Ash is a loose retelling of Cinderella, with the addition of a completely new main character (Kaisa) and a completely re-envisioned fairy godmother, who becomes a rather sinister (male) fairy. However, it’s probably best known for its queer content, which is also why I picked it up.
If Ash had been much longer, I’d have put it right back down again after the first ten or so pages and not bothered to finish it. As it was, I figured I might as well keep going, despite the fact that I didn’t enjoy the style of writing at all. Unfortunately, reading to the end just confirmed that Malinda Lo’s writing is just not for me.
It’s not that there’s anything bad here, and Ash‘s legions of fans can attest to that. It’s just that there seemed to be no light and shade, no action or emotion. Ash herself read like a blank canvas that remained blank through to the final page. I didn’t feel anything for her, because I couldn’t find anything about her to feel for. She’s one of the most passive protagonists I’ve ever encountered. Things happen to her or she acts within a dream state and even in the end, when she takes a little initiative, it still feels like the motion is happening behind a veil. At no point did I feel engaged with the text; instead, it was as though I was reading it from a great distance.
I can understand why such a writing style was employed. Most of the original fairytales are narration-heavy with little character development, and Ash slots neatly into this tradition. The difficulty I had with the way in which it’s used here, however, is that it seemed to remove all conflict from the story, which left me feeling like something huge was missing from the book. Lo has an elegant turn of phrase, but there was no fire here and no spirit, so I’m afraid I can’t be counted amongst Ash‘s many fans.