by Malinda Lo
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published 2009, Hachette
Hardback, 264 pages
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.
The main character Aisling ages from a little girl to a young woman, but mentally she does not seem to change or mature in any way. She feels completely emotionless from start to finish, as if the story were being narrated by a computer, and not a flesh-and-blood human girl. Sidhean was quite fascinating, if overly mysterious, and the step-family were all quite distinct in their different roles. The young Huntress Kaisa seemed to resemble her predecessor, but only a little, and of course Aisling was unlike anyone else, even though I felt no connection with her. Loose ends are left wide open all over the place. We are told nothing about what happens to Aisling's step-family or what Sidhean does after she leaves him. The ending is completely contradictory to the framework built up throughout the text with the use of the fairy tales. In addition to Aisling breaking her own rules, we have a gap of time at the end with almost no explanation as to why that is. The background setting is reminescent of Regency England, but the fact that lesbianism is an accepted part of this world that the author has created is completely contradictory to the propriety and decorum of the proposed setting. Every time there is the possibility of the setting getting in the way of the plot, the author claims "artistic license" to break her own rules of world-building. Even if I ignore the acceptance of homosexuality in the text, which I do not support, it still suffers from major flaws of character, background, and plot that I can not ignore. Aisling is cold and emotionless, the ending is contradictory and breaks the rules, and multiple loose ends are left hanging. I would not recommend this book.
Cover: I found the cover intriguing, though the picture of the girl could have been bigger, and it's next to impossible to tell that she is lying in the grass. While I don't understand what the girl is wearing has to do with the text, she does lie down in the dirt a few times, so it kind of works.
First Line: "Aisling's mother died at midsummer."
While we don't know at this point that Ash is a shortened nickname for Aisling, the tragedy of this first sentence grabs hold of the reader immediately.
Check out The Book Vixen for her review of Ash by Malinda Lo!
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