Ash by Malinda Lo is a Cinderella retelling with a lesbian romance instead of the heterosexual romance normally portrayed in either the original stories or any retellings of the story. I heard about this book by the BookTuber Riley Marie who described it as a fairy tale story she would have loved when she was younger because she would have loved seeing a romance between two women when she was still learning about her own sexuality. Riley's raving for this book had me interested in the book because of a few reasons.
One, like I have mentioned many times in other posts, I am trying to read more diverse books. But also, I don't think I have read a lesbian romance before. At least not as the main characters. So I was really excited to get to read something new to me and this book did not disappoint.She also mentioned how it was such great representation, and that's something I want to read more of. I want to have great diverse books at the ready to recommend to friends and family who may find interest in a fairy tale with a bisexual main character.
The writing is well done and it genuinely reads like a fairy tale. The flowery language reminded me a lot of the stories I have read by Hans Christian Anderson. Which is great for setting the mood, but like the original fairy tales it could sometimes get a little boring here and there. Not enough for me to not want to read, but I definitely had moments where I had to force myself to read so I could get past the overly descriptive passages or duller moments. I don't think that is a negative thing towards the writer or the story, I just think it's my personal preference because like I said, I feel the same way about Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales and those are classics. The writing was also well done because you feel for Ash so early on. Her mother dying, her father remarrying so quickly, and then him dying so suddenly. Plus having to leave her childhood home where her mother's grave is, and then being forced to work for her stepmother and sisters. It's done with such precision that it doesn't take much time, but you still feel gutted for her. Just like it doesn't take many moments with Ash's new stepmother and sisters before you start hating them too. Also, the individual fairy tales that are told throughout the story are all very magical and fun to read about.
"For in the depths of grief, sometimes one cannot tell the difference between illusion and reality."
The characters were great. Ash was a really sweet character, and I found myself rooting for her happiness the entire book. Like Cinderella or its retellings you cannot help but despise Ash's stepmother and her step-sisters (well, one of them, as per usual the youngest always seems to be nicer). I loved the presence of the fairies in this story. Sidhean was a really cool character that I found really interesting. Kaisa was really mysterious and sweet but like many of Cinderella stories, I don't think the love interest got enough character development and I found myself wanting to know more about her. I also would have enjoyed more time with them together. Their scenes felt short, and it made it hard to fully be invested in the romance they were starting with each other.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. I think it's a great diverse Cinderella retelling that is well done. I would easily read more fairy tale lesbian retellings if the author decided to write more. Or even a book of original fairy tales because the ones in the story were all so much fun to read. I think it's important for everyone to see themselves represented in the media and this is definitely a good piece of literature for all ages. I could easily see someone reading this story to a child, it goes right with any fairy tale where there is a heterosexual romance. It's got the same innocent and sweet charm about it. Which is so great, and I hope there are more like this in the future.