Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ash by Malindo Lo

Another pleasant surprise found in a library book. I had ordered this for our collection, based on a number of good reviews (plus, it has a cool cover). It's already gone out 5 times (counting my check-out), and now I know why.
I knew this was supposed to be a re-telling of the Cinderella story, with a few twists, but I had no idea I would be so pulled into the story. There are elements of the Cinderella story in that Ash loses her mother, father remarries a woman who is less than wonderful (and who has two daughters of her own), father dies, and Ash basically turns into her stepmother's servant. There is a prince, and a ball, and there is magic. However, this story is more complex, adding in elements of fairy magic with a serious undertone. The Wood in the story is a primary component and holds both comfort for Ash, as well as danger. There's a fairy, Sidhean, whose ethereal nature seems to barely cloak a dangerous nature underneath. As he is the one who grants her wishes, this turns into something darker than the typical fairy-godmother character (especially if you envision the Disney version of Cinderella). Then, there is the part of the story that deals with Kaisa, the king's huntress (and a pause here -- is huntress such a cool word??). Kaisa starts out as a friend, but then something changes. And that's where I'll stop with any description because any more would completely give away what happens in the story.

Ash is a strong female character, and the story has a lot of layers to it. As an adult reading this book, I found it fascinating, but I think that if I had read this when I was much younger, I would have found a lot of elements to be thought-provoking. Ash is an interesting person, made even more so to me through her interactions with both Sidhean and Kaisa. Malindo Lo really weaves a rich story here, which I found hard to put down (I mean, I was reading this while I had the Blackhawks game on, and I was concentrating more on the book, which never happens). I won't say the story was completely flawless, but it was beautifully written, and something I'm looking forward to recommending to other readers. I'll be interested to see what Lo writes next -- and will definitely look forward to having her next book in our library, too.


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