This was exactly the fairytale I wanted. I had never read Ash before, but after finishing Sabriel, this was the perfect follow-up. Lo’s prose makes the story seem like a dream; unlike other books, it is difficult to predict what might happen next because the entire experience feels like floating on a river, going wherever the current takes you.
Ash is the story of Aisling (pronounced Ash-ling), and takes the route of the usual Cinderella story–she has an evil step-mother, a horrible step-sister, and a second step-sister who could easily have taken after her family but grew on me quite quickly. The facet that makes this book shine, however, is its deep rooting in Gaelic folklore (which I have been craving lately). There are the Sidhe (pronounced Shee), represented chiefly by Sidhean (pronounced Sheen, a fact that I found on Malinda Lo’s website) who represent danger and mysticality–I’m sure that a long classroom discussion could be had on the topic of just what the Sidhe of Gaelic folklore represent.
The twist that I was not expecting was that Ash fell in love with the King’s Huntress–a woman. I will admit that while I liked the prince during his brief introduction, by the time he was introduced I was quite in love with the idea of Ash and Kaisa being in love. I was very happy to see the subversion of the usual fairytale. The way this was done reminded me of some of Megan Derr’s fairytales, especially her early ones. The portrayal of this world’s gender balance and sexuality would be an interesting topic for discussion or an essay.
Ultimately, I would highly recommend this book–I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a book quite this much in a long time.