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (because well frankly Gregory Maguire is Da-Bomb) it was still a highly original re-telling of Cinderella. I loved how Lo encorporated the traditional folk tales of the day into the story. And guess what?! Fairies! I'm obsessed I know, but they really contributed a lot ot the story. The world that Lo depicts is reminiscent of Grimm's fairytales. The whole mood of the story was dark and foreboding. The old ways have been forgotten by all except for the country folk, who still cling to what other's call superstitions. However, Ash has seen the fairies that walk the Woods and wishes that she'd be stolen away like the girls in the stories to never return.
Ash's story starts when she's twelve years old and her mother has just died. I'll admit I was a bit taken aback by her age at first, but it then became aparent that years pass intermitedly throughout the story. When her father dies shortly after, Ash basically becomes her step-mother's personal slave. Left to work off her father's debts, Ash is destined to live the rest of her life in servitude. Every chance she gets she escapes into the Woods, where time and again she meets Sidhean. Sidhean is unearthly beautiful with hair and skin that looks to be made of light. He is Ash's sole companion in her time of despair. He watches her grow up and become the young woman she was meant to be. Though fairies are supposed to steal young girls from the mortal realm, Sidhean isn't evil. He genuinely cares for Ash, even though she is just a mortal. He seems so lonely and cold compared to the rest of the world. Lo had a particular insight that I just truly adored. "Ash knew that this was what the fairies were always hunting for: a circle of joy, hot, and brilliant, the scent of love in the deepest winter. But all they could do was create a pale, crystalline imitation, perfect and cold. How it must disappoint them: that they would never be human." Beautiful. Perfect. Spot on. Those few sentences epitamized all fey in every novel ever. Absolutley loved it, and I just had to share. :)
Though Sidhean's world is intoxicating, Ash is pulled by to reality by Kaisa, the King's Huntress. I thought their relationship was beautifully done. You rarely see homosexual romances in YA novels, but having two girls is even more rare. I really enjoyed Lo's account of their blossoming relationship. Their friendship gradually turns into something more, and in the end they get their happy ending. Which I was really glad because I thought for sure there was going to be a tragic ending.
Though there is no lost slipper, Ash was a wonderful new adaption of the classic Cinderella tale. It was refreshing and edgy. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to more by Lo.