Ash by Malinda Lo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
At MFPOW, I used to do a Cinderella exploration with our combined 4/5 grade. Ash is definitely a Cinderella story, but I wouldn't put it in a Middle School library!
This version explores the boundaries between the fairy realm and ours - greenwitches, "old ways", the Hunt, etc. all fall into place here. Ash's passion for fairy tales is also explored, with some of the usual tropes brought out in new clothes. That comes out sounding like a criticism, but it's not: I like reading new versions of things (usually). The setting is almost "in a kingdom far, far away", with the author very carefully talking about The Wood and The City and The Sea without really placing them anywhere - it's all familiar, yet somehow not.
Where the story starts to veer from the usual versions is that rather than a fairy godmother, there's what appears to be a Fairy Prince who wants repayment for his help. Ash's impetus for attending the ball is not to see the Prince (she's remarkably unimpressed with him) but to see Kaisa, the King's Huntress. It's Ash's relationship with Kaisa that might make parents nervous, and why I'm happy that the book has a "Ages 15 & Up" on it (nothing graphic, btw).
My biggest problem with this book - and with almost all Cinderella stories, excepting Ella Enchanted - is Ash's meekness. Why doesn't she just leave her stepmother's house and return to her village? Here, her decision to leave does not come in the form of the Prince rescuing her, she rescues herself. In my opinion, she leaves it a little late.
Still, a great take on Cinderella and an author that I hope continues to do interesting things.
(Free ARC provided by publisher)
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