What drew me to this book first off is the gorgey cover. And trust me when I say that it's even prettier in person than on this here screen.
After the death of her beloved father, Ash is left to fend for herself against her cruel stepmother, who forces her to work as a servant to repay her father's debts. Lost in her despair, far away from friends, Ash begins to seek out the faeries - when she meets the dangerously beautiful Sidhean, whom she hopes will take her away from all her pain and misery. Then Ash meets the King's Huntress Kaisa who befriends Ash and teaches her to hunt and ride; showing her things Ash never thought possible. Kaisa's friendship forces Ash to consider her choices and eventually leads her to turn to her dark faery for help as she tries to keep her place in the world of the living for a chance at love.
Knowing Ash was a Cinderella retelling I was looking for the proverbial plot devices and was pleasantly surprised to find only slight mentions at the most. Yes, Ash is orphaned and left to her cruel stepmother, yes, she ends up sleeping next to the fireplace a time or two, and yes, she does charm the prince at the ball - but those details are by no means the most intriguing parts of the story. Malinda Lo seamlessly weaves a lyrical story of not just a girl trying to find her place in the world but also of faeries and love and the strength to fight for what you want. All this happens in a completely spell-binding new world that I found myself too lost in to even begin thinking about how this is not your traditional wishy-washy Disney Cinderella. Ash is no storybook princess and it's no surprise she is drawn to the King's Huntress with her steady sword and ability to roam free.
I do wish Malinda Lo had taken a bit more time to explore Ash's world since the world building was only partway explained and I wanted more back-story on the Huntress, more about the faeries, and more about the royal family and their customs. Each of these facets brought a new and compelling aspect to Ash but the details for each left me hoping for more. Although, what we do get is unfailing beautiful and compelling and made this a standout amongst other Cinderella retellings.
Since I've never read a book that featured same-sex romance, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Malinda Lo handled the entire situation. It's not over the top and the buildup quietly subtle and by no means unnecessarily dramatic. In Ash, homosexuality isn't even an issue, which created this wide open space for Kaisa and Ash to maneuver in since no one even felt like it was anything out of the ordinary - other than the fact that the two were well on their way to True Love Land.
Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Smugglers review
Library Lounge Lizard review
Pop Culture Junkie review
Presenting Lenore review
S. Krishna's Books review
The Story Siren review
book source: Presenting Lenore giveaway