Once Upon A Week: Ash by Malinda Lo

Once Upon A Week, a full week dedicated to fairy tales, hosted by Vanessa of Today’s Adventure, kicks off today! To start things off is my review of a retold fairy tale – Cinderella, to be exact.


Ash Ash
by Malinda Lo

ISBN – 13: 978-0-316-04009-9
Rating: 4.5 ♥ / 5 ♥ – I really liked it!

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, re-reading 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 meeys 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.

Even if I had heard nothing of Ash before seeing it in the bookstore, the cover alone would have made me pick it up. I’m such a minimalist at heart, so it’s perfect for me. But I did know what Ash was about, which made it the perfect book to start off the ONCE UPON A WEEK fairy tale week!

Ash was everything I could want in a fairy tale. It was soft and sweet, with just the right amount of adventure and suspense to keep the story flowing and intriguing. Malinda Lo’s writing style is very reminiscent of early fairy tales, and so was perfect for a retelling. Throughout the book, Lo’s characters would read or tell fairy tales; each one was it’s own unique story and I found they only added to the plot rather than stall it, which could have easily happened. I did not find them distracting in the least, and in fact wish I had a book of those fairy tales to read!

I thought that Ash was a wonderful character. I easily sympathized with her, and her emotions and thought processes came across beautifully. The stepmother and stepsisters were perfectly done – they were present enough to be a hindrance to Ash, but still in the background like an afterthought, which just felt right to me. I do wish I had gotten to see more of the fairy Sidhean, though. The book jacket promotes him as dark and dangerous, but I felt more like he was lonely with the ability to be dangerous. He was just not what I was expecting. Kaisa, on the other hand, was a wonderful enigma. A huntress who feels sadness for her kills, and a member of the King’s court who may still believe in the old fairy stories. She is gentle, kind and generous and it was inevitable that Ash fall for her. The parts of the story where Ash was with Kaisa were some of the best written, in my opinion. You could almost feel the confusion and wonder that Ash felt.

Malinda Lo manages to create her own unique vision of the Cinderella fairy tale while still staying true to the original. The father dies, leaving Ash alone with a stepmother and two stepsisters. Ash is then relegated to the position of servant. Although there is no fairy god-mother, Sidhean plays that role. In Ash, Lo adds in her own celebrations and fairy stories, creating an entire world that you don’t see in Cinderella, but there is still a fancy ball at the palace, and a rush to be home before midnight. And above all, there is still a happily ever after.