A girl in a white dress lies on her side in a ball on a solid black background. The title of the book is printed over her.

About the Book

Title: Ash (Ash #1)
Published: 2009
Series: Ash
Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Cover Story: Needs Improvement
BFF Charm: Yes
Talky Talky: Fairy Tale
Bonus Factors: Retelling, Mysterious Loner Fairy, LGBTQ
Relationship Status: More Than Just an Issue Friend

Cover Story: Needs Improvement

This cover certainly isn’t terrible. But why is Ash curled up into a little ball? Why is she wearing a pretty white dress? So, while I’m not exactly embarrassed of it, it still isn’t right for the story. Though I suppose I should be grateful, because the reissue looks like fan art.

The Deal:

In this reimaging of Cinderella, Ash finds herself an orphan, living with a step family she barely knows after her father’s untimely death. Finding herself left with his debts, Ash’s cruel stepmother soon puts Ash to work as a servant. Ash finds herself drawn to the woods and it is there that she meets Sidhean, a dark and mysterious fairy capable of granting her wishes. But there is always a price and Sidhean wants Ash for himself. Soon Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress and her first real friend. As her feelings begin to deepen for Kaisa, Ash must find a way to avoid her stepfamily’s wrath and keep herself out of Sidhean’s grasp.

BFF Charm: Yes

Yay BFF Charm

Ash definitely deserves a good friend and I would be more than willing to fill that roll. In a short span of time she went from having a loving mother and father and beautiful home, to no family, friends or place of her own. She’s forced to wait hand and foot on her ungrateful step-family, but manages to keep her head held high. As she shows with Kaisa, she’s a bit awkward with friends at first, but only because she’s not used to anyone caring about her.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

Ash’s relationship with Kaisa begins as friendship, but starts to become something more than that. Most of their feelings go unspoken, so there is a lot of tension between these two. Most of their romantic interaction is limited to accidental touches or blushing cheeks and it is all very sweet and innocent.

Talky Talky: Fairy Tale

The writing here is exactly what you would want out of a fairy tale. Lush and vivid at times:

Her feet moved as if of her own will, and she felt a dim sense of surprise that she was so sure of her destination: straight forward along the path, where the distance lay shadowed in green and yellow and brown, magnetic in its mystery. All around her she felt the Wood breathing, her senses alive. It was as if she could see the leaves unfurling gracefully from their jewel-like buds, the young beetles creeping purposefully forward on the earth.

Bonus Factor: Retelling

Maria and Tony from West Side Story singing on a balcony.

This book has exactly what you would want out of a retelling — beautiful writing plus a plot and characters that are more fleshed out. It stays true to some of the major events of the original but makes enough changes so that it becomes its own story. It’s also great when a retelling takes obnoxious or unsettling elements and either examines them more critically or changes them. In this case, we leave behind the deus ex Prince marriage, which is certainly a plus for me.

Bonus Factor: Mysterious Loner Faerie

Jordan Catalano, a hot brooding stoner, in My So-Called Life

This book has fairies, but most of Ash’s faerie interaction takes place with Sidhean, who is a total Mysterious Loner Faerie. But he’s also a scary MLF. The fairies in this book are best known for killing people or stealing humans away. Sidhean is definitely not your modern emo, skinny-jeans-wearing type of faerie.

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ

Pride flag being waved in a parade

This may be the first time I’ve read any LGBTQ characters in a fantasy setting. YA lit could always use a bit more diversity of sexual orientation, especially outside of the contemporary genre.

Relationship Status: More Than Just an Issue Friend

As can sometimes happen with books with a LGBTQ theme, the focus can be too much on that one element of the story. Even if Ash and Kaisa’s relationship were completely removed from this story, I would have still found this to be a fairy tale retelling worth recommending. When it comes to a classic story we’ve already heard many times before, it’s those unique changes that really set this book apart. I loved the twist on the fairy godmother. And I loved that this was a Cinderella who didn’t need a prince (or princess, or huntress, even) to rescue her. A wonderful read when you’re looking for a new take on an old story.

FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased my review copy myself. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Ash is available now.

Megan is an unabashed fangirl who is often in a state of panic about her inability to watch, read and play all the things.