Associate Links: Amazon/IndieBound
- Why I picked it up: Fairytale retelling, rave reviews, author presence on Twitter, PoC lit
- Disclosure: Library book. No reimbursement from author or publisher
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.Occasionally there's a book I've heard I should read, really want to read, and finally end up reading that lives up to all of the hype. This is that book. It was slow-moving yet impossible to put down, hitting all of the right notes plot-wise, with beautiful prose and imagery; making it easily one of the best books I've read all year, and probably one of the best books I've read, ever.
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.
Entrancing, empowering, and romantic, Ash is about the connection between life and love, and solitude and death, where transformation can come from even the deepest grief.
Something I'll admit I was almost nervous about was the *lesbian* aspect. I must say this was the first book I'd ever read with any same-sex relationships involving the MC, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Um...no need to be concerned, people. This book would have been exactly the same with or without *that*, and actually was the better for it - it took the emphasis off of the swoon factor aspect of the romance and placed it on what was real - the fact that Kaisa was truly someone who brought Ash out of herself and into her own like a lover should. Wow. I now wish that GLBT fiction would come out of the realm of gritty dramas and into this kind of thing more, because done well, it definitely deserves a place and doesn't feel any different than a heterosexual romance.
And now, on to the fairies! Another one of my favorite aspects! Forget all of that frolicking flower fairy crap (though I love Cicely Mary Barker as much as the next person) - these fairies were intoxicating, alien, and dangerous, just as fairies should be. Malinda Lo handled her fairies much as Holly Black does, though to be honest I preferred Malinda Lo's interpretation. In making them a race much like humanity and similarly flawed, Malinda Lo catapulted Ash into the upper tiers of good fantasy for me, excellent writing aside.
And yes, the writing was excellent. I still don't know how these authors can make a book so slow and yet so compulsively readable. I kept telling myself to put the book down and get some family time in on the weekend, but honestly, by the second half I'd stopped caring. I got in the bath and sat there till it was cold and I'd finished the book. I can't say that about too many novels that had prose this beautiful, either.
All in all, it's one of those books that it's hard to find anything you disliked about it. I suppose you could complain about a few things, but honestly, none come to mind at the minute. This is fantasy of the highest caliber. We're talking pretty much in the same league as Gifts by Ursula K. Le Guin, here. Maybe not quite, but almost, and for a debut author, that's saying something.
One last thing I'd like to point out, not pertaining to the book but how I picked it up in the first place, is Malinda Lo's excellent Twitter presence. She shares a lot of intriguing info about issues she cares about, as well as stuff about Ash, without oversharing. She's also fabulous about reaching out to her readers. It might have taken me a lot longer to find this incredible book if I hadn't started following her and loving her online writing so much. So authors, us book bloggers do care what you're like on Twitter! =)
The Final Verdict: Jaw-droppingly excellent, there aren't many words left to describe this book except breathtakingly beautiful. Read it! Five out of five stars.