Author: Malinda Lo
Published: 4 March 2012 by Hodder
Length: 291 pages
Warnings: 11+ Chaste romance, domestic abuse
Other info: Malinda has also written Huntress
Summary : In the wake of her father's death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. In her dreams, someday the fairies will steal her away, as they are said to do. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted.
The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King's Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash's capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love
Review: Aisling, or Ash, is ten when her mother dies. Her father soon follows, but not before he marries Lady Isobel. With him dead, Isobel reduce sash to a slave. One day, she ventures into the forest, and meets Fairy Sidhean. They exchange stories, and see each other a few times. On her other days of freedom, Ash is with the King’s Huntress Kaisa, who lets Ash into a world that her stepmother would never have let her in to.
The first thing I heard about this was “a retelling of Cinderella, where Cinderella is a lesbian”. This could go either badly or well. But the romance between Ash and Kaisa is done well, developing naturally, with a long period of friendship beforehand.
There was a lot of fantasy built in, which I really liked. The fairy world was incorporated a lot, and used well in terms of plot development. The novel also has a timeless, placeless quality to it with the aspects being easily picked up or explained.
At the start, Ash’s age is a bit annoying. She starts off age ten, a few chapters later she’s older, and a few paragraphs later she’s sixteen. From there, it evens out, and it’s easier. But still, time passage is a little confusing meaning I took a little more time reading it than I do most books.
It’s really similar to the original Cinderella, but with changes to who she ends up with. It also explores the fairy world fully, developing it into the beautiful world that you get some times. Sidhean is the “fairy godmother”, them male fairy who knew Ash’s mother and is now granting wishes to Ash.
The romance is slow, and as I said before, came about from friendship. It’s believable, and you get the feeling that Ash and Kaisa would do anything for eachother. It’s also nice seeing Ash fall for Sidhean.
Ash develops a lot, slowly developing the courage to break free from her stepmother’s rules, get out of the house, and escape for a better life. It’s nice how it’s her who gets herself out of the domestic abuse, and not somebody else.
Everything develops slowly and believably. You get a real insight into Ash’s life, how she goes from being a happy young girl to a girl with no prospects in a house of cruelty.
It’s nice to see same sex couples not get any more attention than other sex couples. It seems like choosing Kaisa over Sidhean is the more socially acceptable, or normal, thing to do-fairy versus human huntress. Unlike other LGBT books, it doesn’t cover issues like coming out. It just happens. Criticising Ash for being a lesbian fairy tale is like criticising Harry Potter for dark magic. It’s a plot point, important, but not everything’s focused on that.
The prince features as somebody who is choosing a wife, and holds balls. As a plot device, he gets the family away from Ash. And not much more.
The writing style is amazing. A little poetic, the nature aspect, and the forest and the fairies all come to life, and it’s a writing style I love.
Overall: Strength 5 tea to a really beautiful fairy tale retelling. I definitely want to read more from Malinda.