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Ash    by Malinda Lo order for
by Malinda Lo
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2009 (2009)
*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Normally, I love stories based on fairytales, but Malinda Lo's Ash, a take on Cinderella, left me feeling disjointed. Parts of the original tale were followed too closely for the ending to be so different.

Aisling grew up with a loving father and a mother who was once apprenticed to a greenwitch. When her mother died, Ash tried to keep to the old ways and never lost her belief in fairies, even when her father remarried and they moved closer to the City. But when her father died, leaving her stepmother in great debt, Ash was forced to become the household's only servant.

Ash lives for the days when her stepmother and stepsister travel to the City because then she is free to roam the countryside. Through her wanderings, she meets two very interesting people Sidhean, a fairy who seems to have some connection to her, and Kaisa, the King's Huntress who quickly befriends her. When Ash asks Sidhean for a wish so she can spend time with Kaisa, she binds herself to the fairy. At first, she does not mind having done this, but as her feelings for Kaisa grow, she realizes a choice has to be made. However, dealing with the fairy realm is never what it seems.

Although her story is based on a real fairytale, Lo chose to fill it with many new fairytales relating to her world. These bind the story together and generate reader interest. However, the main plot of Ash is rather one dimensional, many events coming out of left field, especially in the second part of the story. Knowing Cinderella, the first half of Ash is rather obvious and the reader can see what might be coming. But Lo really throws a curveball when she introduces Kaisa halfway through.

Ash, who seemed attracted to Sidhean, realizes that Kaisa has romantic feelings towards her and that she might reciprocate. This makes her first wish from Sidhean seem like the crux of the tale, but then she asks to go to the Prince's ball, where he is supposed to pick a wife. She has met the Prince and does not really like him, so why go to the effort to meet him again? When, as the story dictates, he becomes infatuated with her, this is where the plot lost me. If Kaisa is meant to be Ash's prince, why throw the real Prince in to complicate matters other than to parallel the original fairytale?

The more Ash progressed, the more removed I felt from the story. If Malinda Lo had not tried to include so many direct parallels to Cinderella, this novel might have worked out better. As it is, it feels like it has too many pieces that just do not fit well together.

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