Rating: 3.75/5 Stars
Length: 264 pages
Series: Ash, Book 1
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, LGBTQ+, Romance, Fiction, Retelling
Publication date: September 1, 2009
“Every time you come near me,” he said, “you come closer to the end of everything.”
“It does not feel that way,” she said. “It feels like I am coming closer to the beginning.”
After her father’s death, Ash finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Filled with grief, the only bright part in Ash’s life is rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her.
The day she meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to changed. Instead of chasing fairies, Kaisa teaches Ash how to hunt. Instead of staring at the past, Ash learned to look at the future. But Sidhean has claimed Ash as his own, forcing Ash to choose between her fairy tale dreams and true love.
Asian Readathon Challenges Met:
1. Read a book written by an Asian author: Lo is Chinese.
3. Read a book featuring an Asian character or written by an Asian author who is different from you: Both of my parents are still alive and together so I’ve never needed to deal with a stepparent, let alone one that despises me. I’ve also never met a fairy in my life or made a deal with them, met royalty, or loved someone enough to risk everything for them.
This story is a twist on the classic tale of Cinderella, done in a way I’ve yet to read. For that, I give this story props. I also adored the fact that this book is upfront about being an LGBTQ+ based story while so many reads leave this to be a twist in the story. More books need to be clear about this fact as it’s a draw that might otherwise stay hidden.
Being a re-imagined retelling of Cinderella, I’m going to go into this review assuming that you, the reader, already know the basic premises of the story. As such, I won’t be over in depth into the basics such as evil step mother and step sisters. I will, however, be touching on the fairy godmother and the ball in the spoiler section of this review.
While the story lulled at times, it was still an enjoyable read. The parallel worlds of fairy and human made these lulls worth it. It allowed for a contrast between different ways of life, making this divide deeper than just “old beliefs and traditions” and “the modern ways of court”.
What prevents me from raising my rating of this story is my disappointment in the biggest conflict of the story. While I won’t get into it in this section, I will discuss it in the spoiler section. All I’ll say here is I wish this had been dealt with in a different, more gratifying, way.
If you’re into retellings and lesbian relationships, you should check this read out. While it wasn’t a personal favourite of mine, it’s certainly one of the better retellings I’ve read over the year.
Jumping straight into it, I’d like to talk about the way the conflict between Sidhean and Ash. She bartered away herself in order to join Kaisa on that first hunt of the season and get into the ball. She was meant to be Sidhean’s forever, yet she somehow got away with just giving him one night? I’m sorry, but though this scene was written poetically, it seemed too simple and like a bit of a cop out. He just gave in to Ash’s demand because of his love for her. Without a fight. While the result might have been the same – i.e. Ash’s freedom and her subsequent joining up with Kaisia – I feel like it was handled too abruptly. Lo did a fantastic job with the rest of this story, this plot point felt too rushed to me and broke up the flow of the story.
I adored the fact that Ash didn’t end up with the prince, even though she danced with him at the ball and he asked about her all night. For once Cinderella finds love elsewhere, with someone who is more her match than a prince would be. She snuck her way into the ball for Kaisa, not just to enjoy a night of dancing and fun. She bartered her own freedom for the chance to see Kaisa even though it meant risking everything.
While Ash seemed shocked at the prospect of being the King’s Huntress’ lover, it was adorable to see her alliance shift from Sidhean to Kaisa – from all things fairy and a release from pain to human and acceptance of the finality of life. Their love story is a sweet slow burn, rising from friendship, to companionship, to something more. Ash hadn’t allowed herself to want for anything after her father’s death until she met Kaisa. After their meeting, all she wished for was to spend more time with the woman.
Sidhean certainly got the lion’s share of the bargain with Ash. Or so it seemed. She got a couple of nights of fun without her stepmother and stepsisters realizing it was her and all she needed to do in return was give herself to him. Simple enough, right? Yet they both thought this deal would be forever, not the single night she gave him.
He certainly was an interesting take on a fairy godmother. Sure he helped Ash fulfill her wishes, and yes he supplied the dress and transportation. But who would’ve imagined the fairy godmother being a kickass powerful fairy who’s enjoyed bringing humans into the fay world for centuries? Let alone one who’s been cursed to fall in love with a human.
Overall, this was certainly an enjoyable read. Ash conquered her obstacles (even if I was left wanting in some instances) and found love in a seemingly unlikely place. Not every prince is the prince charming in a tale, not every main female needs to fall in love with the male lead. I applaud Lo for the twists and turns this story took and look forward to reading more from her in the future.