Ash by Malinda Lo is a young adult fantasy novel that is a re-telling of the Cinderella fairy tale. It follows a young girl named Ash. When her father passes away, she’s left in the care of her new stepmother, who is very cruel to her. Consumed with in a shroud of grief and loneliness, Ash’s only companion is the light by a dying fire within the kitchen hearth and the fairy tales that her mother left behind.
This small book was a marvellous surprise. Since it is a bit hyped, I went into it with some hesitancy. Yet the magic and splendour of it quickly won me over. It ended up being a delightful read that I am very grateful I experienced sooner rather than not.
One of the very best parts of the book consists of the fairy and Fae elements that are utilised in the world-building. It sets up a tone that has an enchanted aura to it, regardless of the grief that is swirling around due to the losses that Ash ends up suffering. This creates a subtle veil of warmth and hope that sticks with you as you follow Ash in her middle-grade years to her adolescence. Even with all of the pain, I knew within my heart that things would not always be so terrible for our protagonist. It was sensationally pleasant to have this comforting feeling within myself.
The landscapes were also lovely. I could picture lots of vivid greens of the grass and woods, with lovely blue and grey skies, the stars and the mystery of the dark evenings. The golden and glowing hues that sprouted up whenever fairies were near–it was aesthetically sweet amid my imagination. Ash does a phenomenal job of immersing you into its world.
The characters are all difficult to hate or love with a straight black-and-white lens, with the exception of one specific person. There really isn’t anything grand or special about them. They are all ordinarily imperfect folks. Whether they are nobles or peasants, they all work and do what they need to do to survive. Even those who are fuelled with superficial ambitions are identifiable to one extent or another. This contributes to the charm of the narrative.
The romance was absolutely perfect and the second best feature. First of all, there is no insta-love! Secondly, the development of romantic feelings is so breathtakingly natural! Two people meet and formulate a small friendship, which is further nurtured the more that they spend time together and talk to one another, getting familiarised. The pure and instinctive nature of emotions that unravelled was beautiful, serene, and fluffy. I wish all romances in YA literature were like this.
Ash was also another part that had me swooning. Regardless of the tender moments when her pain begins to overwhelm her, she always remains strong-willed. She never bows down to the inexorable treatment received by her stepmother and stepsisters. There is a distinct difference between obliging those who employ you, or have an undefeatable power over you, and bending over to all who would seek to destroy you. Ash recognises what she must do to survive, yet she never relinquishes her pride and self-worth for those who damn well don’t deserve it. This kind of powerful figure was a breath of fresh air, and another excellently relatable quality of the book.
The only complaint that I could realistically see people having is that the novel, while having many fantastic traits, is rather simple and straightforward. It’s not extravagant. It’s not extraordinary with its prose, which is very soft and uncomplicated. Ash is a story about a girl who tussles with her desire to live in a world without her loved ones. It’s nothing more or nothing less. It certainly worked for me, but it may not be everyone’s cup o’tea.
I recommend this book to fans of light fantasy, Fae magics, and young adult literature. Please note that there is a Queer romance between two women in this novel. It was fucking awesome.
4.75 pendants outta 5!